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The Journey to the West

Though we journey to the West We pray to the East More or less that's the way Each day begins and ends It’s a tale everyone ...

Monday, December 31, 2012

No, Thank You for A Very Successful 2013

I just wrote the poem below in response to a really annoying email I had received from Copper Canyon Press.  With this posting I begin a new collection of poems called Spampoetry -- it will be a collection consisting entirely of my responses to unsolicited emails that I have received from time to time, a new digital take on an old Dadaist theme.  So here is the first poem I have written for the collection and below it is the annoying bit of spam that inspired it in the first place. 

No, Thank You for A Very Successful 2013

Dear George -

This is the third solicitation
Email from Coppery Canyon
I've received in as many days
Lighten up will you please
If you don't mind my saying

Poetry is really not such
A very big deal after all
Having given it my all
All year long with
More than 100 new poems
To show for the effort
Now on New Year's Eve
Won't you please
Give it a rest

With warm regards
Joe Lamport
PS - please note that my new
Website address is

From: "George Knotek, Copper Canyon Press"
To: josephlamport@yahoo.com
Sent: Monday, December 31, 2012 4:53 PM
Subject: Thank You for a Successful 2012

Dear Joe,
On behalf of Copper Canyon Press, I want to thank everyone who has responded to our call for support—or gave earlier in the year. It is gratifying to work for a nonprofit publisher that enjoys the support of so many dedicated poets and readers.
In these days of tumult in the publishing world, poetry needs your help now more than ever. In order to keep the Press running, and our poets in print, we have to raise a dollar in contributed income for every dollar we earn in book sales—which means we need to raise $600,000 in contributions this year. Thanks for doing your part to help.
If you are still considering a gift to Copper Canyon Press, you may be encouraged to know:
  • Any size donation is welcome
  • Copper Canyon enjoys support from nearly 1000 contributing readers from 48 states
  • All financial gifts are tax-deductible
  • You can make a secure donation HERE
  • You can contact me anytime at 360-385-4925 x 103 or george@coppercanyonpress.org
We will be grateful to receive your tax-deductible donation before the end of the year. For a gift of $50 or more you can select your choice of a book by Lucia Perillo, Dean Young, James Arthur or Brenda Shaughnessy as our gift to you.
With appreciation for all you do for poetry,
George Knotek
Development Director
PS: Thank you for helping us start the New Year with the funding we need. As we all reflect on beginnings and endings at this time of year, I hope you will enjoy the following poem by Dean Young from his book Bender: New and Selected Poems.
A Beginner’s Guide to Endings
So some mice decide to try climbing a mountain.
An unexpected wedding guest leads the dance.
Nothing pleases your father.
A bundle of letters is found deep in a trunk.
The soul of the old dog won’t leave her master.
The last task is to bring back a burning branch.
A jug comes out of the darkness; take a swig and pass it on.
The entrance is guarded by a beast that can take many forms.
And this is why willow trees bend down.
People say they saw worms crawling from the ground.
In the courtyard, next to a beggar, an eagle drops a crown.
The horse can go no further.
The god has to be tricked to take the world back on his shoulder.
It follows then that reality is intermittent.
Goodbye mother, farewell home.
And that is why the girl put on armor.
And you and I have always known each other.
And that is why the stars are drunkards.
Dean Young, from Bender: New and Selected Poems.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A few questions for this year-end's check up

Do you think it
more or less likely
that Enlightenment
possesses mass and
should thus be
considered similar to
particulate matter
such that it may be 
consumed and exhaled
in a cloud?

Or does it seem
more plausible yet
that it better resembles
a wave shape as
it propagates forward
being in that way 
fundamentally more
akin to sound and light?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Ode to the Truth

Poetry does entail
A spiritual practice
If nothing else as
The accidental byproduct
Of the relentless pursuit
Of a full and fair description
Of simple but ineffable truths

Which may be found
In the oddest places
Quite unexpectedly and
By the most ironic of means

Though sadly it may end up
Cutting us most deeply
If we should fail to realize
In our admiring gaze
It’s a two-edged sword
We hold aloft in our hands

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Points Beyond

Just recently
I emailed April
To ask for help

Why is it
I can't even
Seem to buy
My way into
And friendship
With another
Living poet

Writing in 
Isolation means
I've been assigned
To tack in the harbor
And run with the current
Only so far down as
Outerbridge Crossing
Not even reaching 
Sandy Hook
To say nothing
Of straying to
Points farther south
And beyond

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Tasty Truth or Two

Much as Loolu
Heads down the street
On the trail of
A chicken-bone 
So am I in pursuit
Of a poem or two
While ambling along
28th Street tonight

And with the benefit
Of sufficient illumination
Perhaps I'll manage
A phrase or two of my own
Along the way

As the Truth may be
Stumbled upon
Like some sliver
Or tasty fragment
Loolu has discovered
Down near the gutter
To be savored
Before resuming
Her way

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lullaby for 28th Street

When a symphony
Of hacking coughs
Troubles me long enough
Blocking the easy path
To a good night’s rest

It's a ratty old pair 
Of cotton sweat pants 
I avail myself of
In surrender to other music
Stirring in my chest

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Three Poems by Wang Wei

I have recently translated a series of three short poems by the the great Tang poet Wang Wei.  If you are interested in learning more about these poems then please sign up for the free newsletter I publish intermittently which you can find here:

The Yu Gong Valley -

Heading into a valley
Quite simply traveling
With nobody else
But Master Li
To accompany me

Nothing is needed
For either of us
Except a place to sleep
Empty and carefree

Content without regard
Whether it’s spring or summer
Or whichever way
East or west may lie

Just like a child
That’s how it feels
Lowly and lofty
At one and the same time


A simple home
In a simple valley
A valley at first that
Looks so unbecoming

Although we travelers
Leave not a trace
Still the valley resounds
With an answering cry

And to a cloudless sky
Comes the onset of darkness
Followed soon enough
By day’s bright return

Here’s the true meaning
Of this place
In a simple valley
From simplicity itself
Everything else derives
To find this valley
So lofty but plain
Depends on nothing
But a careful search

Not looking all over
For some remote spot
Because this place
Lies closer at hand

Traveling once
It can be reached
Without much trouble
But to abide in its presence  
Requires greater depth

Living by the word
As mortality’s guest
When desire takes hold
It’s to this simple place
The mind returns

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Change = Growth

Change Is Life
Growth Is Optional
Reads the poster
On the wall
Of my hotel room
With which I really
Feel need to take issue
Because nowadays it seems
Growth is not optional
In the least at least not
For those of us
With a mind and will
To survive

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Afternoon Weeding

This afternoon
In the backyard
Pulling at weeds
In more ways than one
I said to myself
In its perennial bounty 
This crabgrass is spreading
Like a gospel that  
Can't be overstated enough
As we partake of a story
Not fixated upon
Each individual’s demise
As an end in itself
But from the roots
A process unfolds
Continuous in its glory
Even if now I must
Address myself
To the annoyance
Of weeding 
On my hands and knees
Across the entire lawn


Saturday, October 20, 2012

On the Tourist Bus Ride

"We are all here on this planet as tourists. None of us can live here forever." -- So says His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Here's a short poem I wrote that takes this tourist metaphor in a slightly different direction.

Wouldn't it be funny
If the business end
Of our journey
Through life and death
Really was arranged
Like a hop on hop off
Tourist bus for which
One ticket purchased would
Beget successive rides
Much the same way
We progress from
Dream to waking state
In similar fashion with
Each nap or lifetime
Providing further occasion
To disembark before
It's time to move on 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Lines Written on the Western Bank

Somehow we arrive
At the intersection
Of what we can afford
And what we dream
If we’re lucky that's where
We drive a spade
Deep into the loam

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Writer's Life

I wrote this poem this afternoon in response to an email I had received several months earlier from Shambhala Press.

The Writer's Life

It's just not enough
Being a writer today
To be blessed with
A distinctive voice
Because the way
This industry
Has been trending
For a couple years now
You also need
An identifiable brand
Like Tolstoy
or Jacquelyn Susann
In order to stand out
And be heard

And now comes
This entirely new notion
I recently heard
From Shambhala Press
In their response
To the submission of my
Monkey King verse
Which they claimed to admire
Oh so very much
Yet declined to publish
At this time due to my lack
Of a suitable platform
Whatever the hell
That means

And the more
I thought about it
The more it bothered me
I mean the platforms
I best know about
Were those ascended
By the Great Buddha himself
And surely that's not what
Those savants on Mass Avenue
Were suggesting I needed
In order for my title
To get added
To their front list --
An overly daunting
Requirement for authorship
So it seemed

If I had
Any such platform
Why need I bother
With the likes of them
Or any other
Old school publisher

And then
As I further
Pondered these things
I thought to myself
Fuck it
Who needs
Any of them
An author today
Must be the complete package
Just as the best man toasted
The bride at his friend's wedding
Wrap it up!

Now it's time to sell
As best you can 
How else make the most
Of the times that we live in
An era when everyone
Must not only create
But promote as we do

This Is the Main Event

I want to reassure you
Few loyal readers
Of my personal blog
And myself too
That this really is
The main event
In the three ring circus

And I promise to continue
Announcing all major breaking
News items here first
With respect to my own
Life and Times
No matter how much
It otherwise seems

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lullaby Composed on East 22nd

By an empty lot
On East 22nd Street
And Third Avenue
The jackhammers were
Pounding away well after
Nine o'clock tonight
As I walked by

And the sign proclaimed
It was a Toll Brothers
City Living concept
Not knowing exactly 
What that means

And I thought
To myself
Can there
Be anything
More preposterous
Than this bunch of
Idiot brothers
Who overbuilt the
Suburbs damn near
The point of extinction
Showing up here
In my own back yard
And setting up shop

God Bless you
Mayor Bloomberg
And a very good night indeed
Though quiet in the least
It very well may not be

A Further Thought on My Way Home

How the vagaries
Of experience
May be tweeted
Or transmuted into
A blog item
Or further refined
Into a poem

So as I wandered
Down the broad
Avenue of Self Regard
This afternoon
I found myself
Thinking about
My prior blog
Posting today

Realizing there is
But a fine point
Of difference between the
Likely outcomes of living
With a heart open too widely
As with eyes so tightly shut
Because the Holy Fool
However winsome
Is forever ready to transform
Him or herself
Into an an utter ass

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Thought I Had Walking East on 25th Street

So the polarities
Change once again
In a highly predictable
And ridiculous fashion

Now you have to brace yourself
For the inevitable backlash
You don't know when
But you know surely
It's going to come

Monday, October 15, 2012

To the Future Imperfect

--> -->
The Internet is
The most fluid of mediums
Forgiving and
Like our collective
Memory itself

How quickly it jumps
Off topic as my sight
Alights on the lady
Sitting next to me
While I’m sipping
Coffee here in the Pret 
On West 29th

And how she reminds me
Of myself this dour matron 
Of the hour as she 
Eagerly brushes her cheeks
With rouge and puckers her lips
To meet an upcoming
Stick of gloss
Always so hopeful            
For the scent of some
Life changing romance
Standing in the wings it seems  
Even though we both ought to know
Much better than that by now

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Slightly Longer Version of A Short Poem About Poetry

I wrote the first few stanzas of this poem a few days ago.  You can read the prior version as the immediately preceding entry on my blog.  And I just couldn't leave well enough alone.  This afternoon I added a few more stanzas as you'll see below, for better or worse I have no idea... 

It's not so much
A matter of trochees
Or synedoche
Not that they're

But my primary
Concern is how a poem
Sounds when it falls
Upon the inner ear
Whether composed
While walking the dogs
Around the block
Or at home alone
With Artie Shaw
In the background

For me
Words unspoken
By the breath
Carry the purest
Possible sound
That can be best
Understood only after
Writing them down

And the task for
Any true poet
Remains ever
The same --
To capture and
Apply simple truths
Across the broadest
Possible frontier

As one or two
Will almost always suffice
To preoccupy even
The most aesthetically
Afflicted human spirit
Whether it’s a great big
Bearded Literatus
Like Whitman
Or a sickly neurasthenic
Like Proust

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Short Poem About Poetry

Another poem about poetry I'm afraid.  How droll.  No one really wants to know or cares but in case there's someone out there who does.... 

 A Short Poem About Poetry

It's not so much
A matter of trochee
Or synedoche
Not that they're

But I primarily
Care how a poem
Falls on the inner ear
Whether composed
While walking the dogs
Around the block
Or at home alone
With Artie Shaw
In the background

For me
Words unspoken
By the breath
Carry the purest
Possible sound
That I can only
Hear when I write
Them down

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Short Rhyme for the Greatest Minds of this Generation

Here's a short rhyme I devised on my way home from the store tonight, it helped no doubt that I was swinging a bag of heavy groceries to get a good rhythm going.

And why is it
We have seen some of
The greatest minds
Of this generation
End up wasting their
Time online first
On Facebook
And then Twitter
As if there's nothing that matters
That can’t be expressed
By instant messenger or
In 140 characters
Or less I mean

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Poem Written in Reply to Greg

But time really
Can't be wasted
Since we don't own it
In the same way
It may be said
We own all our
Other assets 

Because time
By definition 
Is a wasting asset
Anything we really
Do with it
With full heart and mind
Can only enhance
Our abiding sense
Of what Nothing
Is more truly worth

Ode to Mister Apology (II)

That something
Could be so personal
And still anonymous
Was an important part
Of the discovery of
The undercover work
That you did

That Truth likes
To wear all sorts
Of disguises
More playful
And bashful
Than misleading
In intent
For how would
She otherwise ever
Feel comfortable
Displaying herself
In the broad light of day

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Poem Written in a Coffee Shop on 29th Street

It might be
Right there
In front of you
Because some
Of the world’s
Greatest discoveries
Just happen by
Juan said to me
Sitting in a midtown
Coffee shop the other day
When he turned my way
And noticed my glazed
Distracted look

And then one of
Reality’s hidden dimensions
Began to cohere right there
On the page in front of me
Just like a pop up book
As I realized the clarity
Of a picture depends
Not only on the aperture
Of the lens’ setting
But also that of the heart
As it ranges from fear
In the extreme
To something more open
To the plenitude of light

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Grammatical Lapse or Two

Just recently
My mom tsk tsked
Me for a grammatical lapse
In an email I sent
When I wrote Me
Instead of I as any
Second grader
Should have  
Known better 

And I lamely replied
That having dispensed
With punctuation
In deference to style
I felt it my prerogative
To abandon grammar
As well if and when
I felt so inclined

That being part
Of the basic liberty
To which I subscribed
When I signed up as
A practitioner of the art
Of completely free verse

Not standing beholden
To any truth higher
Than the hope of
More pleasurably serving
My listeners’ ears

A Poem for Deflationary Times

There are no more
Or less than three sides
To a coin even in the most
Deflationary of times
Not failing to count
The perimeter

On the one hand
I just bought
A cup of coffee
For exactly
One dollar
In a gourmet shop
In midtown
For the first time
Going back
Beyond my recall

And on the other
It would taste
Much less bitter if
I had a good steady job
Instead of sipping
From the cup
So timidly 
Prolonged by the
Fear of coming

But clearly there's no point
In waiting around on the outside
Chance something good is
Going to happen
Because the future depends
On nothing but the sweat
Of my own brow
As it drips and mixes
With the ink that's setting
On the pages of the
Very next volume 
Set to roll off
Roll Your Own Press
While also for display on any
Atavist  friendly device
And then out the door to address
Whatever hard money fate
Happens to await me

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

About the High-Line

The High-Line
Poses the question
As a microcosm
Of the city itself --
What has most shaped
The outcome of this
Encounter between
Industry and

When all three
Have recombined
In such an intricate way
It's all but
To sort
Things out

What nature
Reclaimed from
Industry with native weeds
Has been so well arranged
By the gardener's art
As to revive an abandoned
Right of way
So it carries
An ever more
Essential flow 
Of Euros and Yen
Straight to the City's
Beating heart

Wet Paint On Fence!

Last night was
The first night
Of the new moon of
The Lunar New Year
And there was wet paint
On the fence according
To this sign I saw
Taped to the ground
When I went for a walk
Along the High-Line

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Essence of Chan

Just like
A seagull's call
Reality has
An iterative
Ring to it

That for me
Is the essence
Of Chan
How it starts
With a sudden
For emptiness

But must be
Cultivated further
From there

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Poem About the Social Network Effect

Ah so now we are
Me and my old
College professor
On one of those
So called professional
Social networks
So what sort of
Extra benefits
Can I expect
To reap now

If my life generally
May be said
To be analogous
To a multi-level
Marketing scheme
Then I most definitely
Intend to pursue
A middling course
Steering far away
From the extremes

And of Sancho Panza
And the good Don
I remain perfectly
In either part
On whichever one
I first happen to land