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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, September 22, 2014

A Poem Written While Waiting Online at Staples

So this is pretty interesting.  At least to me it is.  I went to buy myself a new notebook this afternoon around the corner at Staples.  And while standing in line I wrote a poem.  I've never quite managed that feat before - in one clean shot a poetic composition complete, ready to stand on its own, without further adieu.  Not only that, I went home right away and published the poem via Twitter.  I wasn't sure at the time I wrote it how many characters it would be.  In other words, it wasn't initially written pursuant to a formal notion or constraint of 140 characters. Rather I wrote the poem I wanted to only subject to the constraint of standing on line at Staples and it just so happened that it fell under Jack Dorsey's prescribed limit to be publishable on Twitter.

In any case, here is the poem I wrote and first published on Twitter together with the photo I took while standing in line.

Now once again
I've returned to
The scene of
Previous mention
In line at Staples
Except this time
I manage to go through
With the purchase

I imagine some of you well might think - it's not much of a poem.  And no doubt that's quite true.  But please bear in mind the circumstances under which it was written.  And also please take a moment to read the poem I wrote immediately prior to this (which you can read by clicking here) to which this poem directly relates if not answers.  So in a sense I suppose it may be cheating slightly - as this poem is formally constrained to being 140 characters or less but it does in part derive meaning by reference to a slightly longer prior poem.  (In fact Haiku originally developed in a very similar manner through a tradition of linked short poems known as Renku or Renga - so there is even good historical precedent for that poetic business model as well!)

In any case, whether it's a good poem or not is utterly besides the point.  What is of note here is that I have made a discovery for myself.  It's such a good idea I wouldn't be surprised if there aren't a number of other poets out there exploring similarly how to really use Twitter instead of continuing to resist it.  So far I have only seen poets using Twitter in the usual ways - as a means of self-promotion, casual banter or snide asides.  But getting beyond such banalities there is no reason we can't someday hope to see a genre of poetry spring up here too, like a modern day version of Haiku or better yet Renku!  A new journal or two from some hipsters in Brooklyn is surely soon to follow and what more after that do you suppose? Just wait until next week ...     

Poem Written in Line While Waiting at Staples

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Little Lost Leaf

Far too long and
Deep into the weeds
Between stoned and not
There’s naught but
An exhale of difference
Except now the depression
Scuds low enough

To envelope me
Much like a riptide
Dragging my sorry ass
Far out to sea
A tiny speck
All but submerged

              *  *  *

At Staples just now
They asked 8 bucks plus
For a little black notebook
But why pay such
A high price
For poems that
May just as well
Remain thought

But unwritten? 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

What an Artist Knows

This was one of the first poems I wrote.  It was on the occasion of my wife's 50th  birthday which we celebrated with friends in grand style at the Cafe des Artistes.  (It was back in the days when we still had money to burn.)

Tonight we'll be celebrating again (happily enough with both new and old friends) on the occasion of the Suffolk Arts Center's new exhibit where 3 of Marissa's orchid paintings will be on display.  So I thought it would be a good idea to dig out the old poem, dust it off and see if I could refurbish it in light of new facts and circumstances of our lives.  Usually I don't like to rewrite older poems but this one is slightly different because I knew at the time I first wrote it that I hadn't gotten it quite right.  More than that, love and marriage is certainly best understood as a perpetual work in progress so it is in that spirit that I offer up these revisions.

What an Artist Knows 
                               for Marissa

What an artist knows
She knows in the flesh
With each turn of her wrist
Each inspiration and breath
She iterates space
With a knowing caress

Eyes open or closed
There’s joy in her bones
Or the sudden most sorrow
May stipple her marrow
So that come what tomorrow
The surer her vision grows

As with the tip of a brush
She enraptures the rose
And captures swift life
As it ebbs and it flows
Through all the harmonics
Of laughter and shade

Until by means
Still more enigmatic
From garden to pallet
She learns to transcribe
The orchid’s tuneful lyric
Onto the petals strewn
Beside and below

Restoring us into
Intimate contact
With beauty in its
Timeline aspect
Of the radiance that endures
Even as each blossom
Comes and goes

* * * * * *

Marissa Bridge from The Journey #22

This is one of the paintings from Marissa's new series called The Journey which chronicles the life cycle of an orchid in in bloom.  You can see more of these incredible images on her website here.

(You can also read the earlier version my poem here.)  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

What We Can Learn From Orchids

Number 22 from The Journey by Marissa Bridge

What does an orchid teach us about life?  The painting above is from a series called The Journey by the artist Marissa Bridge.  The series follows the growth of an orchid over the course of budding, blossoming and senescence.   While orchids aesthetically appeal to us thanks to their delicate bilateral symmetry, this series of paintings explores another level of beauty in the orchid plant over the passage of time.  The sequence of images reveals a temporal balance as buds form, blossoms strive for their moment of perfection and then give way to fresh buds.  It’s remarkable work and I’ve learned a tremendous amount from watching the series of paintings take shape over the last few years, which I have had a chance to observe up close and first hand, since Marissa happens to be my wife.

Three paintings from the series will be on display for the first time at the Southampton Cultural Center’s 2014 juried art show.  We're very excited about going to the opening this coming Saturday, September 13th where we plan to celebrate with friends.  You can also see more of the paintings from the series on Marissa’s web site here:  http://www.marissabridge.com 

* * * * 

Number 21 from The Journey by Marissa Bridge

 *  *  *  *  *

Not only do orchids provide an inspiration for Marissa's current work - they also happen to be a recurring theme in Chinese poetry.  To help celebrate the first public display of Marissa’s new series, here is my translation of a poem from the Gan Yu cycle by Chen Z’iang, one of the lesser known masters of the early Tang period.   

The orchids birthed
Through spring
And summer both
Such luxuriant growth
How can leaf
Be so green

Hidden and alone
In the forest remote
The vermillion flowers
Hang from a purplish stem

Slowly absorbing
The light as the
Daytime fades
And with the first hint
Of autumn’s wind
The blossoms reach
Their fullest extent
Falling as the stem trembles

A sudden fragrance
Released that
No one expected

感遇 其二



*  *  *  *

Translator’s note:

The Gan Yu is a truly remarkable collection of poems written by Chen Z'iang along his life's way during the late 7th century. These poems are almost completely unknown to Western readers. Chen Z'iang is from the early Tang period with a lifespan thought to have run from 656 or 661 to 702. According to our friend Steve Zhang, Chen is not even well known or widely read in China today, his work having fallen into obscurity due to the long shadows cast by the great Tang poets who followed. (We owe many thanks to Professor Jonathan Stalling for calling our attention to Chen's poems in his excellent collection of essays, The Poetics of Emptiness.)  There is much about these poems we find wonderful. They are steeped in Daoism and imbued with mystery but at the same time the poet's voice remains quite distinct and accessible.

You can read more of our translations of classic Chinese poetry by clicking here to subscribe to our free email newsletter - The Tang Spirit

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Cryptogram Primarily Addressed to Myself

Today I tried and tried to get
The Mailchimp off my back
It seems no matter how many times
I recheck the standings
It’s still the same old
Dreary self
Ping again
It matters not
The least
Yet it’s also
A labyrinth
A circuitous route
In search of something else
That can’t be pinned to the wall
The entire Cycle of Changes perhaps
Or else the very best sort of
Popular entertainment
Full of special effects
A real Penny Dreadful in fact
But never underestimate
The full price being paid
Once you factor in the
High spiritual cost
Of both failure
And success