Tonight

december2016-first-and-last-word-reading-series

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HORIZON: November 14, 2016

 

A giant copper moon flares on the lake

in the early dark, and on the car radio, talk.

Talk trying to chew despair. Talk about fear

to hide fear. Talk about talk about talk.

Fifty cents, a dollar a word. It is all just talk

 

until it isn’t. A day may come soon when

we have to pay with our lives for the lives

of our friends. What else did we ever have

to pay with? What else were we ever for?

Each ripple on the lake is a lick of flame.

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Winter Psalm

The snow storm today inspires me to post this poem again, from Emblem:

WINTER PSALM

Boston snowbound, Logan closed, snowplows

and salt-trucks flashing yellow, drifts

tall as a man some places, visibility poor,

I sit by the window and watch the snow

 

blow sideways north-northeast, hot cup

in hand, robe over pajamas.

You have made me to seek refuge

and charged me to care for my brothers.

 

How cruel. That could only be You out there

howling, cracking the trees, burying everything.

What could I possibly want from You

that would not undo the whole world as it is?

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Our Man in Boston 12/21/15

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Robert Birnbaum, who has conversed with many more illustrious persons and personages than yours truly, recorded our colloquy on his popular site OUR MAN IN BOSTON.

Our meandering, not to say rambling, conversation is HERE: 

His previous posting included book recommendations from a number of readers, including me.

I think his whole enterprise of gathering, aggregating, curating is worth a reader’s time. You can keep scrolling backward and never reach boredom. But do so slowly, take it in. There’s a richness here, of eccentricity, perspicacity, and wit that you won’t find anywhere else. Enjoy!

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ASSAY: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies, special conference issue

ASSAY: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies, special conference issue

Included in this remarkable issue is the panel, Confronting Our Fears: Turning Adversity Into Art, in which I participated along with Jo-Scott Coe, Meredith Hall, Renee D’Aoust, and Michael Steinberg

from the program:

“Seasoned memoirists know that writing about our personal misfortunes, fears, and demons can produce rich, even urgent, writing. But that is only true when we use those hardships and struggles not simply for confession or disclosure but as raw materials for creating literary works. Citing their own and others’ work, five writer-teachers offer strategies designed to show aspiring memoirists how to transform frightening, disturbing experiences into artfully crafted, shared human narratives.”

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Also in the current issue of The Manhattan Review

SUFFERANCE

Rain, rain, go on

 

and rain. I’ve been given

this time by my mother.

I’ve known about water

forever, and fear

is no stranger either.

 

Rain. Go on. Rain.

The fires burn

 

no matter what I do,

the fires of my fathers,

and will sear me

one day, maybe soon,

and also you.

 

Burn, go on and burn.

We are not much —

 

light, ash, particulate

of the erotic and such

temporary tragedies

as interrupt it. To call us

seeds would serve,

 

or waterbeads, or sparks.

Go on. On and on.

 

— Richard Hoffman

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LIBERA NOS A MALO

12311306_10153398015347893_6493216149465489250_nThis poem appears in the current issue of The Manhattan Review, Vol. 17, No. 1:

LIBERA NOS A MALO

             (for Mark Ludwig)

1.

A friend halfway around the world

refers to his home as his motherland.

His email asks me to understand,

 

but half a century in that last century

purged for me some arrangements

of words no matter who deploys them.

 

Fall-out, we call such consequences now.

 

2.

I have lived here all my life but

never on just earth, rather

on a language landfill, mounded

and overgrown with tinder, dry,

inviting an errant spark, a cigarette

flicked from a fiction headed

elsewhere fast on cruise control.

 

Residue rumbles away on a signal

via satellite down iron tracks now

overgrown with grasshoppered weeds,

the smell of sun on creosote.

 

3.

Who dies? Soldiers? Or sons?

Real boys, face down among

the scattered corpses:

 

in brown water at the cattle crossing,

wedged in a crevice in the rock,

scattered across a blasted field.

 

Then blessings, old school as a last

cracked chunk of naptha soap,

are chanted over graves (oh man,

hard work, fat city in full view,)

 

the mourners’ full measure of grief

the principle product

of what had once been wilderness.

 

The age of wonders was one short story.

 

4.

Here is a riddle: if I am

a misgiving, tagged in a code

to scan, a son at the sky’s edge

waiting for love or money,

marked man from smoketown,

a lyric sung at zero db,

gravity’s own voice, perhaps

a little blue boy of a singular

urge, why was I born and why

do I feel foolish asking why?

 

5.

The dead are noisy as a hedge of wrens.

I am ignored among them.

 

Whose is that face in the shadows?

The art of this inquiry is all night

 

work, done while weeping for them,

their separate woes, our common lives.

 

6.

Afterward, forward

is undefined. I suspect the past

does not resemble its photos:

 

breath in a jar,

tremulous as a willow,

 

so long see you

a single parenthesis mark

in the long dialogue,

 

when the grass is straw,

and the ants, the bees, and all

the late languages

are ghosts, each one alone,

bewildered by the music

of creaking branches.

 

7.

Deaf to the winter sun,

I returned where the grass

would never again be as tall.

 

Late messenger, the bare trees

whispered, pray for forgiveness.

 

All of my fathers are dying.

The archive is on fire.

 

The possible arts: resistance,

refusal, requiem, remembering,

 

require another schoolroom

where the work, parsing the syntax

 

of the ways things happen, scars

inadmissible, begins again.

 

8.

Fixations and saccades:

certain movements of the eyes

are discouraged,

 

redirected to luminous

ciphers, fixed like a laser

on the heart of the amygdala,

 

and our children, never

having read a word

of mercy, will be our jurors.

 

 

9.

 

Once I no longer believed,

I could not say what it was

I had believed.

The words themselves

became delight, illuminating

a single yearning,

and I saw that darkness,

reassuring, undescribed, remained.

 

And I can still see paradise aflame

through all the days of obligation.

 

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