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”.

"The Satyr's Heart" by Brigit Pegeen Kelly

The Satyr’s Heart

Now I rest my head on the satyr’s carved chest,
The hollow where the heart would have been, if sandstone
Had a heart, if a headless goat man could have a heart.
His neck rises to a dull point, points upward
To something long gone, elusive, and at his feet
The small flowers swarm, earnest and sweet, a clamor
Of white, a clamor of blue, and black the sweating soil
They breed in....If I sit without moving, how quickly
Things change, birds turning tricks in the trees,
Colorless birds and those with color, the wind fingering
The twigs, and the furred creatures doing whatever
Furred creatures do. So, and so. There is the smell of fruit
And the smell of wet coins. There is the sound of a bird
Crying, and the sound of water that does not move....
If I pick the dead iris? If I wave it above me
Like a flag, a blazoned flag? My fanfare? Little fare
With which I buy my way, making things brave?
No, that is not it.  Uncovering what is brave.  The way
Now I bend over and with my foot turn up a stone,
And there they are: the armies of pale creatures who
Without cease or doubt sew the sweet sad earth.

Source of the text – Brigit Pegeen Kelly, The Orchard.  Rochester, NY: BOA Editions, Ltd., 2004, p. 29.

Bourguignomicon: Heart murmur. Making music by reusing words in proximity, the poet doesn’t make beauty but finds it, doesn’t move but sees everything move.

Friday, April 12, 2013

"Hendecasyllabics" by Algernon Charles Swinburne


IN the month of the long decline of roses
I, beholding the summer dead before me,
Set my face to the sea and journeyed silent,
Gazing eagerly where above the sea-mark
Flame as fierce as the fervid eyes of lions
Half divided the eyelids of the sunset;
Till I heard as it were a noise of waters
Moving tremulous under feet of angels
Multitudinous, out of all the heavens;
Knew the fluttering wind, the fluttered foliage,
Shaken fitfully, full of sound and shadow;
And saw, trodden upon by noiseless angels,
Long mysterious reaches fed with moonlight,
Sweet sad straits in a soft subsiding channel,
Blown about by the lips of winds I knew not,
Winds not born in the north nor any quarter,
Winds not warm with the south nor any sunshine;
Heard between them a voice of exultation,
“Lo, the summer is dead, the sun is faded,
Even like as a leaf the year is withered,
All the fruits of the day from all her branches
Gathered, neither is any left to gather.
All the flowers are dead, the tender blossoms,
All are taken away; the season wasted,
Like an ember among the fallen ashes.
Now with light of the winter days, with moonlight,
Light of snow, and the bitter light of hoarfrost,
We bring flowers that fade not after autumn,
Pale white chaplets and crowns of latter seasons,
Fair false leaves (but the summer leaves were falser),
Woven under the eyes of stars and planets
When low light was upon the windy reaches
Where the flower of foam was blown, a lily
Dropt among the sonorous fruitless furrows
And green fields of the sea that make no pasture:
Since the winter begins, the weeping winter,
All whose flowers are tears, and round his temples
Iron blossom of frost is bound for ever.”

Source of the text – Algernon Charles Swinburne, Poems and Ballads, Third Edition. London: John Camden Hotten, 1868, pp. 233-234. 

TJB: How to make Hellenic poetry English: use every trochaic word you know, make it seasonchanging & vatic as hell, use 40 lines when 2 will do.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

from "Nomina" by Karen Volkman

Now you nerve.  Flurred, avid as the raw
worm in the bird's throat.  It weirds the song.
The day die darkly in the ear all wrong
all wreck, all riot—the maiden spins the straw,

the forest falters.  Night is what she saw,
in opaque increments deafening the tongue.
Sleep bird, sleep body that the silence strung,
myrrh-moon, bright maudlin, weeping as you draw

white tears, pearl iris in a net of eyes.
The spinning maiden quickens her design.
Gold gut spooling, integument of awe,

a baby breathing as a bird is wise
(the bird-bright heart that flutters like a law)
which eats the excess.  The strangle in the shine.

Source of the text - Karen Volkman, Nomina.  Rochester, NY: Boa Editions, Ltd., 2008, p. 33.

TJB:  Superterse, every phrase is gold in this alliterated Petrarchan bird-eye-song sonnet where the chick from Rumpelstiltskin spins gold herself.

XV and LIX from "The Sonnets" by Ted Berrigan


In Joe Brainard's collage its white arrow
He is not in it, the hungry dead doctor.
Of Marilyn Monroe, her white teeth white-
I am truly horribly upset because Marilyn
and ate King Kong popcorn," he wrote in his
of glass in Joe Brainard's collage
Doctor, but they say "I LOVE YOU"
and the sonnet is not dead.
takes the eye away from the gray words,
Diary.  The black heart beside the fifteen pieces
Monroe died, so I went to a matinee B-movie
washed by Joe's throbbing hands.  "Today
What is in it is sixteen ripped pictures
does not point to William Carlos Williams.


In Joe Brainard's collage its white arrow
does not point to William Carlos Williams.
He is not in it, the hungry dead doctor.
What is in it is sixteen ripped pictures
Of Marilyn Monroe, her white teeth white-
washed by Joe's throbbing hands.  "Today
I am truly horribly upset because Marilyn
Monroe died, so I went to a matinee B-movie
and ate King Kong popcorn," he wrote in his
Diary.  The black heart beside the fifteen pieces
of glass in Joe Brainard's collage
takes the eye away from the gray words,
Doctor, but they say "I LOVE YOU"
and the sonnet is not dead.

Source of the text - Ted Berrigan, The Sonnets.  New York: Penguin Books, 2000, pp. 14, 54.

Bourguignomicon: The same sonnet-collage twice: in sixteen ripped pictures; then, the thing itself, a little machine focused on what’s in it and what’s not.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

from "The Black Riders" by Stephen Crane


There was, before me,
Mile upon mile
Of snow, ice, burning sand.
And yet I could look beyond all this,
To a place of infinite beauty;
And I could see the loveliness of her
Who walked in the shade of the trees.
When I gazed,
All was lost
But this place of beauty and her.
When I gazed,
And in my gazing, desired,
Then came again
Mile upon mile,
Of snow, ice, burning sand.

Source of the text - Stephen Crane, The Black Riders and Other Lines.  [Boston]: Privately reprinted by courtesy of Small, Maynard & Co., 1905.

Bourguignomicon: Poem as mirage; or, a metaphor anticipating Heisenberg uncertainty? Well-paced short phrases take us into and out of a telescope of sorts.

Monday, April 8, 2013

"Rabbit Song" by Arlene Kim

Rabbit Song

I stood too near the warren
and when I stumbled back, the rabbits stamped in alarm.

Iambic admonition, cautionary song.

Of what in the wood did they warn? Of whom?

Source of the text - Arlene Kim, What have you done to our ears to make us hear echoes?  Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2011, p. 50

Bourguignomicon: Hare iambs; poem as a Paul Revere ride. Not just the poet’s closing questions but also: who’s being warned? If rabbits are poets, who is I?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

from "Oraclau/Oracles" by Geoffrey Hill

10: i. m. T. H. Parry-Williams

     The mountain ash, the rowan tree,
Turning a riot, most unlikely flesh,
     Erectile on the hazing sky
Its peaceful foliage instinct with clash:
     The pacifist in his own head
          Sees things past what they are,
Their heightened colour blood unpacified;
The hallowed conscience followed through despair
Put to the torch entangled with the wire.

Source of the text - Geoffrey Hill, Oraclau/Oracles. Thame, U.K.: Clutag Press, 2010, p. 4.

Bourguignomicon: Outer peace. A mountain tree, looking peaceful but clashing within, compared Hopkinslike to a pacifist looking peaceful but clashing within.

"The Not Tale (Funeral)" by Caroline Bergvall

The Not Tale (Funeral)

From "Shorter Chaucer Tales" (2006)

The great labour of appearance
Served the making of the pyre.
But how
Nor how
How also
How they
Shal nat be toold
Shall not be told.
Nor how the gods
Nor how the beestes and the birds
Nor how the ground agast
Nor how the fire
First with straw
And then with drye
And then with grene
And then with gold
And then
Now how a site is laid like this.
Nor what
Nor how
Nor how
Nor what she spak nor what was her desir
Nor what jewels
When the fire
Nor how some threw their
And some their
And their
And cups full of wine and milk
And blood
Into the fyr
Into the fire.
Nor how three times
And three times with
And three times how.
And how that
Nor how
Nor how
Nor how
Nor who
I cannot tell
Nor can I say
But shortly to the point I turn
And make of my tale an ende.

Note: Part of Bergvall's ongoing cycle of texts, "Shorter Chaucer Tales" developed using a range of writing methods and languages, including direct quotes from Chaucer in Middle English.  The short "The Not Tale" was very simply created by translating and excerpting the negatives that make up Chaucer's description of Arcite's funeral in "The Knight's Tale."

Source of the text - Poetry, July/August 2009, pp. 332-333, 341.

Bourguignomicon: The poet goes medieval on flarf’s ass, stripping out actions and objects to expose the winsome beauty of the rhetorical superstructure.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

"Brooklyn English" by Ange Mlinko


The liftoff from a rooftop coop
distant thunder of the icemaker
child in a tenement stairwell
a cement echo in the art deco
shambles: these are not the
terms to discern a sentence by,
except a sentence that wraps
its back in a negative embrace
against you, made a fence.
It is a sentence so philosophical
naturally asymptotic butterflies
shudder to land on obvious
subjects, topiaries.
(Monarch migration season
a Lincoln-slept-here glamour
to the rose-of-sharon.)
Perennials flare out of lots
in which legs of chairs
suspended in the tangle extrude
hidden toys in the foliage
and last blossoms like teacup sets
smashed till only odd ones left.
When tractor trailers roar past
tripping anti-theft alarms
we all cease to speak, honoring
the uncertain fate awaiting things
whose words retain the sound
of  verse: victoria, brougham, caleche. . . .
The sky has an ardor for clouds,
avatars of lambs when lambs
populated the vocabulary.
Take the treated flannel cloth
that in jewel blue'll rub the smears
out of the lenses, put on glasses.
Spiderwebs on underside buttresses.
But now, reader, get ready for
a real scene of horror:
There's not a word demanded of you
by all this air and leafery.  Not a word.

Source of the text - Ange Mlinko, Shoulder Season.  Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2010, pp. 78-79.

Bourguignomicon: Sound-scene & semidoggerel. The poet seeks more challenging verse by writing unimpeachable leafery: “echo in the art deco,” “jewel blue’ll.”

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

"April 3" by Cole Swensen

April 3

now my
love these trees, three
careful arcs
arching away

create the space of

the way that turning your back on

The small
trees that border worlds on

Two men alone in boats.

Source of the text - Cole Swensen, Such Rich Hour.  Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2001, p. 45.

TJB: When the speaker looks at trees in a painting, she sees a strange fashion of forsaking. Vantage point and erasure are her poetic principles.

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