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.

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