Saturday, April 07, 2012

Ever try to make your own shirt (even with a pattern)? Trust me, it's not easy, so I tend to buy mine off the rack. Saves me a lot of grief, not to mention money due to time/materials saved.

Though it's fashionable nowadays to put down such things as Industrialization and Globalization, I can't. Like with everything, there are good points and bad; I'm choosing to look at the good. (How many Asians or South/Central Americans have had their standards of living improved by working a Factory Job instead of farming/cleaning house/going into prostitution? How much better are we living now than in the past with "luxury" goods being more affordable?)

Anyway, food for thought:


The back, the yoke, the yardage. Lapped seams,
The nearly invisible stitches along the collar
Turned in a sweatshop by Koreans or Malaysians

Gossiping over tea and noodles on their break
Or talking money or politics while one fitted
This armpiece with its overseam to the band

Of cuff I button at my wrist. The presser, the cutter,
The wringer, the mangle. The needle, the union,
The treadle, the bobbin. The code. The infamous blaze

At the Triangle Factory in nineteen-eleven.
One hundred and forty-six died in the flames
On the ninth floor, no hydrants, no fire escapes--

The witness in a building across the street
Who watched how a young man helped a girl to step
Up to the windowsill, then held her out

Away from the masonry wall and let her drop.
And then another. As if he were helping them up
To enter a streetcar, and not eternity.

A third before he dropped her put her arms
Around his neck and kissed him. Then he held
Her into space, and dropped her. Almost at once

He stepped to the sill himself, his jacket flared
And fluttered up from his shirt as he came down,
Air filling up the legs of his gray trousers--

Like Hart Crane's Bedlamite, "shrill shirt ballooning."
Wonderful how the pattern matches perfectly
Across the placket and over the twin bar-tacked

Corners of both pockets, like a strict rhyme
Or a major chord. Prints, plaids, checks,
Houndstooth, Tattersall, Madras. The clan tartans

Invented by mill-owners inspired by the hoax of Ossian,
To control their savage Scottish workers, tamed
By a fabricated heraldry: MacGregor,

Bailey, MacMartin. The kilt, devised for workers
To wear among the dusty clattering looms.
Weavers, carders, spinners. The loader,

The docker, the navvy. The planter, the picker, the sorter
Sweating at her machine in a litter of cotton
As slaves in calico headrags sweated in fields:

George Herbert, your descendant is a Black
Lady in South Carolina, her name is Irma
And she inspected my shirt. Its color and fit

And feel and its clean smell have satisfied
Both her and me. We have culled its cost and quality
Down to the buttons of simulated bone,

The buttonholes, the sizing, the facing, the characters
Printed in black on neckband and tail. The shape,
The label, the labor, the color, the shade. The shirt.

-Robert Pinsky

Friday, April 06, 2012

At what point does stubbornly being contrarian become shooting one's self in the foot? (Might have saved her a fair bit of grief if she could have figured that out.)


They came to tell your faults to me,
They named them over one by one;
I laughed aloud when they were done,
I knew them all so well before,—
Oh, they were blind, too blind to see
Your faults had made me love you more.

-Sara Teasdale

Thursday, April 05, 2012

I'm kind of hooked on France Culture's podcasts. Not only do they cover the station's day to day reportage, but they have all sorts of other things - plays, books, short stories, etc.

Heck, there's even a poem-a-day feature (read by members of the Comédie-Française, of course).

Today, they featured Cairo-Born poet Andrée Chédid. Below is the of the first of the recited poems, Terre Intérieure:

Terre Intérieure

Ma vie, ma blanche vie au revers des images.
Ma vie, mon éprise, ma claire, mon emportée ;
Comme une eau dans l’heure certaine,
Son vertige par coeur.

Ma vie, ma dénudée, mon âpre, mon impatiente,
Brûle, brûle l’aile de soie ;
Brûle les peurs, les mailles, le noeud des barques,
Le fiel, l’encens, l’herbe desséchée.

Ma vie, ma féroce vie, mon cristal et mes monstres ;
Ma vie dans l’éternel combat,
Nouée sous les labours et sous l’écorce ;
Ma vie grave d’enfance-roi.

Ma vie, ma tendre vie, ô mon premier visage,
Ton cri nul ne peut l’apaiser.
Ma vie, ma pierreuse vie, ô ma vie sans atteinte ;
Ma blanche, mon âpre, ma claire, ma dénudée.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

A Short and Sweet Sestina.

Six Words





never . . .


yes no
maybe sometimes
always never.

-Lloyd Schwartz

(Some time ago, McSweeney's ran a call for sestina submissions. It was one of my favorites of their features. Am so sorry that they ended it. If you're interested, here's the archive.)

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

April 3rd is a big day, because it's my best friend's birthday. I've used this poem before, but I think that it still resonates, and that he needs to hear it again.
(Happy Birthday, Paul!)

A Psalm of Life

What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
"Life is but an empty dream!"
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
"Dust thou art, to dust returnest,"
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Finds us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,--act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing
Learn to labor and to wait.

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


A Happy Sweet Sixteen, too, to!

Monday, April 02, 2012

Youtube, of all places, is a great poetry reference. They've got everything from slams to def jams. My particular favorite is a channel called Spoken Verse. He's got a little of everything (why not go and take a look?).

Wonder what Bukowski would've thought of poetry readings in this medium?

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Look at this! Another April has arrived, bringing another Poetry Month.

Caught between time-zones, I've been a bit woozy and tired. A part of me is so thankful to be back in New England for Spring - this is the place to fete the season. Feel though that I'm missing something, that I've left something behind, though. (Perhaps it's just the Jet-Lag.)

From you have I been absent in the spring... (Sonnet 98)

From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,
That heavy Saturn laughed and leaped with him,
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odor and in hue,
Could make me any summer's story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew.
Nor did I wonder at the lily's white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
Yet seemed it winter still, and, you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.

- William Shakespeare

Happy Spring, Happy Poetry Month. Maybe with a bit of time, that rhythm (or whatever it is) I've lost will find its way back.