April 1999 Café Society's Poetry News Update
Do you have any poetry news? Do you have any comments for the Readers' Letters section? If so, mail me on the email link at the bottom of this page. This is a non-commercial site - competitions and calls for submissions can be announced here free, because they are of interest to poets.


Keith Gabriel Hendricks (gabriel1)
AN INTERVIEW
WITH KEITH HENDRICKS

Keith Gabriel Hendricks was born October 6th, 1969, in Washington Courthouse, Ohio, the United States of America. He matriculated from The Ohio State University with a BA in 1993 and MFA in 1996. His poems have been published in yefief, Tight, The Wayne Literary Review, Time of Singing, the Penguin Review, The Presbyterian Record, and Sisters Today.

Some of his poems are included after the interview. You can visit his website on: http://members.tripod.com/~Gabriel_4/index1.html
or mail him on: gabriel1@my-dejanews.com

Poetry L & T: What inspired you to begin writing the unique, surreal style of poetry that you write today, Keith?
Keith Hendricks: Though I could cite a variety of literary allusions, on exhuming my buried life I feel it was Professor Stuart Lishan praising the lines:

"like brine shrimp
waiting for the undertow"

in "Re A Poem On Memory."

Many nights I've written poetry while listening to the Boston Camerata, and I feel their interpretations of the early interval are an important indirectinfluence. Similarly, my greatest influence, as a young poet, were the paintings of Renoir--though now I believe his attempts at sensuosity were tempted, and not tempered, by sensuality. The soprano Anne Azema's renditions of medieval psalmody in The Sacred Bridge were an early inspiration.

Young poets need their particular, peculiar, influences like cars need gasoline, so rather than feeding them sources, let them find what is appropriate to their 'metrical demeanor.' Better a je ne sais quoi than a faux pas; there are too many poetasters committing poetical misdemeanors.

As for my list of favorites: Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Denise Levertov, Robert Bly, e.e. cummings, Frank O'Hara, Dali, Paul Virilio, Jean Baudrillard, Camille Paglia, Jon Milton, Walt Whitman, Federico Garcia Lorca, Arthur Rimbaud, Escher, Marinetti's "Futurist Manifestoes," Thomas Merton, Ovid, Umberto Eco, the architect Kisho Kurokawa, Nam June Paik, Eugene Ionesco, and Kenneth Koch.

Poetry L & T:Another poem on the subject of religion was far more serious - "The Best Age to Spank The Children of the Lord". In that one you are speaking to someone who appears to have come under the dangerous influence of a fanatical preacher. Do you feel that it is generally important for poets to point out such corruption in the world?
Keith Hendricks: I agree with Neruda; after love poems, political poems are the most emotional.
Poetry L & T:In general, your poems and essay on critical theory "Symbolysis / Semeiosis 1: Critical theory" seem to me to show an innate love of words, for their rhythm and abstract qualities as well as for the power of their meaning. What, or who, first brought the appeal of words to you?
Keith Hendricks:From 1992 to 1995 I was particularly faithful to a dream journal; this was, if not the blueprint itself, the sheaves on which I founded an oneiric language.
Poetry L & T:Who is your favourite contemporary poet?
Keith Hendricks:Kenneth Koch. I like Thank You, The Duplications, and his anthologies for children.
Poetry L & T:Are there any poets or fiction writers you would recommend as essential reading for poets, and why?
Keith Hendricks:Everyone knows who they are; I could even do it in initials: W.S., e.e.c, E.S., J.M., T.S.E., E.P., W.C.W., P.B.S., G.G.L.B., J.K.
Poetry L & T:Do you feel that words can be potent weapons in poetry and discussion, or do you think that violence has taken over from words in the world today?
Keith Hendricks: Violence is more sophisticated, though the bureaucracy of armies are quite adept at doublespeak. In the serbo-croatioan war, the soldier who fired on a schoolbus defended himself by saying "there are no civilians." This cliche conceals a predatorial intuition for rhetoric...

The poet's control of language is, indeed, a weapon, and I feel young poets would do the art a service through maximum internet interaction. Make poetry public again. Expose and shame the unconscious anxieties of nations.

Poetry L & T:If you were lecturing a class of English Language students about writing poetry, what would be the single most important thing you would point out to them?
Keith Hendricks:The only 'single thing' would be a love of poetry, and I'd soon admonish the litterati who just want to be petted, and do anything other than read good poetry. Poetasters continually reliving and relishing their delusional glories has been a hindrance to many workshops I've attended.

I'd also make a handout of several important essays written by poets, e.g. O'Hara's "Personism," Olson's "Projective Verse," Levertov's "Organic Form," et. al. We might burn "Tradition and the Individual Talent," since they'd be compelled to worship Eliot in every other modern English class.

I've always found it interesting that William Carlos Williams, of all poets the most liberal, once said that
"If your interest is theory...and your mind is alive and you're trying to improve your poems technically, you will produce the work, and will never cease to produce it. In fact, I hope that with my last breath I shall make an addition to my technical equipment..."

I find this odd since my contemporaries are often taught to disdain technique via a dogmatic approach to Williams' better known ideas, e.g. his famous dictum "no ideas but in things."

I feel many American poets aren't skilled enough, for instance, to rhyme authentically, if effectively.

Poetry L & T: Do you think that the lyrics of pop songs might be partly to blame for some of the clichés and banality that creeps into amateur poetry sometimes, or that perhaps some newspapers or magazines are a poor influence for writers?
Keith Hendricks: Some modern lyrics can stand on their own as poetry, with or without music, e.g. some Suzanne Vega, 10000 Maniacs, Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Jethro Tull, and John Lennon. Zappa and Bowie in particular write authentic lines. I often admire the poetry in Cat Steven's album Numbers. On the other hand, I do detect a tendency towards banality as the overall influence of alternative music. The problem is probably that young artists write a really innovative lyric, like Edie Brickell's first song, which had those weird lines "choke me in the shallow water / before I get too deep," and then producers try to produce them, which turns them into a product, so they get 'made,' you see. Why is the problem solely with 'popular' musical forms? Oscar Wilde wrote terrible poetry while the Victorians were interpreting Chopin. Perhaps listening to shallow virtuosos interpret an original genius turns one into a shallow virtuoso?

I feel symbolism is overused and actually an autodidactic tool, i.e. the muse is actually trying to instruct the poet, and not give him/her a poem. In use, symbolism is a primitive plagiarism--you're pouring water in Milton's ink pots, and making use of other relics.

Yeats used symbolism, and Eliot plagiarism, since neither could say what they hadn't the words for. Perhaps because it is so overused, I despise the indirect approach in verse. There are other ways to utilize ambiguity.

I prefer the musical paradigm of 'variations.' It acknowledges the two-way street of influence without sacrificing mastery, e.g. Byron, the master, acknowledged the influence of Pope, whom he considered his better, and Keats, whom he did not. It also promotes practice, and dismisses worrisome ideas about 'ownership.' After I've completed a variation on a dead white male's poem, or a novice's poem, I don't worry about who wrote what--the material was never mine. It then prompts my own work.

Poetry L & T:Are there any poetry magazines or online poetry websites that you would recommend as a good influence for poets?
Keith Hendricks:yefief, a high quality, trade paperback style journal from New Mexico, has the charming audacity to publish newbies next to excerpts from world literature. Its fun to see your words in the same font as Balzac.
Poetry L & T:Finally Keith, What influence would you most like your poetry to have in the world?
Keith Hendricks:I think it would be interesting to conduct an online experiment, just to determine, empirically, what effect poetry does have in the world...

I know that after reading Walt Whitman I feel like going for a hike. After reading Robert Bly, I want to write something polemical, however--he makes me irrascible. I suppose both poets strive for these distinct effects. I should like, in my poems, to make ecstacy contagious. A poem should be an entire world of energy and splendor. I want to write things that approach utility in their necessity, i.e. that produce multiple readings solely through pleasure, and not through didacticism. I disagree with Wilde somewhat that aesthetic value is inversely proportionate to utility, since after I've read something powerfully evocative, I need it, whether its Shakespeare's exorcism of Joan of Arc in Henry the Sixth Part 1 or Randall Jarrell's The Bat Poet.

Poetry L & T:Thank you for the interview.

POEMS BY KEITH HENDRICKS


You Are Facile Art, Audience
© Kieth Gabriel Hendricks

Lies industrialize words.

Ideas sell refuse.

Bespectacled parrots' intellectual subterfuge

appropriate celeritous appropos

a la Gary Trudeau.

Refusals ensoul sacrificial relics,

e.g. Hansel and Gretel, Watergate, Leningrad,

Lennon's life review, "Imagine," and Blue Meanie McCarthyites.

Technology' fusillages fuse priceless freedom

(The glut of Madame Orifice's horrific wax celebrities).

Time, second to hour, commodifies a final capital.

The inexistent present seizes static, en masse

from televisual electron mask.

"It is a question not of elaborating

the spectacle of refusal, but...

refusing the spectacle" (Dubord).

Periodically, art parodies art to cease aesthetic ends.

In abhorrence of perversion, prime time eases spacetime's tragic situations

by translating comic paradoxes.

A depressed era suppresses present crises

with 'suppliant demand's' oppressive heresies;

you're severely dissed by television's conflation.

Complacent complexions

enjoy Clearasil, Scientology clear-state,

newscasts and centerfolds

and sententious culture vultures.

(Fade to black tombs couch potatoes,

as remote channel surfing senses identity.)



Asherah's Baby Cedars Bury Skull Hill's Satanic Mammaries.
© Keith Gabriel Hendricks

Sleep architects Mosaic passages in mythology's primordial recesses;

as stimuli depth charges consciousness,

'depth psychology' simulates Satanic memories.

A semi-automatic populace babbles pop eras

as Freud's 'family romance' furrows adulterated culture;

television teaches teleology

as laborers design tomorrow's conscience;

deception, a fine art, echoes semioric conception (Eco).

CNN belabors; you dilate

your eyes. Pariahs die late

in soporific homo sapiens;

mama's boys circle gray wolves in soap operas.

The collective is a homily;

culture's continuity arrests dreaming

honeymoons during game show commercials.

An immune nation hoards excessive ammunition,

though bombs mock our McCarthy-ocracy

and bedamn bedlam ephemera.

Blue Velvet Veils A Camera Confessing An Angel with a Wasp's Head
© Keith Gabriel Hendricks.

(Ebony bridled its human mannerisms:

teeth-clicking, blinking, urring, and aspirating.

Its bridal gauze spilled 'match trauma,'

dreaming solvent guts, though partly lying

I was fascinated and repelled by this show and tell talk show

while welding malicious angles' drama dada

in sparking, silver, dioded, crevices.

I lifted my blast visor--

like any captor, I listened, deluded:)

Intro segments crush velvet; White Zombie

grovels through dust-diluted speakers;

cobwebs cannibalize the bassist's debased muttering.

My ginned mouth stared down suede sleeves

as he covered me with a mock lion's fringe

fusing one blue iris,

a monomaniacal welt, like Cain's mark (mano e mano).

Hopper heaves in bags; a severed ear (a blackmail lens)'s;

oxygen-high film endorses ezperience

as endorphins incubates more unalloyed celluloid.

I see reality, after hours, sainting Debbie Harry's

hairy blonde eye in Crazy Mama's closed-circuit mirrors,

where heavy lipstick signifies the 'effin livestock.

Tonight he wants a Drew Barrymore, a waif-eyed

prostitute, to share, unknowing, his painting of an angel.

His entomological aesthetic, swatted to drop-out,

pirouettes on Euro cigarettes, digesting feelers,

stroking to mask a first impression.

He's no white knight,

he paints himself, not to please himself,

but to throw boulders. He writes not of aesthetic,

but self-aggrandizingly, of his neurosis.

I avert my gaze from video

and box my head in hands.

Dissolved in a lens series, I don't find

the way he sees fragments in everything.

I don't find his virtue,

though I notice a unity of stresses and shards:

exes turn the cheek to strangers.

Pygmalion Picasso ignores his offspring.

Law-ridden life rots senses.

He didn't notice gods' satin gift.

Dirty Harry loads a dishwater-blonde dream,


wear the helm; be an invisible eye.

Celibate sight seals.


EDITOR'S LETTER, APRIL 1999

Dear Poets,

This issue features an interview with poet Keith Hendricks, or gabriel1 as some may know him on the newsgoup alt.arts.poetry.comments. He has developed an unusual style of poetry, which he discusses in the interview. Some of his work is also included.

The theme for this month's poetry section is the bittersweet side of Spring. Many thanks to all contributors involved. I have enjoyed reading all the submissions.

Any comments on this issue or back issues can be emailed to me on the link at the bottom of the page.

Best Regards,

                  



Owl by Jan Sand

JAN SAND, poet and illustrator from New York, is a regular contributor to Poetry Life & Times. and the newsgroup alt.arts.poetry.comments. A great deal of his work is about animals. These poems were written for this issue, on the theme of Spring, with one about the seasons in general (Solar Sorcery).

To see more of Jan's poem and illustrations, visit the November '98 issue of Poetry Life & Times, and scroll down past the Editor's Letter.

EQUINOX
© Jan Sand

There is agony in birth.
Much blood, much fear.
The process is relentless.
Each forward step
Rests on, is reconstructed from
The previous position,
Thus destroying all retreat.
So the rendings of the stillness,
The fracture of the frozen death
Of Winter proceeds with logic
Thanoclastic, cracking crystal regularity,
Transforming rigid order
Into the manic joy of creation,
Throwing wild confetti of flowers,
Ripping off gray garments
To reveal the naked blue of the sky,
That life may dance in the sun.
Banished, the old man
Moves deep to forest depths.
He knows he will return,
For he owns the universe.

APRIL
© Jan Sand

Knocking on my windowpanes,
Her wild inconstant Spring rains
Demand admittance.
She will not be denied,
Laughing with the water
In roof gutters, as the snow dissolves.
She giggles with the chirping sparrows
Puffing chests and dragging wings.
Swift winds clear her blue eyes
And the trees bow to her in unison,
Obedient to her passion.
Her sorcery raises green dragon teeth
From the dead.
Swiftly they materialize
And stand at stiff attention
To her magic.
Then she is gone
In a rush of air,
And the heat begins.

SOLAR SORCERY
© Jan Sand

Three witches and a magic man
There are, who weave their spells
Around the sun, who cast their nets
Across the stars, snag the moon
To wring it dry of mystery
And tilt the world for secret reasons
Creating for themselves, the seasons.

The first witch stands so tall her hair
Forms a snare for iron clouds.
She sucks the night between the stars
And breathes it out upon the Earth
To chase the day away to cringe
And slip slim in-between the hours.
Her eyes are crystals, faceted,
That transform yellows from the sun
Into sharp violets, hard prussian blues,
Cold hues sharp fanged to bite the eyes
With poisons from far galaxies.
She sharpens stars to needle points
To pin dark time into immobility.
This witch is fascinated with the stars,
Devises imitations out of ice
In quantities immense
To blanket continents,
To enshroud all fertility,
Beneath which life is sung to sleep
With whistling winds and howling gales
And soft moaned icy breezes.
The moon with her one white eye
Outlines black bones
Of enchanted sleeping trees
Against the glow of blue snow.

The russet sister dispenses briskly sweeping air,
Rips aside dustcovers of the winter,
And kneads hard earth with flagellating rains
To infuse the dough of life with wet and warmth.
Her winged acolytes fling sharp sounds
To pierce the shells of cold, crumble frozen blocks
To make passage for green fingers seeking light.
Marrow from the bones of trees is seduced
To generate green eyes to blink in warming mornings.
Her sunlight inspires dormant ideas
Of vegetable metropoli, skyscrapers made of wood
That stretch and groan and strain through lubricating rains,
Erect rigs of twigs to ensnare the solar glare.
Within the black tombs of earth,
Capsules pop, hordes of hungers squirm awake
At her thermal touch ,disperse in spreading rings of life
Feeding upon themselves, reconquering territories
Lost long months ago.
They make symphonies of snapping chitin jaws.
Now she capers to voracious tunes, scribes mossy runes
On dumb stones, dissolves abandoned stars on the ground
Her sister left behind, teaches them to warble
As they tumble over pebbled pathways to the sea.
Spring fogs materialize over isolated dying snowbanks,
Specters to arise and haunt the upper atmosphere,
Descend to the permanence of the frigid poles.
Brown witch magic now unravels
Enchantments of her sterile sister.
She dances in with turmoiled winds
And waltzes out again in carnivals of zephyr.

The warmest witch of all, a gleeful butterball,
Do-si-dos her sister as she rolls in,
Bouncing the hot beach ball of the sun,
Trailing hot breezes, gesticulating torrid magic passes
To intensify, not destroy, the fury of creation
Initiated in the Spring. The arpeggios of clashing teeth,
Crescendos of consumptions and conceptions
Interweave multitudes of forms, dominating and dying,
Transmogrifying flesh from shape to shape,
Intertwining energies from space and substances of Earth,
Urged on by hot whirlwinds, thunders and lightnings,
Hissing pounding inundations from a turmoiled sky
Raised to insane angers by the manic dance
Of the round witch.
The enchanted Earth responds in burgeoned blossomings,
Gulping down the sun's atomic fires to create
Mushrooms and mice, starfish and strawberries, bacteria and bats.
It raises steel tipped stone cities, sinks shafts for diamonds and gold.
It spurts robots into outer space, weaves daisies
Into chains to crown the heads of laughing children.
Then, with great sighing winds, the green queen departs,
Abdicating to her brother, the sorcerer of sleep.

He treads cautiously on stage
In a descending glissando of humming air.
He is a creature of sticks and shreds,
Clacking as he walks, dun rags pendulating in short arcs
In the icy drafts that null the summer's heat.
His head, in horrid contrast to his spare frame,
Bobbles, an orange balloon, a harvest moon,
A grinning pumpkin face with red ember eyes
Slashed to reveal skewed teeth, a picket fence to Hell.
His strength is not apparent, but the trees know.
They scream orange, yellow and red
And drop their leaves in dread.
The birds know, and they flee.
And some butterflies disappear to Mexico.
Others, appalled, wither and die,
Secreting secret messages of their cunning architecture
To be reconstructed when the sun returns.
He shuffles through huge drifts of dead leaves,
Cackling and muttering in an empty-headed way.
Bears hide in caves, hedgehogs dig tombs,
Water creatures burrow in the mud.
Small six-legged nations troop away to drowsy destinations.
At the end, this mortician to the world
Unfolds wide ragged pterodactyl wings,
Shrieks for his gaunt sister to descend
And slowly flaps away to outer space.
She responds to his call and, black abyss above her head,
Arrives in swirls of stars.

jan_sand@hotmail.com


Julie Damerell

JULIE DAMERELL has been
published in various internet journals:
Café Society Guest Poets,
the June '98 Pigs 'n' Poets,
Michael Stephen's Avalon,
and the Nov~Dec '98
Wired Art From Wired Hearts.
Her column for
Ellavon: An Ezine of Basic Culture,
is titled Rural Route Two.
Two of her essays are included in
Mother Voices, an anthology published by
Rose Communications in March 1998.

UNTITLED
©Julie Damerell

Paint the sky with petals
from one hundred flowers.
Let feathered branches welcome
the pulse of wings.
Kindle ancient ashes
to burn the silence.
Swallow darkness in song.
Trace the starlit shadows home.

CORNER CAFE
© Julie Damerell

March.
Winter, refusing to release
her icy grasp of our sun starved souls,
sweet talks us with a melting chocolate surface.

April.
Moody April on the graveyard shift
quickly dots our lawn with mint sprinkles,
distracting us briefly from winter's hold
before darting back to the kitchen for another helping of whipped cream.
We can't eat a bite more, really,
but she's perspiring green,
so we agree to taste.
It's clear we don't have a choice.

May.
Bouncy May, with a spring in her step
and a swish of her apron,
promises kermit green leaves
atop an all-you-can-eat summer buffet,
hot dishes included.
Come back any time.

jdamerell@worldnet.att.net

Jerry Jenkins

JERRY JENKINS
has been writing poetry since 1993. He is a member of the Academy of American Poets and the Science Fiction Poetry Association, where his poetry has been nominated for the Association's Rhysling Award. His poetry has won numerous awards in individual and chapbook competitions, and has appeared in printed publications and anthologies such as The Formalist, The Lyric, Mobius, Echoes, Harp-Strings, Amelia, Cicada, The Piedmont Literary Review, Mail Call Journal, Poetry Monthly (U.K.), The Devil's Millhopper, The Fractal, Dark Planet, Pirate Writings, and Star*Line. His online publication credits include work in Octavo, Eclectica, Pyrowords, Avalon, Poetic Express, and Deep South.

His chapbooks include AVIAN, Helionaut, Hamadryad's Passage, Candle, Monks' Wine, Our Own Loving Kind, and Confluence (in collaboration with Rosa Clement).

He is a former Marine Corps officer with 26 years of service, including service in Vietnam. He recently retired from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, where he was Assistant Vice-President for Information Technology. He is a Sysop of the Poetry Forum on CompuServe, where he is the editor of the Compuserve Poetry Anthology.

FISHING FOR GOLDFINCHES
© Jerry Jenkins

A plastic cylinder with sunflower seed,
hanging from an upward-angled pole,
swings above the sea bed of the lawn.

Small shapes, black and yellow, dart at speed,
then halt abruptly at the feeding hole.
They nibble, then with a flick and veer, move on.

Currents of a late spring thunderstorm
wash across the yard in passing rain,
ruffling yellow pansies in their breeze.

Wind and water alter every form:
I think to capture in the blurring pane
a ruffling school of finches in reprise.

SWALLOW FLIGHT © Jerry Jenkins

Mother, do you hear the swallows' flight
in the late spring evening,
their familiar chattering
when the sun becomes twilight?
One early star is hid behind the
veil of sunset, white on rose.
On the lawn, the first suave firefly glows;
quiet worlds emerge and remind me
this is the time you loved the most
when, star by faithful star,
the universe appears,
and all that in day is lost
returns in ephemeral things:
the gentle rustle of homing birds,
the fragile lacework of unspoken words,
the flicker of fireflies' wings.

THE SPY © Jerry Jenkins

Sunrise startles the world, shattering dark.
The green firefall of a weeping willow tree
suspends, mid-burst. A bird sounds reveille.
Light ricochets off the pear tree's armored bark.
A cardinal scout in red and midnight black
has occupied the dogwood to survey
the dawn, and preens himself for the coming day.
Jonquils raise their spears for the attack.

Buds fatten in their sheaths like small grenades,
ready to burst at the slightest touch. I hold
my breath in the stealthy dawn and biting cold:
Spring is ready to fire her fusillades
and the soft artillery of her new campaign
to seize the hearts and hopes of men again.

jerry_h_jenkins@csi.com

Dave and Sue Carton on their wedding day

DAVE CARTON Dave Carton (aka Button Presser) is 37 years old. He recently took up writing poetry again after a 20 yr stint where he wrote only a very few poems. Since then he has been published in four poetry anthologies, as well as being published as Editors Choice in the quarterly Poetry Now magazine, and guesting on Poetry sites, and E-zines such as this one. Three weeks ago Sue his wife of 12 years died, and the poem "The Next Morning" was written the day after. If you want to read more of Dave's poetry, and visit the tribute he is constructing to Sue follow the link below: http://www.thepentagon.com/buttonpresser
THE NEXT MORNING
© Dave Carton (buttonpresser)

Outside the birds fought
for the last crumbs of the loaf,
their parents scrambling as always
to feed their shrieking young.

Inside the silent room
he sat, arms cradling his head
in a futile attempt to protect himself,
from memory's unrequested assault.

Good and bad times quarrelled
to slap him in the face.
He strove to comprehend
the future without her, and failed.

Outside in her garden
the sun still rose,
the birds still fed,
and the cats lay in wait.

THE ROAD TO BARRICANE BEACH
© Dave Carton (buttonpresser)

Motorway faded into A roads
A roads into B.
Love faded to oblivion
for me.

Every sign-post was a memory
that mocked me.
Taunting, "Turn here & re-live your life"
"Visit the rock museum"
"Purchase some gemstones for your wife"

We got soaked at Bull Point
when the storm rolled in from the sea.
It rolled in again today,
and choked me.

Every sign-post was a memory,
that rocked me
until the tears ran down my stupid face,
and I buried myself in a past
I was helpless to replace.

My life was fading into A roads
A roads into B.
Oblivion came looking
and found me.

Click here to see a picture of Barricane Beach

buttonpresser@durel.freeserve.co.uk


Photograph of comet Hale Bopp © Tony Hoffman 1997

TONY HOFFMAN is a writer living in New York City, though he longs to move to a place that is close to wilderness and where the pace of life is more sane. His poetry has been published in The True Wheel, Night Vision, The National Poetry Magazine of the Lower East Side, and Science Digest. He participates (when he has the time) in the Internet newsgroup alt.arts.poetry.comments. He also writes a monthly column of sky happenings for the newsletter of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York. He sent me this amazing picture of the comet Hale Bopp, to go with his poem.
CEDAR SWAMP
© Tony Hoffman

Released at last from city's care and glare
In my yearly trek to mark New England's
lurching march towards spring,
I yearned to see the comet, waxing into glory,
yet hemmed in by the miles of ancient oak,
my vision exed by branches, barred by skythrust trunks
my one chance for a window on this cosmic nomad's dance
was from the ballfield out beyond the cedar swamp,
my only path the narrow boardwalk
that creaked and twisted amid the bog,
my only hour the back-end of night
when daylight's hope and memory are both eclipsed,
and with flashlight tucked away in my drawer back at home,
my only guide the sugared dollop of moon.
(The cedar swamp's quite beautiful by day;
by night I feared I might end up as prey.)

A dozen times or more, I prepped myself through the walk:
At an hour when most normal folks were wrapped in dream
I'd lug my gear along the nightshade ribbon
where vast oaks rib the bowl of sky
and fractal tines of branches split,
occlude the chill fire of blue stars,
then I'd mount the thin trestle,
shamble along xylophone ties above the bog
with a half-scoop of vanilla moon to trace my path
and to highlight cold nebulas of mist
that rake the clogged hummocks of moss
while swamp critters, freed from long bondage to ice,
croak and gibber in unseen pools
as cedar branches scrape the windless dark.
Then I'd clamber through that stretch
(perilous even in daytime)
where the old boardwalk slants sidewise,
with an eye to pitch me into the chill
of half-seen ooze, abode of worms and grubs,
writhing crazed in slow thaw
and at every step I'd almost sense
a chill touch at my ankles, dragging me
down into the gurgled black mirror-
Yet finally I'd clear the swamp, and emerge
into the heaven of a dry and leafy trail
where soon the vast oaks would part before the backstop,
and from home plate I'd marvel long
at the ascendant wonder, far beyond right field.

I rehearsed this walk in thought a dozen times
then lay down for a few frail hours of sleep-
but as I slept an endless float of cloud
usurped the sky and plucked the stars away.
I awoke to a sheet of deepest gray; no eerie swampwalk,
no ballfield spectacle awaited me that night.
For more than a week, that mat of clouds held sway.
When they finally pulled away,
coats had given way to sweaters, and the days
were warm and bright. Now even from the city's
tattered heart, the comet ruled the close of night
with blazing head, and tail upthrust from dawn
bridging rows of tenements, and infinity.

Tony.Hoffman@worldnet.att.net



Thanks, Sara --

Very good issue. Enjoyed the interview with Jerry (it's always nice to get a fuller picture of someone in this way); and I liked the eccentric poems.

Jerry, I enjoyed your website. It's well-designed, and I liked the range of material, and how you divided it into the different thematic sections.

-- Tony


Back Issues of POETRY LIFE & TIMES:

September 1998

October 1998

November 1998

December 1998

January 1999

February 1999

March 1999

Mail me on: pinky@redcity.demon.co.uk with any poems, comments for the letters page, news about your poetry site, or forthcoming poetry events.

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