Saturday, May 11, 2013

"Mincer" by Dan Beachy-Quick


A Writing Parable

To write, a writer needs paper and light. Paper, too, can be burned for light. Form is also fuel. The whalers are in the business of light. To make light they make oil. They burn the oil from the blanket-pieces of blubber they unscroll from the whale. The thinner the blubber is cut, the more oil extracted. The mincer is the man who cuts the blubber. The crew shouts to him as he does so, "Bible leaves! Bible leaves!" so he remains mindful of the thinness desired. To light pages he makes pages. These pages might both be holy. He dresses in black. The raiment in which he cuts the whale comes from the whale—the skin removed from the phallus of the whale being burned. He dresses in creation to destroy.

Source of the text - Dan Beachy-Quick, A Whaler's Dictionary.  Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2008, p. 177.

Bourguignomicon: Circular poem: cut whale blubber pagethin to extract oil to make light so Melville can write about whalers hunting to get blubber for oil...

Thursday, May 9, 2013

"The Starlight Night" by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The Starlight Night

Look at the stars! look, look up at the skies!
   O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air!
   The bright boroughs, the circle-citadels there!
Down in dim woods the diamond delves! the elves’-eyes!
The grey lawns cold where gold, where quickgold lies!
   Wind-beat whitebeam! airy abeles set on a flare!
   Flake-doves sent floating forth at a farmyard scare!—
Ah well! it is all a purchase, all is a prize.

Buy then! bid then!—What?—Prayer, patience, alms, vows.
Look, look: a May-mess, like on orchard boughs!
   Look! March-bloom, like on mealed-with-yellow sallows!
These are indeed the barn; withindoors house
The shocks. This piece-bright paling shuts the spouse
   Christ home, Christ and his mother and all his hallows.

Source of the text – Gerard Manley Hopkins: The Major Works, edited with an Introduction and Notes by Catherine Phillips.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 128-29.

Bourguignomicon: Giddy, alliterated, sprung, assonant, tightly-rhymed, over-exclaimed, this sonnet figures the night sky as barn walls with heaven beyond.

"To a Chimpanzee in the London Zoo" by Durs Grünbein

Original poem in German:

Einem Schimpansen im Londoner Zoo

Waren es Augen wie diese, in denen das Fieber zuerst
Ausbrach, das große »Oho«, wortreich von Reue gefolgt?
Was für ein Sprung, was für ein Riesensatz aus dem Dickicht,
Von diesem Schimpansen zu Buster Keatons traurigem Blick
Über die Reling, dem Hut nach, unerreichbar im Wasser.
Und die Entfernung nimmt zu! Mit jedem neuen Unfall
Wird die Wirbelsäule ein wenig steifer, halten die Hände
Das Steuer fester inmitten der Trümmerhaufen aus Rädern
Und Blech, zerquetscht. Schon damals dasselbe Mißgeschick,
Derselbe hektische slapstick. Mit nacktem Arsch voran
Zurück in die kleinen Paradiese zu friedensstiftendem Sex.
O weh, diese Trauer, geboren zu sein und nicht als Tier,
Die böse Vergeblichkeit, hingenommen mit unbewegtem Gesicht.

English translation by Michael Hofmann:

To a Chimpanzee in the London Zoo

Was it in eyes like these that the fever first flickered,
The great Aha, followed by voluminous remorse?
What a giant step from the jungle, what a leap
From this chimpanzee to Buster Keaton’s sad eyes
Over the railing, gazing after his hat in the water.
And the distance growing! With every fresh mishap
The spine stiffens a little more, the hands grip the wheel
In the smoking wreckage of rubber and steel.
Even then the same error-proneness,
The same hectic slapstick. And so, sidle back
To the little paradise to pacifying sex with the missus.
Oh, the sorrow to be born as not an animal,
The forlornness, accepted with expressionless features.

Source of the test – Durs Grünbein, Ashes for Breakfast.  New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005, pp. 172-173.

Bourguignomicon: Evolution as fever or hanging on in a car wreck. This ode to the gulf between chimp & us hops with energy, closely translated line-by-line.

Monday, May 6, 2013

"Choices" by Elizabeth Jennings


Inside the room I see the table laid,
Four chairs, a patch of light the lamp has made

And people there so deep in tenderness
They could not speak a word of happiness.

Outside I stand and see my shadow drawn
Lengthening the clipped grass of the cared-for lawn.

Above, their roof holds half the sky behind.
A dog barks bringing distances to mind.

Comfort, I think, or safety then, or both?
I warm the cold air with my steady breath.

They have designed a way to live and I,
Clothed in confusion, set their choices by:

Though sometimes one looks up and sees me there,
Alerts his shadow, pushes back his chair

And, opening windows wide, looks out at me
And close past words we stare.  It seems that he

Urges my darkness, dares it to be freed
Into that room.  We need each other’s need.

Source of the text – Eleven British Poets, an Anthology Edited by Michael Schmidt.  London: Methuen & Co., 1980, p. 116.

Bourguignomicon: The willing outcast-poet uses prepositions to set tight iambic couplets on the need of everyone else to have an other out there, looking in.

"Susie Asado" by Gertrude Stein


       Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.
              Susie Asado.
       Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.
              Susie Asado.
       Susie Asado which is a told tray sure.
       A lean on the shoe this means slips slips hers.
       When the ancient light grey is clean it is yellow, it
is a silver seller.
       This is a please this is a please there are the saids
to jelly. These are the wets these say the sets to leave
a crown to Incy.
       Incy is short for incubus.
       A pot. A pot is a beginning of a rare bit of trees.
Trees tremble, the old vats are in bobbles, bobbles which
shade and shove and render clean, render clean must.
              Drink pups.
       Drink pups drink pups lease a sash hold, see it shine
and a bobolink has pins. It shows a nail.
       What is a nail. A nail is unison.
       Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.

Source of the text - Gertrude Stein, Geography and Plays. Boston: The Four Seas Company, 1922, p. 13.

TJB: Pose proem; intense grammar set with intense sounds. Syntax and sonics can’t fully contain the energy of restraint in this arch utterance.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

From "Praise" by Ilya Kaminsky


America! I put the word on a page, it is my keyhole.
I watch the streets, the shops, the bicyclist, the oleanders.

I open the windows of an apartment 
and say: I had masters once, they roared above me,

Who are we? Why are we here? 
A lantern they carried still glitters in my sleep,

in this dream: my father breathes
as if lighting a lamp over and over. The memory 

is starting its old engine, it begins to move
and I think the trees are moving. 

On the page’s soiled corners
my teacher walks, composing a voice; 

he rubs each word in his palms:
“hands learn from the soil and broken glass, 

you cannot think a poem,” he says,
“watch the light hardening into words.” 


I was born in the city named after Odysseus
and I praise no nation—

to the rhythm of snow 
an immigrant’s clumsy phrases fall into speech. 

But you asked
for a story with a happy ending. Your loneliness 

played its lyre. I sat
on the floor, watching your lips. 

Love, a one-legged bird
I bought for forty cents as a child, and released, 

is coming back, my soul in reckless feathers.
O the language of birds 

with no word for complaint!—
the balconies, the wind. 

This is how, while darkness
drew my profile with its little finger, 

I have learned to see past as Montale saw it,
the obscurer thoughts of God descending 

among a child’s drum beats,
over you, over me, over the lemon trees. 

Source of the text – Ilya Kaminsky, Dancing in Odessa.  North Adams, MA: Tupelo Press, 2004, pp. 56-57.

Bourguignomicon: It employs syntactic gaps & O sounds; not praise of America but a look through at learning-poetry, love-as-poetry, and learning-to-remember.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

"Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll


’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
        And the mome raths outgrabe.

‘Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
    The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
        The frumious Bandersnatch!’

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
    Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
        And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
    The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
        And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
    The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
        He went galumphing back.

‘And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
    Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
        He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
        And the mome raths outgrabe.

Source of the text – Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass and what Alice found there.  London: The Folio Society, 1962, p. 15.

Bourguignomicon: Fuggin brillig! The most frabjous literary ballad ever glances at narrative and gimbles in doggerel rhyme, alliteration, and parallelism.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"It Blows You Hollow" by Diane Seuss-Brakeman

It Blows You Hollow

It takes your bones to bed, 
tongues out the marrow. 
Says it will meet you halfway, 
a hotel deep in Oklahoma 
where you'll get adjoining rooms 
and have a couple of nervous 
breakdowns. It's a no-show, waylaid. 
It orders the venison sausage, 
the lamb, the infant in puff 
pastry, picks its pretty white 
teeth with the pins from your little 
sister's hair. Churns you till you 
congeal, till the cream goes hard, 
courts you till you're court-martialed, 
hangs you till you've got a hard-on, 
bangs your machine with its hips till you tilt, 
your flippers frozen. Your heart's a tilt-a-whirl, 
throwing off steam into the frigid night, 
spinning heartsick, heartbreak. 
It dances close with its hands 
on your nipples, immaculately conceives you 
and runs off with the kid in the night, 
wears five watches on each arm, pillaged 
from your ancestors, innocent and burned, 
wrestles with your mother, gets your father 
to confess his infidelities at Sunday dinner, 
puts its fist in the cake, picks the buttercream 
crucifixes off the hot cross buns, 
teaches brother to piss his name into the snow, 
shaves his head, needles him till he's tattooed.
It grows gorgeous on its deathbed, 
rises gloriously to the occasion,
wills you its curls, its secret codes, 
licks your fingerprints like a creamy cat, 
dies with the grace of the curtain-pull at the golden opera, 
clasps its hands, kisses Jesus on the lips, its body 
lit from within like a fawnskin lampshade. 
And all you want to do is revive it. You'll write 
circles around it, half-assed parables halfway told, 
with bandaged hands, with all the bones 
in your face showing, by god, 
you'll make a religion of it.

Source of the text - Diane Seuss-Brakeman, It Blows You Hollow.  Kalamazoo, MI: New Issues Press, 1998, pp. 42-43.

Bourguignomicon: It litany. “It” dislikes dull stuff like taxes and board meetings; no, it orders, churns, & dances through peculiar data to a smooth ending.

The Georgics, Book IV, lines 33-50 by Virgil

from The Georgics, Book IV, lines 33-50

Original text in Latin

     Ipsa autem, seu corticibus tibi suta cavatis
seu lento fuerint alvaria vimine texta,
angustos habeant aditus: nam frigore mella
cogit hiems, eademque calor liquefacta remittit.
utraque vis apibus pariter metuenda; neque illae
nequiquam in tectis certatim tenuia cera
spiramenta linunt, fucoque et floribus oras
explent, collectumque haec ipsa ad munera gluten
et visco et Phrygiae servant pice lentius Idae.
saepe etiam effossis, si vera est fama, latebris
sub terra fovere larem, penitusque repertae
pumicibusque cavis exesaeque arboris antro.
tu tamen et levi rimosa cubilia limo
ungue fovens circum, et raras superinice frondes.
neu propius tectis taxum sine, neve rubentis
ure foco cancros, altae neu crede paludi,
aut ubi odor caeni gravis aut ubi concava pulsu
saxa sonant vocisque offensa resultat imago.

English translation by David Ferry

Whether the hive is made by sewing together
Concave strips of bark, or woven of pliant
Osier wands, be sure the entrance is narrow,
For winter cold makes the honey freeze and congeal,
Heat causes it to melt and liquefy,
And either of these is a cause of fear for the bees.
It’s for this reason they vie with one another
To smear wax over the chinks in the walls of their houses,
Or stop them up with resinous stuff from flowers,
More sticky than birdlime or pitch of Phrygian Ida—
They bring it home and save it for this purpose.
And, so we’re told, sometimes they establish their house
In a hiding place underground, to keep themselves safe,
Or they’re discovered to have settled themselves
In the cells within a porous rock, or maybe
The cavity of a tree’s decaying trunk.
So help them out, by spreading mud or clay
Over the walls of their hive, and maybe scatter
A few leaves over it, too. Be sure there isn't
A yew tree growing too near where the hive is placed;
Beware of roasting crab too close to it, too—
The smoke is poisonous to the bees; beware
Of any place where the smell of mud prevails,
Or where a voice from within a hollow rock
Comes echoing back in response to the sound that struck it.

Source of the text – The Georgics of Virgil, a translation by David Ferry.  New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005, pp. 142-145.

Bourguignomicon: Concave dwellers. The English smears semantic wax over the beauty of the syntax and sacrifices the terse Latin elegance of the bees’ needs.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"Riddle 45" translated by Richard Wilbur

Riddle 45

In Anglo-Saxon:

Ic on wincle gefrægn      weaxan nathwæt,
þindan ond þunian,
      þecene hebban;
on þæt banlease
      bryd grapode,
hygewlonc hondum,
      hrægle þeahte
þrindende þing
      þeodnes dohtor.

Modern English translation by Richard Wilbur:

I Saw in a Corner Something Swelling

I saw in a corner      something swelling,
Rearing, rising      and raising its cover.
A lovely lady,      a lord’s daughter,
Buried her hands      in that boneless body,
Then covered with a cloth      the puffed-up creature.

Source of the text – The Word Exchange: Anglo-Saxon Poems in Translation, Edited by Greg Delanty and Michael Matto.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011, pp. 321-322.

Bourguignomicon: Bodily knead. Can a tasteless pun rise to poetry after 1,000 years? Yes. Assonance, timing, & compression work to flavor this little riddle.

"A Display of Mackerel" by Mark Doty

A Display of Mackerel

They lie in parallel rows,
on ice, head to tail,
each a foot of luminosity

barred with black bands,
which divide the scales’
radiant sections

like seams of lead
in a Tiffany window.
Iridescent, watery

prismatics: think abalone,
the wildly rainbowed
mirror of a soapbubble sphere,

think sun on gasoline.
Splendor, and splendor,
and not a one in any way

distinguished from the other
—nothing about them
of individuality. Instead

they’re all exact expressions
of the one soul,
each a perfect fulfilment

of heaven’s template,
mackerel essence. As if,
after a lifetime arriving

at this enameling, the jeweler’s
made uncountable examples,
each as intricate

in its oily fabulation
as the one before
Suppose we could iridesce,

like these, and lose ourselves
entirely in the universe
of shimmer—would you want

to be yourself only,
unduplicatable, doomed
to be lost? They’d prefer,

plainly, to be flashing participants,
multitudinous. Even now
they seem to be bolting

forward, heedless of stasis.
They don’t care they’re dead
and nearly frozen,

just as, presumably,
they didn’t care that they were living:
all, all for all,

the rainbowed school
and its acres of brilliant classrooms,
in which no verb is singular,

or every one is. How happy they seem,
even on ice, to be together, selfless,
which is the price of gleaming.

Source of the text - Mark Doty, Atlantis.  New York: HarperPerennial, 1995, pp. 14-15.

TJB: Resistance is futile. This image poem in exact essayistic praise of utter conformity starts with similes and ends by personifying dead fish.

"The sounds in and of themselves were less like the sounds of anyone" by Martha Ronk

"The sounds in and of themselves were less like
the sounds of anyone"

Walking the stone path in the dark I had to keep
my eyes fixed for if I lifted them
to see where I was going all was a dense black
whereas if I looked down, the reflection off the gravel
made it possible to hear the sounds my feet made
as I made my way slowly toward a fixed point of light
I could not yet make out the night was so dense.
The sound of the bird seemed broken.
I little knew what to expect.
The time had been set, but given the unpredictable nature
of the principal parts of the story,
the sounds in and of themselves
were less like the sounds of anyone walking
than of noise at an open door,
the bird signaling what never would be.

Source of the text - Martha Ronk, Vertigo.  Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2007, p. 19.

Bourguignomicon: Intense visuality gives way to and enhances intense aurality in this vivid moment of trying-to-see-in-darkness, suggesting a larger story.

Monday, April 22, 2013

"Monstrum (Lat.) from the Verb Monstrare"by Tomaž Šalamun

Monstrum (Lat.) from the Verb

I add to the story, because no doubt
there will be many theses on
who I am.  My life is clear the way
my books are clear.  I am
as alone as you, voyeur.  Like you
I flinch if someone sees me.
I look into your eyes.  We both know
the question. Who kills?  Who stays?
Who watches? The one furiously
taking his clothes off to be innocent,
isn't that a mask?  Your heart beats
because your blood beats.  You have
the same right as I do, I, who am
your guardian angel, your monster.

Translated into English by Tomaž Šalamun and Phyllis Levin.

Source of the text - Tomaž Šalamun, There's the Hand and There's the Arid Chair. Denver: Counterpath Press, 2009, p. 93.

Bourguignomicon: Demonstrate/prodigy. Unclothing the poet’s monstrosity while protecting/seeing the reader/voyeur, the poem includes 3 phases: I, who, & you.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"Music" by Frank O'Hara


       If I rest for a moment near The Equestrian
pausing for a liver sausage sandwich in the Mayflower
that angel seems to be leading the horse into
and I am naked as a table cloth, my nerves humming.
Close to the fear of war and the stars which have
I have in my hands only 25¢ , it’s so meaningless to eat!
and gusts of water spray over the basins of leaves
like the hammers of a glass pianoforte. If I seem to you
to have lavender lips under the leaves of the world,
       I must tighten my belt.
It’s like a locomotive on the march, the season
       of distress and clarity
and my door is open to the evenings of midwinter’s
lightly falling snow over the newspapers.
Clasp me in your handkerchief like a tear, trumpet
of early afternoon! in the foggy autumn.
As they’re putting up the Christmas trees on Park
I shall see my daydreams walking by with dogs in
put to some use before all those coloured lights come on!
       But no more fountains and no more rain,       
       and the stores stay open terribly late.

Source of the text – Frank O’Hara, Lunch Poems.  San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1964, pp. 1-2.

Bourguignomicon: Even in early Christmastime a poetic state—pause, nerve hum, locomotive, open door—may arise. Hear the extraordinary imperative “clasp me”.

About Me