Archive for December, 2011

Winter Mmmmusings

We finally have snow, a little, at least.  But better yet, there’s fog.  Nice romantic fog… ‘mmmm.

M – along with L, N and R – is a liquid letter because of the fluency of its sound.  I know this because Mary Oliver in her book, A Poetry Handbook, describes the sounds of letters as liquid, aspirant or mute.  She is quoting from an 1860 book of grammar by Goold Brown, called  Brown’s Grammar, Improved

M is my favorite letter, not least because it’s the first letter of my first name.   A few years ago I was interested in fractals and learned about the Mandelbrot Set or M-Set, which describes the fractal shape mathematically.  I wrote a Haiku:

I am an M-Set:

expand to infinity,

or shrink to nothing.

Being a Mary, I have a special fondness for the Virgin Mary.  I believe she is my namesake, after all.  Actually, Mary was an extremely popular name when I was born, so it’s a very common name among women of a certain age.   I am more interested in the idea of the Virgin Mary:  I am entranced by paintings of the Annunciation, when the archangel Gabriel came to Mary and told her she was going to give birth.  Her expression varies from sweat serenity to shock or dismay. 

I have dozens of postcards from museums and photos from art galleries of the Annunciation.  My favorites are the very reverential ones done by Fra Angelico, the one by Leonardo in the Uffizi in Florence, and the one in the Tate by Dante Gabriel Rosetti from 1849-50 that is quite modern and very haunting.  Mary and Gabriel are dressed in white and the walls of the room and the bedding are white.  Mary looks like she just woke up and she recoils at the news.  This is perhaps one of the more realistic versions of the Annunciation.

However, tonight, New Year’s Eve, I will sign off not as a Mary, but in honor of Rio, the cat in the photo:

In the Chinese way,

I will sign my name as


Happy New Year!!




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Merry Christmas!

This is a close to a SNOWman as we’ll get this Christmas. 

We are taking care of our neighbors SIX cats.  We creep over and it’s like…12 ears a pricking, 11 noses twitching, 10 tails a trembling, 9 hearts a beating, 8 paws a scrambling, 7 whiskers whisking, 6 kitties leaping, 5 empty bowls…4 catboxes, 3 meow choruses, 2 water dishes, 1 morning feed!

Actually, that’s 6 empty bowls and 6 cat boxes, but, hey, who’s counting?

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Winter Solstice


Winter Solstice fog

damp, dark, secretive

begs for fire to dispel.

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A Song of Christmas Snow

There is a song of winter

That blows down from the north.

Now only an Arctic clipper

Will bring snow by the twenty-forth.

                Sing, my love, of fog and rain

                A Christmas wet and bleak.

                Sing a song of fog and rain

                Of raindrops on my cheek.

It might have been a ten inch snowfall  

But rain is all we’ve seen.

The temps are too abnormal

And the grass is all still green.

                Sing, my love, of fog and rain

                A Christmas wet and rare.

                Sing a song of fog and rain

                Of dewdrops in my hair.

No snow will come this Christmas

The globe is much too warm.

It’s Springtime on the Isthmus

Expect a thunderstorm.

                Sing, my love, of fog and rain

                A Christmas warm and green.

                Sing a song of fog and rain,

               Christmas snow is just a dream.

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First Quarter Moon

At dusk, sky clears and

cold settles over the pond.

First-quarter moonrise.


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A Few Good Leads

I’m catching up on my reading.  You know.  Those articles you saved for later.  The ones you printed from the internet and then put in a pile.

One was called, “The New Math of Poetry,” by David Alpaugh, published in The Chronicle Review on February 21, 2010.  Alpaugh estimated that if 50 poems are published per year in the more than 2000 journals accepting poetry, more than 100,000 poems will be published in 2010.  He then extrapolates the growth in journals and estimates that 86 million poems will be published in this century.

Well, that is a lot of poems, and surely all of them cannot be that good, which is one of the points Alpaugh goes on to make.  His theme is that we’ll never know which are the good ones – or the good poets – because the process of getting published is too insular.  That’s why I started a blog.  I know no one, so this was the only way.

Next, I was mousing around on the Internet, a great way to waste a lot of time, and wandered onto the Poetry Foundation web site.  What caught my eye was another article with a reference to Ben Lerner and his new book, Leaving the Atocha Station.  The writer, Justin Taylor, wrote an essay called, “The Triumph of the Possible:  When the Poet in the Novel Isn’t Simply a Flake.”

The poet in the novel. Taylor had written a novel in which the connection between two poems, written by characters in the novel, hold “the key to a metaphysical element of the novel.”  He goes on to name several novels that feature a poet as a protagonist.  Here is his list:

Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

Humboldt’s Gift, Saul Bellow

To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf

The Anthologist, Nicholson Baker

The Quickening Maze, Adam Foulde

Inferno ( A Poet’s Novel) by Eileen Myles

Leaving the Atocha Station, Ben Lerner

The Astral, Kate Christianson

Disaster Was My God, Bruce Duffy

The Stranger’s Child, Alan Hollinghurst

I have read some of these, most recently The Quickening Maze and The Anthologist (blog post, June 22, 2011).  It’s a good list and worth working through.  However, I would like to add a couple of other good leads:  P.D. James’ poet/detective Adam Dalgliesh; and the Ruth Zardo character in Louise Penny’s Quebec crime series that I blogged about on October 14, 2011.  I recall that some character wrote poems in Martha Grimes’ Richard Jury detective novels, but I cannot confirm that.  Margaret Atwood must have written about a poet, but perhaps I’m confusing her novels with her own considerable output as a poet.

I will keep an eye out for more examples of The Poet in the Novel.  If you know or discover one, let me know.

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