Thursday, September 16, 2010

British Poet Josephine Dickinson

Haven't met her yet, but am researching and exchanging e-mails with British poet Josephine Dickinson who will be reading at Bookshop Santa Cruz, 7:30 PM, Tues., Oct. 12, 2010. I'll be doing the Intro and, long distance, getting to know her...

Scarberry Hill

ISBN 09527444-3-0

Josephine Dickinson [in her own words]

I grew up in South London but am rooted now in this place Alston, beloved of Auden, who ever kept its map on his wall. I aspire to the qualities of the shepherdpoet, indeed it is my e-mail address. My sense of vocation as a poet emerged after I became profoundly deaf overnight at the age of six and I started reading and imitating poetry. I lost a physical sense but started seeing and hearing the miraculous. I read Classics at Oxford, then became a music teacher and composer after study with Michael Finnissy and Richard Barrett. Life events brought me to Alston. One day Michael Mackmin wrote and asked me if I had enough poems to make a book. I sent him 100 poems. He chose 60. And this is 'Scarberry Hill'. Not all my poems are about sheep. Current interests include mythology and fairy tales, space travel and cosmology. I was stunned by last year's transit of the Sun by Venus and very much look forward to 2012.

Writers Friendship, Lucy, Richard, Dan, Alan…

Trip on Sunday to Oakland for brunch with Lucy Day and Richard Levine and their friends, Dan Langton, a poet who teaches at San Francisco State, and his wife Eve, plus poet Alan Goldfarb and his wife Arlene.

There are times when things just really click and one can only give thanks… thanks to one’s friends for extending an invitation and taking the time to prepare and put together an event, eight people in all, five of them writers.

The event: Middle Eastern food, drink and a memorable sharing of poems, e.g., Richard and Lucy each reading a villanelle.* The poems (Lucy’s “Color of the Universe” and Richard’s “A Blessing in Beige”) so complement one another I found myself imagining each villanelle being asked in turn, “Do you, “Color of the Universe,” take “A Blessing…” to be your lawfully wedded wife/husband, and each responding… “I do.” Turns out these were indeed Richard and Lucy’s wedding poems.

[*Note: poems by Dan Langton and Alan Goldfarb to follow.]

By way of intro I should say: Lucy Day (aka Lucille Lang Day) is the author of eight poetry collections and chapbooks. Richard Levine is a journalist who is now writing fiction. Their wedding villanelles first appeared in Blue Unicorn and are included in Lucy's latest poetry collection, The Curvature of Blue (Cervena Barva, 2009).


The universe is really beige. Get used to it.

John Noble Wilford

The New York Times

For Richard

I can't believe the universe is tan,

Not red or green or lavender or blue.

I feel carnelian when you take my hand—

Not beige like lima beans from a can,

But a splendid, electrifying hue.

I can't believe the universe is tan.

Rose and gold are what I understand

When I think of waking up each day with you.

I feel carnelian when I take your hand,

And like the universe my love expands,

Surrounding us with turquoise and chartreuse.

Can you believe the universe is tan,

A color desolate as lunar sand

And homely as a peanut or cashew?

I feel carnelian when we're hand in hand,

Listening to Perahia play Chopin.

The stars all turn cerulean on cue.

I don't care if the universe is tan:

I feel carnelian as you take my hand.

—Lucille Lang Day


The universe is really beige. Get used to it.

John Noble Wilford

The New York Times

For Lucy

Some stars burn brighter as they age

Like maple leaves and apple trees flaming up from green.

Alas, the color of the universe is beige,

Not peach or pearl or the palest shade of sage,

Not turquoise, as they once thought—so serene.

Some stars burn brighter as they age.

The love that we have is harder to gauge

But it too burns brighter the later it seems.

Does it matter so much if the universe is beige?

As a poet breathes sound onto a silent page

Your love bathes my days in aquamarine.

Some stars burn brighter as they age.

Let them light up our lives as we leave this stage

And fill our hearts with their triumphant sheen.

Who cares if the color of the universe is beige?

A bird in flight outshines its silver cage.

If the sky’s too bright the stars shine unseen.

May our stars burn brighter as we age.

Hurray, the color of the universe is beige!

— Richard Michael Levine

[see also:]

Monday, September 6, 2010

Writers Friendship, David Alpaugh cheers the soul

My friend David Alpaugh, author of “Counterpoint,” “Heavy Lifting,” and widely read and discussed essays on "The Professionalization of Poetry" and "New Math of Poetry," responds to my new poem, “Legacy: Muse Neglect,” which opens

We’re comin’ up to my birthday./I’m seventy-seven—twenty-three more and I’ll be a hundred!/So what’s it all about, sixty-odd years of writing, scribbling?/ ...Etc.

Hello, Robert:

My apology for taking so long getting back to you on "Legacy: Muse Neglect." Been tidal-waved by late days of summer, gearing up for fall obligations (Coolbrith, Valona, etc.).

"Legacy" is a brave poem. You certainly touch a responsive chord in this poet, as I, too, am starting to wonder if I've lost the muse, have been treading water post-Counterpoint. Didn't old man Wordsworth and young man Byron have similar doubts? ("Whither is fled the visionary gleam? / Where is it now, the glory and the dream?").

I love the concrete "eye to eye" confrontation with your "first mutt," that "first published poem." The metaphorical sense here is as sure as it is quiet. The paradoxical reversal of the dog becoming master and wagging the man is richly comic, and most poignant in that manly dogly reproach, "Bad poet, bad poet!" Unpretentiousness that comes from truly having the goods rather than just the flash has always been one of your most appealing qualities.

Cheer up, Bob. "Legacy" is proof that you're poems have not lost their canine magic. Dogliness was and is the metaphor for what you continue to aim for in your work. Falling a bit short much of the time is inevitable. (When Samuel Beckett was asked if he had a favorite work he shook his head and muttered: "Something wrong with all of them.")

The more I look at the history of poetry the more I believe that our mission is (in Frost's words) "to lodge a few poems where they will be hard to get rid of." You've done that with "Uncle Dog," "God is in the Cracks," "Heavenly Sex" and a dozen others, and now "Legacy" will be in the running (or, as you would say, trotting!).

The only question is the crucial one for our Po-Busy time: will the gatekeepers get out of the way and allow poetry to live not by status and accreditation but by love? Here, I'm afraid that "the worst are full of passionate intensity." Let's hope we can overshoot their papier-mâché palace and land a few good poems on the other side!

With deep respect for your generous, generative humor,