Poetry and change




It’s been a brutal year, and I have been wondering how to speak in a world that doesn’t seem interested in listening to things searingly urgent to me.

Because I wanted to think about that with others, this fall I taught a class on listening and voicing. I wanted to counter our unlistening, and I wanted to think about who gets to voice, how they get to voice, and how we listen to each other. My late friend Akilah Oliver’s notion of the “visible unseen” was one way we framed things. She wrote a poem-essay, “the visible unseen,” as part of her grieving and healing process when her son Oluchi died. In it, she considers how graffiti makes visible the invisible body that made it. She writes,

When I first saw graffiti, I recognized an ugly ecstatic, a dialectics of violence, a distortion of limbs, a hieroglyph. It was only later when I read the names of the dead that I then saw the path of ghosts charted there; its narrative of loss for the visible unseen whose place in history has been fictionalized and rendered unseen under the totalizing glare of history.

There is so much to say about that, but the best thing to do is to read that passage again, and then, if you haven’t already, to read her book, A Toast in the House of Friends.

We read a lot of other poets and writers in that class: Dolores Dorantes’s chillingly beautiful Style, translated by Jen HoferLayli Long Soldier’s much- and rightly lauded WhereasAmiri Baraka’s essay “How You Sound??” We did crazy listening exercises inspired by the late great composer Pauline Oliveros, who wrote things like:

Take a walk at night. Walk so silently that the bottoms of your feet become ears.

Loosely translating “the visible unseen” into the spoken unheard, Sappho was another starting point. She is a poetic mother who keeps on giving, maybe (for me) because my great grandmother took her as a guardian angel for inventing a way to be a lesbian in the early 20th century, but maybe just because she’s amazing. In fragment 31 (quoted here in Anne Carson’s translation), all her senses famously flee from her body as she watches, in a cold sweat, the woman she desires talking to some man — “whoever he is”:

My bed

I shall eventually reclaim all my bed
The empty space is full of books I read.
But still it’s very hard to get inside
Next to the place where someone loved has died.
And so my entire house is filled with books
Or clothes and shoes and radios, please  don’t look
As bit by bit  I let in emptiness~
By gum, life’s harder than a game of chess
Then when I’m empty, I can wait for grace
Or find another man, but not in haste
As I  may be gay for all I know
It never rains but sometimes we get snow

Name a few definite ones

You were the centre of my universe
[What is a universe,by the way?]
You were the light in my life
[What about the sun?]
You were perfect in every way
{Xmas grey 2.jpg
So why did you choose me?
[Why, what’s wrong with you?]
Now, you have thrown me away
Seems as  if I am trash
But some folk save the wrong things
Or put them in the wrong wash
[That might be a metaphor]
My washing machine  only works on the rapidest wash
[Good grief, that sounds positive]
Since it’s only 14 minutes long ,I do it twice
[Why would people want to know this?]
Sometimes I just do rinse and spin
‘But I didn’t realise that was an option at first
[Who cares?]
I am trying to save money so in future I shall just do one
{ Why wash them at all, just steam them!]
I love elecricity
{ Is that a metaphor?]
I love gas
[Maybe it’s not]
I’ll cook my angel a roast
{ Do  angels eat?]
A roasted prayer of thanksgiving
{Sounds more  like a threat than a promise]
God will smell the odour
[Not if he doesn’t want to]
God will be happy
[Are you crackers?]
God is neither happy nor unhappy
[Make your mind up.This is  not logic class BTW}
God looks divine
[How can we compare the two?]
I have seen him
[Are you high?]
I don’t know what will happen next but I accept it all
[Very gracious!]
I wish Father Xmas would come tonight
{ Don’t we all?]
And to use a cliche,I love the entire universe.What ever that is!
Is that a bad poem?
Do cows eat grass
Do  sheep have woollen rugs  glued to their heads ?
I am finished
[At last!]
But it’s not bad enough
{Stop moaning]

Is there anything we can change?

12688098_665658233574058_5196333777777983294_nThis is the story of my washing machine.It’s a perfectly ordinary washing machine I bought 2 years ago.Like all of these, it has more programmes than I ever could need unless I married a widower with 54 grandchildren and 3 dogs and a horse that likes a clean blanket
As a highly educated person it was only natural I should lock my brain onto a 59-minute programme with a choice of several temperatures.And how I used that programme until about 6 months ago it stopped working suddenly and Hoover wanted me to buy an insurance policy for £197 per year
As the machine only cost about £250 it seemed a daft  idea so I have got by using other programmes
Then today it came to my mind that there is also a choice of spinning speeds.I changed that and was pleased to find the programme began to work again at a different spin  speed
Why did the engineer on the phone not tell me that?
Why did I not think of it myself? It would have been sensible to try different speeds but it never crossed my mind.
So at least it will save me having to buy a new one this year.
More puzzling is the amount of washing I have to do.I’ve a good mind to go back to the old ways of washing clothes more infrequently as in winter I find drying then a nuisance.
Anyway, remember to try a few changes if a  machine stops working.It might save you £300 or more
Now I have to dry the clothes!Not a day for hanging them out.It’s strange how I have never totally solved this problem.I have no tumble dryer as I have no space.So I shall drape sheets over my head and stand in front of the fire until either I faint or the sheet dries.This will be fun.

Interesting ideas for wise living



“”But being a grown-up also meant accepting full responsibility for one’s behavior, life’s purpose, and the ethical treatment of oneself and others. See his list below, notable not so much for its originality but for its plainspoken reminder of the simple, shared wisdom that gets drowned in the assaultive noise of modern life. Such uncomplicated idealism was at the center of Perry’s life and work.

1. Be patient. No matter what.
2. Don’t badmouth: Assign responsibility, not blame. Say nothing of another you wouldn’t say to him.
3. Never assume the motives of others are, to them, less noble than yours are to you.
4. Expand your sense of the possible.
5. Don’t trouble yourself with matters you truly cannot change.
6. Expect no more of anyone than you can deliver yourself.
7. Tolerate ambiguity.
8. Laugh at yourself frequently.
9. Concern yourself with what is right rather than who is right.
10. Never forget that, no matter how certain, you might be wrong.
11. Give up blood sports.
12. Remember that your life belongs to others as well. Don’t risk it frivolously.
13. Never lie to anyone for any reason. (Lies of omission are sometimes exempt.)
14. Learn the needs of those around you and respect them.
15. Avoid the pursuit of happiness. Seek to define your mission and pursue that.
16. Reduce your use of the first personal pronoun.
17. Praise at least as often as you disparage.
18. Admit your errors freely and soon.
19. Become less suspicious of joy.
20. Understand humility.
21. Remember that love forgives everything.
22. Foster dignity.
23. Live memorably.
24. Love yourself.
25. Endure.

Barlow the “cowboy, poet, romantic, family man, philosopher, and ultimately, the bard of the digital revolution”—as Stephen Levy describes him at Wired—“became a great explainer” of the possibilities inherent in new media. He watched the internet become a far darker place than it had ever been in the 90s, a place where governments conduct cyberwars and impose censorship and barriers to access; where bad actors of all kinds manipulate, threaten, and intimidate.”


Using the notion of fractals
I see my home is infinitely large
That’s why  a woman’s work is never done
But why does gender come into it?
And why is it not valued?
Theories are all very well
But the sheets still need washing
And the baby still cries
As if she can see her future
An infinite amount of dust
Waiting to taunt her
Boiling hankies and washing up
Try to imagine  if most MPs were women
And men washed their clothes for them
And remembered to buy bread
How would men feel?
They   like groping but feeling is not the same
Whatever their game

How to smile the last time  in your life

No still, small voice, no Burning Bush, no God
No symbols of transcendence,no   shared rites
How to die without a psalm or prayer
How to smile the last time  in your life

No Joseph with his many coloured coat
No Moses in his basket in the reeds
No Sodom,No Gomorra, that’s a joke
As that is where our path now seems to lead

No journey  through the deserts of the heart
No Faith, no  aims,no  others by our side
Where did you think the images would  part?
No holy  meal,no connections and no guide

No images of angels  decorate
No steeples will point  up to Heavenly dreams
God has left us to our sorry state
Oh, Europe, you’ve destroyed with  wars and schemes

No sacred symbols but a  heart of stone
For we  are nothing more than flesh and bone