The little autumn door leads nowhere.
Set against a hillside in a fresco
fading on a wall. Tiny square of yellow
flame, a single leaf. Twilight atmosphere.

It was you who brought me here
(by way of a passion for obscure painters
from Siena - by way of the black-iron fritillary
in the campus gate). Here to nowhere.

Nothing behind the supernal colors
on the wall. Nowhere to turn. Send back
the Antikythera Mechanism
hunches no help now). Somewhere,

through some word-hole, we wormed across
between empire and empyrean, making the sign
of black sheep on a parallel (dim gnomon of
lulled hearts, importunate (with )).

That blackened wooden frame around the icon
was the smile around your lips. Which was
your arm across my shoulder. Which was...
which was. Like Russian dolls (infinite

recession. Fine recess). The little door
flames in its woodwork (limpid, desolate).
Simple primary colors. Light green, involute
pine-needle blue, sand, solitude. No more.

[p.s. for the "Antikythera Mechanism", see today's NY Times article (by John Noble Wilford). Coincidentally, also came upon this today, in Chapt. 1 of Moev book mentioned previously : "Hipparchus's discovery of the precession of the equinoxes about 129 B.C. implied that the motion of the sphere of fixed stars too was complex (there was a slight west-east slippage in its daily east-west rotation), and so an invisible ninth heaven, 'which many call Crystalline, that is, diaphanous or completely transparent' (Convivio 2.3.7.), was posited..." (Metaphysics of Dante's Comedy, p. 16)]
Pretty amazing book by Christian Moevs, The metaphysics of Dante's Comedy (Oxford Univ. Press, 2005).

(Seems to ground, explain, clarify some of my neo-medieval notions about "two-tiered cosmos" and "contemplation" in "Value of Quietude and the Need for Roots"...)



There is an evergreen in Providence
whose needle wins the duel with every leaf
in the library. Her spine an arrow-sheaf
of thorns. Her grim patient taproot rends

the granite. Meanwhile the library, collegial,
collects the congealed logic of the leaf-pile
conscientiously. Bright-eyed scholar-cowboys
squirrel it away (homey arrangement, intellectual

corral). And bookworm-servant, in the sub-
sub-basement, reads on her side. The hole
in her heart gives back the cavernous whole
the word makes in the world (dub-dub-

scriptoria). The outline of a forearm
lifted to prop a sleepy brow shifts
into the dream itself. The arm grows stiff,
turns spiny, subdued, arctic, aquamarine...

and what the dream unfolds for turning worm
is picture of a little tree, foiled in milky air
and rain – tree lush with frail leafage, shuddering,
stuttering – green tree, evergreen, ever-warm...


(p.s. for the "palimpsest of voluminous vellum", see article by Felicia Lee in the Arts section of today's NY Times)
So begins a new turn for the old worm...



This November day, saturated with rain and twilight.
In the backyard, a cardinal, almost camouflaged
by moldering leaves. A little breeze emerges
from the other side of thought.



In Nicholas of Cusa's Game of Spheres
each toss of the ball might bring you closer to the center
of the nine... but maybe not. Enter
the game. See how your cautious throw veers

(slightly askew) in the plotted direction...
Its track traces the outline of a satellite's
ellipse – like Kepler's polygon (not quite
your omnipresent sphere without circumference –
but near).


I know you're able to read me like a book.
Enlighten me, then, with those almond eyes.
My abject secret, everywhere despised,
you decipher with a single glance – look,

there's nowhere I can hide. My riddle game
a round dance from Siena (oblong and
infinitely long) – and when you recognize
its cryptic meaning, you'll translate my shame.

So this ovoid sphere (shaped like a pear
almost drawn out of shape) in its unending round
begins to resemble those autumnal browns
glinting with green highlights... (please don't stare).


A worm inches toward hibernation-life.
A worm in the cold womb, Lazarus
of compost. And womb and worm coalesce
in an almond shape – bent spiral, winter glyph.

When the two make one, when the canoe
from Twin Lakes portages eternity...
wearing the wedding weeds (borrowed plenty
from burrow-boroughs), piping a tuba, anew, anew...

Like that palimpsest of voluminous vellum
from Byzantium scraped clear of its cleaner
scraps – peelings peeled back to one keen
peal of Athenian demos-voice (deep hum).

So the astigmatism of servant time
serves at the will of earth's upturnings.
These mumblings of double vision – rings
of wedding vows... (still curve at well's rim).
This was written 10 yrs ago today. But people would rather keep talking about Ted Berrigan, I guess.
I'm also reading Thos. Pynchon, as it happens. After spooky experience of watching PBS documentary on Nazi scientists & Wernher von Braun, thinking of Gravity's Rainbow (which I've never read), then, immediately after, seeing GR on shelf in hallway, opening book to find it starts with quote from Wernher von Braun... anyway, so I'm reading Gravity's Rainbow. Haven't read Pynchon before. (As commentators have noted, I am usually about 35 yrs behind the times.)

Curious to discover that one of Slothrop's subconscious trances re: "American race relations" (cf. around pp. 65-70) sound a lot like the "underground" scene with Bluejay and the railroad tunnel in Stubborn Grew. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised.

Having sort of a schizoid reaction to the book (maybe I shouldn't be surprised). Intrigued by thick intricate fabric of history and pseudo-history, the "info", the obsessions, the jokes. & yet surprised to find myself sort of bored on the "sonic" level. These paratactic strings of phrases, each ending with suspension dot dot dots...... seems like Pynchon is very carefully channeling a triangulation of Joyce, Celine and Kerouac through his set-piece fuzzbox. The sentence structure is sort of repetitive, I think that's what is boring me. Maybe it's sposed to be that way, obsessive run-on paranoid etc. But that doesn't mean I is going to like it entirely. Oh well. I just started it.


I seem to be entering hibernation mode. May be it for a while, or ever. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone -


removed post about John Barr, Poetry magazine debate over poetry & academia, etc. etc. sorry. just tired of this kind of chit-chat. tired of the whole scene (ie. my part in it). bored with it all. get me out of po-bizland. (too late, Hank.)


sometimes reading my posts of the day before gives me a hangover. (blah, blah. delete, delete.)


Interesting article by William Dalrymple ("Homer in India") in this week's New Yorker about persistent survival of oral epic poetry among some regions and castes of India. Traveling bard-shamans, dedicated to and invoking the power of a particular Hindu god, memorize poems thousands of lines long, and perform them in all-night sessions which can last for days or weeks.

A few years before Milman Parry went to Yugoslavia, recorded hundreds of hours of surviving epic performances, and basically invented an entire scholarly discipline, American anthropologists were recording the myths and songs of Native Americans. Much of my own (unknown) 700+pp. poem, Forth of July, draws on that material, from the character of "Bluejay" & the stories he tells, to the "ring-structured" passages (centered on the Mississippi River and the Ojibwa culture of the upper midwest) in the two sequels to Stubborn Grew (Grassblade Light and July).

(As I may have mentioned on occasion, all of this unknown long poem is available in print, as well as in inexpensive downloadable pdf format. Disclaimer : I do not possess an MFA in Creative Writing, nor am I associated with any academic Writing Program. I am, furthermore, not affiliated with the "New York", "Language", "post-avant", "New American", or any other "school" of poetry.)


Orhan Pamuk gave a reading here last night, as part of a conference on writers & civil liberties. I was sorry to miss it (it was my son's birthday). I've read most of his books - still reading the most recent one (Istanbul).

Our head librarian was invited to a dinner for him, hosted by the university. I was asked to round up new copies of his books, so she could have him sign them. While I was busy doing that, a little light went on. I ran home & got one of my old homemade chapbooks, the one with the photo of the Hagia-Sophia-like dome in London (actually a chapter from Stubborn Grew, called Ancient Light). (The poem is about a visit to London, but it has a few slanting references to his home town.) I inscribed it, to Pamuk.

There are not many copies around of this chapbook. It is very rare. The Brown Library has one. Now Orhan Pamuk has my last personal copy. (This seems like a minor episode from a Pamuk novel. Which reminds me that his recent near-arrest for "insulting the Turkish state" seemed like a major episode from same.)

Though I never spoke directly to our head librarian about it, she did indeed present it to him last night. Nice to think that my obscure verses might just end up on a shelf in Pamuk's Istanbul.


Intellectual disdain for democracy is always in fashion in some circles. One of the best antidotes is a careful reading of the Gettysburg Address.
Still reading Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. I think I first read it as sophomore in college, 1971 or so. It made a strong impression.

Around that time there was, I seem to recall, quite a Rilke vogue. I got annoyed with some of his portentous poetique mannerisms, how they chimed with 70s New-Ageyness, literary "spirituality". (People my age might remember what I'm talking about.)

But this was all just Rilke in American pop translation.

He was drawn to Russia & Russian poets (friend & correspondent with Tsvetaeva, who hero-worshipped him).

& I'm just being superficial, journalistic myself here.

Rilke offers a suave, cultivated, aristocratic image : but there's a clear hardness and independence to his writing too. A sort of old-fashioned 19th-cent. stoic "peasant" awareness of the facts of life and death.

In Malte he dwells on poverty and suffering. Sometimes it seems unflinching, sometimes it veers toward the edge of literary voyeurism (slumming), but mostly it offers a stream of eloquent sympathy, compassion. (Many passages in Malte should be required reading in medical or nursing school.) Bearing witness to the gradual moldering of strange old European culture, the imminent end of a certain historical era.
Poetry seems to have been kidnapped by poets. This kafkaesque situation is going to be difficult to unravel. The only solution I can think of, at the moment, is for people to stop writing their "works", or better yet, stop writing altogether for the forseeable future. Let poetry be. It's as if the environment has become saturated with kudzu or some other invasive plant.

Poetry needs some time to estrange itself from estrangement.

Leave it alone for a while, write anonymously in unpublished notebooks. Hide your talent under a bushel. Stop going to readings, conferences, publication parties. Quit reading blogs, including this one.

Disclaimer : my writer's block demon has not approved this message.


Every poem is a leap of faith.
...interested in religion because always bemused & curious about Reality, the riddle of it all... searching for answers since in the depths of adolescent misery, & maybe before... & things happened to me, subjective evidence perhaps. Every poet also expresses some theodicy, mine probably rather more odd, weird & feminist than any formal philosophical or theological formulae could formulate... hence my feeling of admiration for & kinship with Joyce, his wild Irish cosmos... & the tangy taste of words, which is what poetry's all about... I'm the iconic poet of the American boomer generation, Ron et al. just don't know it yet...


Poets & literary arty people don't want to hear about rational arguments for God & all that. "they'll figure it out at the Sorbonne someday". All that "irritable searching after fact & reason", or however it goes (Keats). Art feeds the appetite for love & beauty, the palpable textures of experience n' all that. I suppose where artists reside on Yeats's gyres of personal character puts them forever at odds with formal discursive argumentation & reasoning. Since soon after the Romantics, even the vague notion of the "universal Spirit" gradually dimmed beyond the ken of the intellect of the day. Now everyone feels (rightly) oppressed & bothered by aggressive fundamentalist hobgoblins.

Which, from my perspective, makes a rational evaluation of the possible existence & nature of God, paradoxically, important again for general culture (it's always been important for individuals).


As part of my escape from poetry, am re-reading Rilke's Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

Rilke moved to Paris in August 1902, into an apartment at 11, rue Tollier (Ironworker Street?).

The book begins with this inscription : September 11th, rue Tollier.

Here are the first few sentences, trans. by Stephen Mitchell :

"So this is where people come to live; I would have thought it is a city to die in. I have been out. I saw : hospitals. I saw a man who staggered and fell. A crowd formed around him and I was spared the rest."



Re-reading Swinburne's thesis, I do what comes naturally, which is play devil's advocate. This is simply a way of testing arguments, I guess.

Swinburne proposes that there are three options : scientific explanation, personal explanation, or no explanation at all. Science is limited in that it cannot explain why things exist, or why they are so coincidentally ordered & unified. As he goes on to show, personal explanation - extrapolated to a supreme being - provides (amazingly) a pretty strong explanation for the nature of the universe.

But what has been playing in the back of my mind is a notion, perhaps akin to that of Eastern religion : that there might be another mode of explanation, which we could call the impersonal.

What if the ultimate characteristic of the universe of objects and things is, indeed, not chaos, but order? What if the artificial ordered creations that conscious beings (humans) produce - works of art, technology, etc. - are not so much analogous to the acts of a divine Maker, but rather simply acts of alignment, on a smaller scale, with the original, universal Order? "Conforming with the Tao", so to speak?

This also seems akin to some recent physics theory (I can't remember the name of the author) about the "algorithmic" nature of reality. The universe shuttling automatically into new formal formations.

One might then expect the philosophical alternative to a "new theism" would be a counter-movement - toward a "new Taoism", or something like that.

I don't happen to agree with this view, but I can see its appeal. I think that, aside from the "cosmological" or "design" arguments for theism, the evidence from consciousness and "personhood" weighs the scale on the side of theism, as opposed to this sort of spiritualized materialism or impersonal Way. (I do believe in "the Way", or universal law : but I also believe in the Person as its original and ultimate expression.)

(Between the unknowing of the intellect faced with God, and the following of the everlasting Way, there is probably a lot of complimentary common ground. But they are not the same. The belief that the ultimate ground of reality is impersonal is... rather impersonal, I guess.)

p.s. & I wouldn't be surprised if somebody like Swinburne could look more closely at the evidentiary logic of chaotic things and events, vs. the vast prevalence of order, and suggest that my "impersonal" explanation is simply the same as the "no explanation" option. What is the probability of a universe self-ordering itself, by chance (because if it is not by chance, then you have to accept a motivation of some kind - which brings God back into the picture)? In fact, the analogy, between conscious intention producing small-scale forms of order, on the one hand, with cosmic intentionality, on the other - ie. small-scale ordering acts as examples or replications of a universal-metaphysical act - remains pretty persuasive to me...
Here's a brief summary of Swinburne's thesis. It doesn't provide much of the flavor of his writing, or the cumulative strength of the arguments - but it's the basic outline.


Swinburne published a revised, shortened version of The Existence of God, titled Is there a God? (1996) - less technical, more accessible to general readership.

I'll get back to poetry one of these days.


Richard Swinburne's book (The Existence of God) is like a well-built, deep-drafted seagoing vessel. His command of the logic of evidence, probability - "confirmation theory" - allows him to re-open old arguments toward God's existence - from cosmology, from design, from "Providence", etc. - in new and remarkable directions. His discussion of the kind of universe a good God would create (the chapter on Providence) - one which allows for conscious beings with a capacity for freedom of choice of good and evil, intellectual and moral growth - I found quite moving. Nor does he sidestep the "problem of evil" or the presence of suffering and death.

The rational investigation of the possible existence and nature of God seems to me to be one of the most important cultural developments of any society, because it allows for the possibility of reasoning about and "reasoning-with" a reasonable God. It is an exercise in free thought. It counters the text-idolatry and intellectual tyranny of the fundamentalist and "traditionalist" attitudes, present in all three of the monotheistic faiths.