At Least One Kidney

a token
or two
scavenged from
the wild

gone feral
friday
night

two hours
pacing dark
tide creeping
beach bisected
by creeks
ribbons of
black ice

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Empty but filling

Empty but filling.
This old house,
me and my old dog,
done in by a good long walk
in the cold.

Stove emptied
of last night’s ash
and filled carefully
with kindling.

Cold empty house
filling
with old-world-warmth.
Dog in his chair,
me in mine,

but what of this guilt
filling me, this house,
edging into this poem?

Just a few hours alone,
beside warming wood-stove
reading and writing poems.

Empty, or maybe not.
Filling, or perhaps
already quite full

of joy
ferocious memory
tea and meaning.

Meaning and
unmeaning
making worry
and worlds
to fill this
cold but warming
space

where I place
myself amidst
belonging and
warm mugs
and winter morning.

Growing
a fire
beside me
inside me
spreading
heat, hindsight
and light.

2 starts

2 starts, both fall into the item cat <far from profound>

</end speculation>

order of operations

i’m perpetually taking things apart
that I put together prematurely
always skipping what seem like
poorly written instructions
that turn out to be essential

maybe i should look at this deck
like a math problem
maybe this life too
I should be working backwards
reverse engineering a solution
based on the idealized finished product
rather than working fast forwards
then four steps backwards when
it becomes clear
i cannot drill pilot holes
for lag screws
for rail posts
once the deck boards are in place

in place(s) though
frequently out of place

i’m the guy in the fuzzy GIF
never quite dropping my hammer
on the head of a hard to reach
nail

___

mirror mirror

am I seeing?
is that me or the idea of me?
is that reflection, misshapen by cheap laminated plastic
a document?
a curated [framed] representation {abstract}
of what I think I am?
certainly easier to put that on display
hang that idea of me on a white gallery wall
than to take the actual me (whoever/whatever/wherever)
that is
and place me out of place in that place
where people seek to see art representing place

 

Recent Reads

Once upon a time when not writing I at least would take some time to jot notes about the good words I was filling my brain with so let’s give that a shot again.  Once upon a time I also used to write list poems building on the riff, ‘while you were smoking’ and I’d dive into the multitude of things I’d accomplish or at least observe, think, smell, taste, read and dream while my acquaintances were outside, dying a little.  Okay no dying a little here, these books are more about growing a little as a poet with more process-awareness ninja skills.

Walking down the stairs: selections from the interviews
by Galway Kinnell

This is super interesting, especially Kinnell’s snarky remarks in the introduction about how odd of an assignment he’d been given by the publisher. Basically, go back through all the published interviews you’ve given and select (and feel free to edit or clarify) the ones that capture the essence of your work. It’s like a framed story, the poet, writing about himself, narrating his life as seen through a mirror, or a lense, or an idealized reality, gets a chance to write his wrongs of sorts, or clarify when originally obtuse or at least inarticulate. A good read. While you’re at it check out another from the series by AK poet John Haines called Living off the Country: Reflections on how landscape, the imagination, and the “real world” color the creative process .  These two titles are part of the Poets On Poetry series that University of Michigan Press has been publishing for 40 years.

Close Calls with Nonsense: reading new poetry
by Stephen Burt
Poet and critic Burt equates the challenges associated with understanding poetry with putting together furniture from IKEA. Without the instructions, as challenging as all those pictograms can be, we can hardly imagine the brilliant rocking chair with sleek, modern Swedish minimalist design.

A Poet’s Glossary
By Edward Hirsch

Okay this one is a bit terrifying for a self-taught poet with little, to zero formal training but hey, that’s why I’ll be starting an MFA in poetry in 3 weeks! I’m very interested in the history of literary forms, literary history in general and love reading encyclopedia style entries devoted entirely to esoteric literature. Anyway if you’ve ever wondered what a ghazal or an abecedarian is, this is your chance. Here’s a blurb,

Hirsch defines any term in English you can think of and many more, along with ghinnawa, a form of Bedouin folk poetry; the Sanskrit term rasa, denoting the “soul of poetry”; and shan-shui, China’s rivers-and-mountain verse. A thrilling “repertoire of poetic secrets,” this radiant compendium is shaped by Hirsch’s abiding gratitude for the demands and power, illumination, and solace of poetry, “a human fundamental.”
— Donna Seaman, Booklist (Starred Review)

And then there was Richard Siken…

I hope you’ll take a moment to walk with Richard through this postcard and in that moment, by which I mean a universe, you will connect your love for poetry with a love for independent publishers like Copper Canyon Press and Spork Press. Perhaps even that will lead you along a path and at the end of that path, Richard’s long awaited second poetry collection, War of the Foxes.

Please consider supporting this project.

This video says everything I’ve longed to say about why I come to poetry, why my hands too are birds becoming and unbecoming and always flying. Thanks Copper Canyon Press and Richard for this gift.

Poems in Place event

poemsinplace_juneau2015Hey folks, I’m co-hosting a poetry event next Tuesday to help drum up interest during this year’s call for submissions. Checkout out the Poems in Place Project and I hope you’ll join Emily and I for a night of poetry.

Poems in Place
February 24, 2015 – 06:30
A Conversation Between Alaskan Landscapes and Poetry hosted by Emily Wall and Jonas Lamb. Readers and writers of poetry! Please come to the library to help us discover nominees for this year’s Poems in Place project. The Poems in Place project places poems by Alaskan writers in outdoors in two of Alaska’s State parks each year. To begin, Emily Wall will present images and background about this year’s two Alaskan State Parks: Caines Head State Recreation Area and Fort Abercrombie State Historic Park. Then Jonas and Emily will guide participants through a structured poetic response exploring the relationship between place and poem. Participants will have an opportunity to read these or other poems. You’re welcome to bring your books to share.

Winter-Bare

Isn’t every three year-old kid
at least part dinosaur,
even the giant leaf-eaters
capable of a great roar?

Winter beach flats, tide out,
a break in the bleakness,
rain longing to be slush or more
dripping from everything
but the sky at the moment.

We are taking off our gloves,
hold these Dad he orders,
and tentatively poking at emerald
anemones and spined urchins.

At beach’s Alder-edge,
beyond the drift-logs
and fallen-down rye-grass
a swarm, a tribe,
maybe just children
offer marshmallowed spears
to the fickle, twig-fire.

Here comes little Benni, being big,
adjusting his thick mittens,
then cracking a crooked smirk and wailing.

A wail that’s part t-rex,
part train.
A whistle-roar, such an
unexpected greeting

to those hunkering
in this primal
whistle-stop beach
a momentary break
in the January rain.

On boots, on bottoms
these tough dino-kids tramp,
scoot, and scramble.
Hooded and rain-suited,
gear that is hand-me-down hardened
for Southeast Alaska’s worst.

Up slick, rocky game-trails
through berry bushes winter-bare,
then up crumbling beach cliff

where they push, wiggle
and wait their turn to slide
the muddy chute.

Our kids, oblivious to
the returning rain,
now driving us parents
to huddle under
hastily hung-tarp
near the small-sphere our fire.

We eat cold breakfast-
whiskey from flasks,
and argue our winged
escape routes
to snowier places.