Sunday Saudade

Just a quick update . . .

Sorry for the dearth of posts. It’s been a rough week mentally. Here. Have some Bukowski:

Happy Birthday to one of my favorite authors and the writer whose work inspired my life-long love of British mysteries, Agatha Christie (September 15, 1890- January 12, 1976).

“Queen Elizabeth I, The Armada Portrait” (unknown artist, oil on oak panel, 1588)

Saturday afternoon, sunny and milder, 78 degrees.

I’ve been on a British history binge for weeks now, absorbing documentaries and shows about the War of the Roses and the Tudors. Last night I finished watching the series, The White Queen, based on books written by historical novelist Philippa Gregory. I’ve never read any of her books, and she has been criticized for working loosely with history, but hey, the key word here is novelist, not biographer.

I used to know pretty much the entire tree of British monarchy, largely because of my Shakespeare classes, but I’ve had to go back and familiarize myself again since beginning this current binge.

Steven van der Meulen, portrait of Queen Elizabeth I (c 1563)

Anyway, today is the birthday of Queen Elizabeth I (September 7, 1533 – March 24, 1603), who ruled England and Ireland for almost 44 years. The grand irony, of course, is that her father, Henry VIII was obsessed with having a son to carry on the Tudor dynasty, yet his son, Edward VI reigned for only six years and died at only 15, and his daughter, Mary (aka Bloody Mary) ruled for only five. Elizabeth, daughter of Henry and second wife Anne Boleyn, was never supposed to be queen, and she was in fact declared illegitimate at one point, yet her rule is referred to as England’s Gloriana, and her long reign brought stability to the country after years of instability and war.

For more on the “virgin queen” you can go here or here.


Music from the OST The Virgin Queen, “Gloriana”

“On a branch | floating downriver | a cricket, singing.” ~ Kobayashi Issa (Trans. Jane Hirshfield)

Cover of A Haiku Garden: The Four Seasons in Poems and Prints

Today’s Two for Tuesday features poems from the book A Haiku Garden: The Four Seasons In Poems And Prints, by Stephen Addiss with Fumiko and Akira Yamamoto (a PDF of which can be found here). I’ve been intent on the coming of autumn, but I decided yesterday that I need to appreciate the last days of summer, regardless of the flies.  I find that whenever am keenly focused on nature and in search of poems, I turn to Haiku, and admittedly, I am very fond of the frequent appearance of dragonflies in this type of verse.

Haiku is a traditional 13th century form of Japanese verse that depicts a moment in time, or as Cor van den Heuvel wrote in 1987, Haiku is the concise “essence of a moment keenly perceived in which Nature is linked to human nature.” When translated to English, the formal Haiku is supposed to be composed of three lines of verse, usually unrhymed, with five, seven and five syllables. These 17 syllables are akin to the original form of 17 mora, which is a unit of Japanese syllable weight; however, it has been pointed out that roughly 12, not 17 syllables in English are equivalent to the 17 On (phonetic units) of the Japanese Haiku, which only goes to show that strict adherence to form does not necessarily a Haiku make.

Mori Shunkei,” Red dragonfly and caterpillar on plant” (1820, wood block print)

Over time, poets have moved away from the strict 17 syllable and line count while focusing more on the economy of form. Importantly, to understand Haiku it should be viewed as more than a short poem, more than a pithy description. For a poem to be Haiku, it must encompass a sense of awareness, an eloquence of brevity. One other aspect of Haiku that should be noted is the use of kigo, which are words or phrases traditionally associated with seasons. I actually found a world database on kigo which contains fairly comprehensive discussions of the Japanese term and its use in Haiku.

The Poetry Foundation has a good description of Haiku that can be found here. A more detailed history of the form can be found on the site With Words, and the British Haiku Society site offers a breakdown of the western views and approaches to the form. Historically, there were four Japanese poets considered masters of the form, sometimes referred to as the Great Four: Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694), Yosa Buson (1716-1784), Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828), and Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902). Seventeenth-century Samurai poet Bashō is often classified as the greatest writer of  Haiku; to read more about him you can go here or here for a collection of his verse.

Because of the compact nature of Haiku, I am breaking my self-imposed Tuesday rule and featuring more than two; most of these come from the “Summer” section of the book, and I am including the page numbers on which each can be found. Enjoy.

More later. Peace.


After the thunderstorm
one tree catches the setting sun—
cicada voices

~ Shiki (p48)

Seen in the daylight
it has a red neck—
the firefly

~ Bashō (p48)

The warbler
amid the bamboo shoots
sings of old age

~ Bashō (p51)

The garden darkening
the night quieting—
peonies

~ Shirao (p52)

The coming of autumn
determined
by a red dragonfly

~ Shirao (p60)

The dragonfly
has died his body
autumn

~ Bakusui (p63)

The puppy
completely unaware that
autumn has come

~ Issa (p63)


Music by Rodrigo Rodriguez, “Hitomi (Eyes), composed by Horii Kojiro

” . . . and all at once, summer collapsed into fall.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Late Summer Sky, Kentucky (FCC)

“I’m walking through goldenrod
in new shoes, shoes I got for a song—
like the one I’m singing now
that pleases the cicadas, the one
that would make Schubert cry.
And I love the way the ash
is the first tree always
to turn” ~ Keith Ratzlaff, from “Yellow Landscape”

Monday afternoon, cloudy and warm, 86 degrees.

So the forecast was wrong, of course. More warm weather in store, but fall is definitely looming. The Gold Finches are buzzing the late summer thistles, and the air is taking on that clear expectancy—not the stillness of a hot summer afternoon, but hesitant, as if awaiting  autumn’s redolent aspect. Right after I mentioned how certain trees are already losing their leaves, I came across Keith Ratzlaff’s poem that mentions ash trees losing their leaves first. Serendipitous.

Last night I dreamed about Eamonn; he had just broken up with someone he had been dating, and she was a real piece of work. She sent someone to kill me with a knife. My dreams can be truly frightening at times. Anyway I chose today’s lovely song to go with today’s poem, which reminds me so much of my father, and it is bittersweet to think of him naked to the waist in his backyard on a late summer afternoon, taking a bite out of something he has just picked from his garden. God I miss him so very, very much.

Late Summer Color, Sierra Nevada (FCC)

Corey is cutting down trees in preparation for cold weather so that we don’t run out of wood this winter. Last year we were able to rely on Dallas to supplement what we had. This year that won’t be an option, so he’s getting ready. It’s odd to think of all of the small ways in which we depended upon Dallas and he on us, and now he’s gone. I still haven’t grieved for him. There has been no sense of closure, and I find myself angry at people I don’t even know, his kids, but I also do not know the circumstances of their estrangement. I don’t kid myself that Dallas was innocent, as I knew him too well to think that.

Nevertheless, I am still angry, and things feel incomplete, a caesura in time, if you will.

“There was a time, usually late in August, when summer struck the trees with dazzling power and they were rich with leaves but then became, suddenly one day, strangely still, as if in expectation and at that moment aware. They knew. Everything knew, the beetles, the frogs, the crows solemnly walking across the lawn. The sun was at its zenith and embraced the world, but it was ending, all that one loved was at risk.” ~ James Salter, from All That Is

Odd little thing around the homestead: We have swarms of flies that we can’t seem to get rid of; they are everywhere, every room, and not just a few. There are too many to count. Corey has put up fly strips (which I really hate, but they work), and they are covered in dead flies within hours. It’s very strange. It’s as if there are unseen carcasses hanging around the house, attracting these swarms, and you might assume that the house is filthy with waste and masses of trash, but I assure you that it is not.

Late Begonias and Fallen Leaves (FCC)

The flies buzz me as I sit typing; they buzz me as I try to sleep. It’s making me crazy. I really, really hate flies. They are nasty creatures, living on manure and rotting flesh. I have a fly swatter in the bathroom, and I swipe at them each time I go in there, even to wash my hands. The dogs are afraid to follow me into the bathroom now, which bothers them as they think that I may go in and disappear forever. I wonder if flies are just a common pest around these parts, as the saying goes, just another part of living in the country with which I am still unfamiliar.

I remember that last summer we had masses of ladybugs, and I worried about the dogs then as ladybugs can infest the roof of a dog’s mouth, and it’s something to be wary of, but that never happened. So are the swarms of flies like the swarms of ladybugs? Corey did a bit of reading, and there is something that can be added to the big bug zapper that hangs outside; I wonder if it’s worth spending the extra cash to get something like that.

“And I’m singing
because who else but a dog
could be so happy at finding me here?
And I’m singing because yesterday
I needed something to hold,
and he laid his gold head in my hands.” ~ Keith Ratzlaff, from “Yellow Landscape”

Other strange things: I remember saying to Corey months ago before Dallas kidnapped him for stud that Napoleon was such a spoiled horse that I wouldn’t be surprised if he tried to come inside. Well . . . he did. The other day I walked into the living room holding my lunch on a plate, and Napoleon saw me and proceeded to walk through the front door and stand expectantly in the living room. It was crazy—a horse in the house? Really? Who has such things happen?

Late Summer Globe Thistles with Bees, Chesterfield, England UK (FCC)

We do, obviously.

Corey backed him out and put up the gate that we use to keep dogs and goats outside, and the irony is that Napoleon could step over the gate or knock it down quite easily, but it was enough to stop him. So now he stands outside the door and pokes his head inside as if to say, “where’s my treat?”

I have now managed to spoil dogs, cats, goats, a bee, and now a horse. I regret nothing.

“The other day the ash tree lost its leaves in a single afternoon.” ~ Keith Ratzlaff, from “Creation Story”

I searched high and low for the source of the Oscar Wilde quote in the header, but alas, my search was in vain. I don’t believe that it comes from De Profundis or Dorian Gray; I rather think that it’s from one of his poems, but I don’t know which one. Anyone out there have a clue?

Late Summer Swallowtail (FCC)

Speaking of Oscar Wilde, I really liked the depiction of Dorian Gray in the Showtime series Penny Dreadful, as depicted by Reeve Carney. He was beautiful and thoroughly charming but also a bit scary, just as Wilde depicted him. I happen to think that the series was well done and ended too soon after only three seasons. The show’s creator, John Logan felt that the series should end with the death of Vanessa Ives, portrayed by the wonderful Eva Green. I’ve always loved her; she’s so intense looking, which is what made her perfectly cast for that particular series. I also liked her in the 2011 series Camelot as Morgana, but that one only lasted one season.

Bit of trivia for you: Josh Hartnett from Penny Dreadful has two children with Tamsin Egerton, who played Guinevere in Camelot.

On that note, I think that I’ll close for now. More later. Peace.


Music by Foo Fighters, “Home”


Green Pear Tree in September

On a hill overlooking the Rock River
my father’s pear tree shimmers,
in perfect peace,
covered with hundreds of ripe pears
with pert tops, plump bottoms,
and long curved leaves.
Until the green-haloed tree
rose up and sang hello,
I had forgotten. . .
He planted it twelve years ago,
when he was seventy-three,
so that in September
he could stroll down
with the sound of the crickets
rising and falling around him,
and stand, naked to the waist,
slightly bent, sucking juice
from a ripe pear.

~ Freya Manfred (found on Poetry Foundation)

“If I had not immersed myself in books, in stories and legends, in newspapers, in reports, if everything communicable had not grown up in me, I should have been a nonentity, a collection of uncomprehended events.” ~ Ingeborg Bachmann, from The Thirtieth Year: Stories

Multi-hyphenate Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann

Saturday afternoon, sunny and warm, 88 degrees.

Today is supposed to be the last day for a while in which temperatures approach 90. That’s a good thing. I need to get back into the habit of walking the property, and because of my weird, new reaction to bug bites, I’m looking forward to the cooling temperatures and the reduction of no-see-ums buzzing and biting me.

As today is the last day of August, I thought that I’d share this passage from Austrian poet, essayist, lecturer, and author Ingeborg Bachmann. Bachmann was a member of the literary circle Gruppe 47 or Group 47. To read her biography, go here.

August! There they were, the days of iron made red-hot in the forge. The times resounded.

The beaches were besieged and the sea no longer rolled forward its armies of waves, but feigned exhaustion. deep and blue.

On the grill, in the sand,  roasted, moiré: the easily corruptible flesh of man. Before the sea, among the dunes: the flesh.

He was afraid because the summer squandered itself so. Because this meant that autumn would soon come. August was full of panic, full of the compulsion to snatch at life and hurry to start living.”

~ Ingeborg Bachmann, from The Thirtieth Year: Stories


Music by John Prine, “Summer’s End”


A Kind Of Loss

Used together: seasons, books, a piece of music.
The keys, teacups, bread basket, sheet and a bed.
A hope chest of words, of gestures, brought back, used, used up.
A household order maintained. Said. Done. And always a head was there.
I’ve fallen in love with winter, with a Viennese septet, wiht summer.
With Village maps, a mountain nest, a beach and a bed.
Kept a calender cult, declared promises irrevocable,
bowed before something, was pious to a nothing

(-to a folded newspaper, cold ashes, the scribbled piece of paper) ,
fearless in religion, for our bed was the church.

From my lake view arose my inexhaustible painting.
From my balcony I greeted entire peoples, my neighbors.
By the chimney fire, in safety, my hair took on its deepest hue.
The ringing at the door was the alarm for my joy.

It’s not you I’ve lost,
but the world.

“When I stand upright in the wind, | My bones turn to dark emeralds.” ~ James Wright, from “The Jewel”

American Poet James Wright

Two for Tuesday: James Wright

Tuesday afternoon, cloudy and cool, 71 degrees.

It’s starting to feel like fall, which is a bit unnerving. It seems that the seasons change rather quickly here on the ridge. I mentioned this a few months ago when Corey and I were wondering why we weren’t seeing all of the green of spring, and then less than a week later, we were surrounded by green: the trees were covered in leaves, and buds were blooming everywhere you looked. Now, we’re already seeing the leaves turn on certain trees, the birches, I think.

Once again, I wish that I had some extra cash so that I could work on refinishing cabinets and furniture, but of course, there is none of that, at least not yet. I wish that my other mother were still around as I desperately need to cover the couch in a fabric that is dog and goat proof, if such a thing exists. She was so good at that.

I had one of those dreams last night in which I was back at the middle school. I don’t know why I continue to dream about that place and the people in it. The kids I taught would all be grown with their own kids, or in jail, or dead. I know that sounds like a horrible thing to opine, but truly, I have no doubts that some of those kids are in jail, one in particular who scared the crap out of me, and he was only 12.

Anyway, I was back there looking for a book that I had donated by mistake. Weird, huh?

Today’s Two for Tuesday features works by Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet James Wright (December 13, 1927March 25, 1980), who was phenomenal; he could say so much about loneliness and isolation in very few words, and he was masterful in closing a poem. Wright, who was born in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio, suffered from alcoholism and manic depression; he died as a result of tongue cancer.

Mari introduced me to Wright years ago, and “Lying in a Hammock” (below) remains one of my favorites and is surpassed in my mind only by “A Blessing.” I can relate deeply to the last line of “Hammock.” His posthumous book of collected works, Above the River (1992) is a prized possession that, thankfully, never made it into storage but always had a reserved spot on my desk. I remember exactly where I bought it: in a bookstore in Charlottesville, VA after having lunch; Corey, the boys, and I were in the mountains for a fall hike. When I finally find the box in which it was packed, it will be like Christmas all over again.

To see a good biography, go here or here. In the summer 1975 issue, he was featured in The Paris Review‘s “Art of Poetry (No. 19), in which Wright declared that “poetry can keep life itself alive.”


Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

Northern Pike

All right. Try this,
Then. Every body
I know and care for,
And every body
Else is going
To die in a loneliness
I can’t imagine and a pain
I don’t know. We had
To go on living. We
Untangled the net, we slit
The body of this fish
Open from the hinge of the tail
To a place beneath the chin
I wish I could sing of.
I would just as soon we let
The living go on living.
An old poet whom we believe in
Said the same thing, and so
We paused among the dark cattails and prayed
For the muskrats,
For the ripples below their tails,
For the little movements that we knew the crawdads were making
under water,
For the right-hand wrist of my cousin who is a policeman.
We prayed for the game warden’s blindness.
We prayed for the road home.
We ate the fish.
There must be something very beautiful in my body,
I am so happy.


Laura Marling, “What He Wrote”

“Nothing is free. Everything has to be paid for. For every profit in one thing, payment in some other thing. For every life, a death. Even your music, of which we have heard so much, that had to be paid for. Your wife was the payment for your music. Hell is now satisfied.” ~ Ted Hughes, from Orpheus

Ted Hughes on the first day of trout fishing season in April 1986. Nick Rogers-REX/Courtesy of Harper

“Nobody wanted your dance,
Nobody wanted your strange glitter – your floundering
Drowning life and your effort to save yourself,
Treading water, dancing the dark turmoil” ~ Ted Hughes, from “God Help the Wolf after Whom the Dogs Do Not Bark”

Sunday afternoon, partly cloudy and quite warm, 90 degrees.

Yesterday was the birthday of notable British poet Ted Hughes (August 17, 1930-October 28, 1998).

I know that I said I would continue the NRA post today, but I just can’t. I need a break. I worked on that frigging post for over eight hours, and my body hasn’t recovered. When I get into intense writing mode, I don’t pay attention to my posture, and I tend to sit with all of my muscles tensed. Of course, the result is that I pay for it afterwards. Today my shoulders are a bundle of knots, as is my lower back, which negates any relief I may have gotten from the trigger point injections.

I’m still awaiting a prior authorization on my Robaxin (muscle relaxer), which is what I take during the day, every day. I really need that. Well, that, or a masseuse. Don’t have either at the moment.

Corey and I both got a lot done yesterday: I wrote a thoroughly researched article, and he finished the fence on the back pasture for the goats. Hoorah, hoorah.

Sylviai Plath and Ted Hughes in 1956

Anyway, back to Ted Hughes, who some of you may know as the husband of the poet Sylvia Plath; their marriage and her suicide negatively colored his reputation as a writer until his death, but he was incredibly talented in his own right. Unfortunately for Hughes, the woman for whom he left Plath, Assia Wevill, killed herself and their 4-year-old daughter Shura after Plath’s death. Hughes spent the remainder of his life writing and farming with his second wife, Carol Orchard.

If you want to know more about Hughes and Plath, the 2008 book The Letters of Ted Hughes is a great read, as is his 1998 book Birthday Letters. I own the latter but not the former; it’s on my wish list. I enjoy reading the correspondence of writers as the majority of them lay themselves bare in notes and letters. It always strikes me as being much more immediate than a biography.

You can find a good biography here on the Poetry Foundation site. The Paris Review interviewed  Hughes for its “Art of Poetry Series” (No. 71) in 1995. You can find the article here. In the following quote Hughes discusses how location affected his writing, something I am always pondering myself:

Ever since I began to write with a purpose I’ve been looking for the ideal place. I think most writers go through it.

. . . When I came back to England, I think the best place I found in that first year or two was a tiny cubicle at the top of the stairs that was no bigger than a table really. But it was a wonderful place to write. I mean, I can see now, by what I wrote there, that it was a good place.

I chose “A Woman Unconscious,” the poem below, because once again, its content seems so timely, especially in light of the recent nuclear missile explosion in Russia

More later. Peace.


A Woman Unconscious

Russia and America circle each other;
Threats nudge an act that were without doubt
A melting of the mould in the mother,
Stones melting about the root.The quick of the earth burned out:
The toil of all our ages a loss
With leaf and insect.  Yet flitting thought
(Not to be thought ridiculous)Shies from the world-cancelling black
Of its playing shadow: it has learned
That there’s no trusting (trusting to luck)
Dates when the world’s due to be burned;

That the future’s no calamitous change
But a malingering of now,
Histories, towns, faces that no
Malice or accident much derange.

And though bomb be matched against bomb,
Though all mankind wince out and nothing endure —
Earth gone in an instant flare —
Did a lesser death come

Onto the white hospital bed
Where one, numb beyond her last of sense,
Closed her eyes on the world’s evidence
And into pillows sunk her head.


Music by You + Me, “Love Gone Wrong”