Showing posts with label literature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label literature. Show all posts


The advantages of being a writer


You write
a house
and it’s there

You make it high
and square,
you place it
in Detroit

No, you move it
to Brooklyn

Realizing that
you have no
business there,
you move it
to Italy,
where you
currently are

You place
yourself in it,
you zoom in
one of it its

you are,

the creator
at work


You add
a desk, a screen,
a keyboard,

a computer,
a lamp,
the whirr of a
computer fan,
a rainy day

and the spike
of an event –
the slamming
of a door


The final act
is to erase
it all again

you are,

the destroyer
at work


You check
the spelling

– Johannes Beilharz (© 2013)

Originally published in The Best of Mad Swirl : 06.22.13

The photo shows part of the location the poem focuses on.


A pedestrian poem

It’s a pedestrian poem,
it walks on its feet,
someone in a shoe store
called them flat
but it keeps walking
and covering poetic
distances in
the dusty sun
of literary no man’s land.

It is what it is
and does what it does,
and if you listen
carefully, you will hear
the clop clop of its
broad-shoed feet
in the dry sunny dust
of literary no man’s land.

– Iself (© 2013)

More about pedestrian or clod-stuck poetry:
Clod-stuck poem invigorated
American Life in Poetry


Trendy poetry

Main characteristic:
strict observance of idiotic
comma before, and rule.

– Iself (© 2013)


Thomas Bernhard / Psalm


What I do is poorly done,
what I sing is badly sung,
therefore you have a right
to my hands
and to my voice.
I will work with all my strength.
The harvest shall be yours.
I will sing the song of peoples long gone.
I will sing my people.
I will love.
Even criminals!
Together with the criminals and the unprotected
I will found a new homeland –
Despite all this, what I do is poorly done,
what I sing is badly sung.
Therefore you have a right
to my hands
and to my voice.

Thomas Bernhard (1931-1989)

English Translation by Johannes Beilharz (© 2012)

Original found in Deutsche Lyrik / Gedichte seit 1945, edited by Horst Bingel, sonderreihe dtv, 1963. At the time this anthology was published, Thomas Bernhard had published three books and was not very well-known.


An autumn poem by Max Dauthendey

The ravens scream their wounded cry;
of night and need they prophecy.
Frost has surrounded every door;
hunger’s dog barks out there for more.
We hold each other ever more tightly;
for sake of kissing we’ve spoken only lightly.
The larks have sung themselves to death,
and clouds have shooed summer with their breath.
Your head, cradled here in my arm,
no longer knows this earth ... without alarm.

– Max Dauthendey (1867-1918)

Translated from German by Johannes Beilharz.
English translation © by Johannes Beilharz 2011.
The German original of 1905 is here.


Medical portrait

Now there's doctor L. the anthroposoph, (in)sincere and mature,
who'll ask what you are willing to suffer for cure.
And if you say 'not much'
he'll presribe allopathic stuff with a proven sledge hammer touch.
Whereas, if you're willing to endure,
he'll give you aurum or cuprum for good enure.

– Felix Morgenstern (© 2011)

Written upon inspiration by 'endure' from One Single Impression.


What he needed from me I have no idea

The places cats won't go. The climbing out onto the banks. The naked man
in the glaring white gap

Hot black dunes in the air—we slept
the chill of closed eyelids,
not April and the magnolias

The trick is to make it personal:
let silence drill its hole,
sleepily indifferent

– Johannes Beilharz

Collated for NaPoWriMo day 22. The task was to participate in the cento contest organized by Danielle Pafunda (who has been posting her NaPoems over at the Bloof Books website). What’s a cento? It’s a poem composed entirely of lines from other poems.
The above poem is composed entirely of lines tweeted today by Danielle through the twitter feed of the Academy of American Poets.
The authors of the lines I chose are, in the sequence of the appearance of the lines: Anne Carson Nox, Catie Rosemurgy, Medbh McGuckian, Henri Cole, Marina Tsvetaeva, James Schuyler, Khaled Mattawa, Daniel Johnson, William Carlos Williams



She was a metaphor of rouge. Not only did she eat lots
of beets – “iron, you know” – but also felt like this
warm, creamy, beety mass: rouge. Rouge bra, rouge
stockings, rouge pubic hair, rouge curlers, rouge heart,
rouge lungs growing and deflating, rouge earlobes,
rouge soles – “pet me” – rouge milk, rouge Camaro, rouge
grass, rouge dogs, no rouge spiders, rouge smoky kiss
from rouge lips ...

– Johannes Beilharz (© 1981)

Posted for NaPoWriMo day 19. The task was “Pick a color – something you like, something important to you. Red, yellow, whatever. Now, write a poem that uses the color in every or nearly ever line: a hypnotic invocation of the color.” This made me immediately think of the above poem from way back when.

Made known to Writer's Island as usual. Three big cheers to Writer's Island for hosting NaPoWriMo.


A dream

For P.

A bad dream arisen
from distortion,
not quite the truth,
having been left
with incorrect
impressions not
corrected on
purpose. It took
on surprising
proportions as a
animal assaulting
me, like Tipu
Sultan’s tiger
the English soldier.
Such fierceness
my feelings must
have. Perhaps
not for you.
About you –
about you and me,
about being goaded
and lied to.

– Iself (© 2011)

Written for NaPoWriMo, day 17. Actually, today's task would have been to reduce a passage from Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life, but I could not get into it, try as I might. (I tried 4 versions, calling them Curtain calls / Exercises in elimination and conversion.) But I still had the remnants of a dream to chew on, and they went into the poem above. Last night I found out, more or less by chance, that someone I care about has been dishonest with me, telling me things about herself that are not true, the greatest puzzle being the reason for this dishonesty.

Tippoos's Tiger – a life-size 18th century automaton on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.



to the liquid which
pounces down on us, drenching
to the very bone.

– Iself (© 2011)

Written for NaPoWriMo on day 16. Today, the task was to "celebrate that yin yang quality – the eternal twinning of opposites by doing one of the following: write a poem in the form of a complaint about something that is good or you like, or in the form of a hymn to something that is bad or that you dislike. A rant about blue skies, an encomium to rainy days. A curt dismissal of strawberries or beach vacations; a paean to Brussels sprouts, or waiting rooms."
Well, each of these ideas could have set off my creative forces, but rain was first – so there!
Not to worry, though; I'll probably rant about strawberries on the beach very soon.


Laura and Petrarch

A dissonant character sonnet

Deprive him of thrive,
the rugged barbarian,
let her be more alive,
the tender vegetarian.

Let him moan
frustration from shore to shore,
let her groan
with a need for more.

Let him become a little listless,
isolated on a remote isle,
let her develop some bristles
to make him walk the extra mile.

Let those deeds all be done
and soon they’ll be one.

– Felix Morgenstern (© 2011)

For day 15 of NaPoWriMo, the task was to write a sonnet. Well, here is mine, with claptrap rhyme and full of helpful suggestions for an ancient couple.

Since I was asked: The rhyme scheme used here follows the Shakespearean or English sonnet, while the meter does not.


Big, square and

black and
floppy. Stuck
in a big toaster-
like thing that made grinding noises.

– Iself

Written for NaPoWriMo day 13 on the subject of nostalgia. Can there be nostalgia for 8-inch floppy disks? I suppose there can be, as this fibonacci proclaims.


Blues in D

Woke up
this morning,
had to clean
the place
before leaving
for work
so the cleaning
lady would have
a clean slate
to work from,
raced through
the joint
to remove
items of clothing
and make
piles of scattered
papers neater,
started the PC
to find that
wants me
to translate
a 30-line poem
into Spanish,
and how much
would that cost,
well it's a good
the question of
being poetic
in Spanish,
I felt like giving
in sight unseen
and for a price
you can't refuse,
hoping the poem
would have a lot of
blood-red corazones
in it.

– Iself (© 2011)

Written for NaPoWriMo day 12. The task was to write a 40-line poem in a single sentence, possibly something sounding a bit Victorian. Well, this one ended up sounding more Berrigansian than Victorian, but so be it. The title came last, and out of nowhere. But wait – isn't it the title of somebody's* song?

*It is indeed ... "Blues in D" by Kate and Anna McGarrigle, performed here by Nick Cave and Jenni Muldauer:


The picture of little J.B. in a prospect of machinery

An orange disk shines a beam on a shred of past –
exposing the new sawmill being set up after 1960's fire,
exposing the boss’ little boy.

Is he a nuisance in the way of the workers there?
He’s around 4 or 5,
he watches and interacts,
not always fully comprehending,
not always being able to separate joke and reality.

One day he stands with his back to the gap surrounding the big saw,
a bit too close, takes one step back,
and whoosh goes down his first big flight
onto a springy bed of sawdust,
with the grown men scrambling down there
to see if he’s alive, if he’s all right.

He is all right, he’s still alive, he holds the memory
and now switches off the beam.

– Iself (© 2011)

A straight, artless mirror image of John Ashbery’s The picture of little J.A. in a prospect of flowers for NaPoWriMo day 11.


Holly, it’s folly

Oh what another winner hath landed Holly!
The best thing about him is that he’s jolly.
He ogles young women voraciously
and slurps his coffee rapaciously.
His looks betray that he’s five times your age,
dear Holly, and it takes no sage
to figure out
that he buys his clothes at McDowd.
Those thick, froggy-eyed specs
imply there won't be much sex.
In short, my angel, between you and me,
you are, as usual, barking up the wrong tree.

– Felix Morgenstern (© 2011)

Written for day 10 of NaPoWriMo.
Today, the idea was to “try to write a poem backwards. I don’t mean letter by letter, or word by word, but line by line. Start by writing out an old saying that takes the form of a declarative statement. Like “Birds of a feather flock together,” or “A miss is as good as a mile.” That will be the last line of your poem. The next line you write will be the second-to-last, and so on, until you reach the “beginning.” To help you keep your focus, let’s say that the poem has to be an address to someone or something that can’t answer back – a person who is absent, or an animal or inanimate object.”
I followed the rules ... well, more or less. I did indeed choose the final saying first. As to the rest, I kept writing new lines and rearranging them to such an extent that I no longer remember what initially was first, second, third, etc.
The address is definitely to someone who is absent – apart from the name, nothing is said about Holly, even though it's clear that she seems to have a serious case of bad judgement.


As if you'd won the lottery

Don't stand there with that shit-eating grin on your face,
my dear, as if you'd just won the red noise prize.

Let me tell you that a fruit's a fruit and a tart's a tart,
and that Annabelle – well, suffice it to say

that I knew her in school, and all to well.
If you know what I mean.

So don't you feed me that 'J'en sais rien' line.
I seen the two of you parked in my car,

and it was rocking.

– Iself (© 2011)

Written for day 8 of NaPoWriMo.

This was written in response to:
"Today’s prompt is a bit of a smorgasbord, and reflects the fact that we are at day seven. It asks you to write a poem with seven different phrases, ideas, or just plain old “things” in it. These are:
1) an example of synasthetic metaphor — one that describes one sensory perception using adjectives more naturally suited to a different sense (e.g., “a red noise,” or a “a bitter touch”)
2) a fruit
3) the name (first or last) of someone you knew in school
4) a rhetorical question
5) a direct address to the poem’s audience — “Reader” or “mom” or “Michelle,” or maybe just “You”)
6) a word in a foreign language
7) a reference to a game of chance (darts or pool or the lottery or etc).
All of these may seem pretty disjointed, and indeed, they’re meant to be. But these kind of little “projects” can work wonders in keeping a poem both lively and concrete, instead of letting it wander off into a forest of abstractions)."


The Matapedia

What is it?
A road somewhere in Canada?

Shreds from a song
to form an inaccurate picture

"And we raced the Matapedia –
and we were not afraid"

But there is also an unexpected meeting
with room for ample speculation

"He said, 'Oh my God, it's Kate!'
'No, I'm the daughter of Kate.
My name is Martha.
Who are you?
Ma never told me about you.'"

And on they race the Matapedia,
with minutes to spare.

I imagine to board a ferry –
a ferry to somewhere or nowhere.

– Iself (© 2011)

Written for NaPoWrimo day 7 in response to the following: "Today’s prompt is one of musical ekphrasis. Ekphrastic poetry comments upon or is inspired by another work of art in a different medium. Most people think of it as a poem inspired by a painting or a sculpture. But it could also be music!"

Lest this remain too cryptic...
As pointed out by vivinfrance in her comment, the Matapedia is a river in Québec, Canada. I still think, however, that the song by Kate and Anna McGarrigle on the album of the same name I'm alluding to must refer to a road running along the river, but I could be wrong. I would assume that the Kate and Martha characters mentioned in the song are Kate McGarrigle and her daughter Martha Wainwright.

Here's a link to the song on Youtube:


I could feel

I could feel
some melodic drowning
coming on today
with horrid greatness.

With horrid greatness
I could feel
some melodic drowning
coming on today.

– Iself

It's all about oxymorons today, this 6th day of NaPoWriMo, and the ones I used were generated by the Serendipitous Oxymoron Maker at the very first try. And I didn't even need to consult the horoscope today ... it was all right there with horrid greatness ... that melodic drowning, or at least some of it. Beware, oh moron, of oxys.



For L.

"There are three fields I work in,"
she said, "performance, video
and drawing." (Her father prompted
with proper suggestions to go on.)

"The performances are exhausting;
they all have to do with ropes,
climbing and descent. I'm not sure
whether they are Apollinian or

Dionysian, something else I have
been interested in. In one, I cut
a bowling alley in half, making holes
in the walls left and right at about

half height to hold the rings
for my rope. I went along towards
my audience, it was both strenuous
and exhilarating. Sometimes

I caught myself wanting to laugh:
what were all these people doing,
watching me with serious eyes
as I went along." Her father prompted,

"And one of your videos was..."
"... dancing along an ugly street
in funny yellow pants. I did many
iterations of this, varying my steps,

arm movements and behavior.
A friend of mine did the filming.
Mostly the people seemed per-
plexed, not knowing what to think

of this crazy person doing this,
making way, moving aside. Not
stopping." "Is there any money
in this?" somebody asked.

"In the videos? – I suppose
they could be sold. Or the drawings
I do – that's my third field
of activity." "And how do you

do them?" her father prompted.
"I make myself rules, I restrict
myself. One drawing might be
only boxes, for example, in only

five colors, but with other rules,
to increase complexity." "And
these you would sell, there is
a market for that?" her father said.

"There is a market, and, once
it has found you, it wants you
to repeat yourself. I could become
the colored box lady,

or the rope performer, or
the hip-hop dancer of dreary
streets, both Apollinian and
Dionysian." Thus ended Lou,

to soon perform an acte
morpheusien for a change.

– Iself (© 2011)

A freewheeling act for NaPoWriMo #3, concocted fresh from the lips of Lou herself last night.


Poems and antipoems

I’m surrounded by books,
many of which I haven’t looked at in years.

Not even been aware of.
They stand there not making a peep,
even the Long Talking Bad Conditions Blues.

How funny to note books owned
for decades with renewed surprise.

In the case of Nicanor Parra
I remember a conversation with Paula and Eduardo
from earlier this year about the great Chilean poets,
during which I quoted from Violeta Parra’s
Cueca de los poetas:

    Pero el más gallo se llama
    Pablo Neruda
    Huifa ay ay.


    Corre que ya te agarra
    Nicanor Parra.

But the shelves I’m looking at
also carry more pedestrian stuff,
like the Dictionary of Legal,
Commercial and Political Terms

Now that one I’ve touched more
often than the antipoems or
condition blues because I need it
for a living. Even though the poor
thing has been mostly superseded
by online sources as many
of its brothers in shelf.

Today I declare the still life
blues day for printed outdated
dictionaries, poems and antipoems
online and shelved.

– Iself (© 2011)

NaPoWriMo 2011 #2

Written upon inspiration by this (at NaPoWriMo):
"Write a poem that incorporates the titles of three books you have in your house."
The books are:
Nicanor Parra, Poems and Antipoems
Ronald Sukenick*, Long Talking Bad Conditions Blues
Dietl/Moss/Lorenz, Dictionary of Legal, Commercial and Political Terms
Singer, song writer, writer and artist Violeta Para (1917-1967) was Nicanor Parra's sister.

*Ron Sukenick (1932-2004) was one of my teachers at the University of Colorado.