Wednesday, April 28, 2010

In Place of Grandparents

In Place of Grandparents

Through circumstances--an efficient, two-word
explanation--I had grandparents but knew none
of them. Two were dead before I lived; the
two living were near enough but not to be
encountered.  Like most children, I probably
could have benefited from that mild antidote
to parents--the grandparent.  In place of it,

I got some stories--what the dead ones had
been like, what filial fractures had made
the lives ones off-limits.  Narratives became
my grandparents: unusual, sure; not horrible.

I came to know of treacheries and betrayals,
primal scenes, the weather of resentment.
The stories of other people become key parts
of our own lives. That sounds something like
a grandparent might say.

Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Monday, April 26, 2010

Malthus Called

Malthus Called

Malthus called today to say,
"I told you so."  Too much us,
not enough planet.  It doesn't
tale an algorithm to figure that.

I do such statistically insignificant
things as plant trees and direct
carbon dioxide their way. "This
way to the trees," I say to air.

I sealed the abode tightly
and now use those light-bulbs that
just sip electricity. None of this
will help, according to the message

left by Malthus. Theoretical doom
is no reason to give up. I called
Malthus back to tell him this, but
he was gone, back to the past.

Cardinal Newman answered
from the past instead. He asked,
"Have you tried prayer?" "Yes," I
said, "and it looks like a tree."

Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

An Essay on the Principle of Population

Strange Time


Strange Time

When I arrived at that place, words
and actions let me know I wasn't quite
what they wanted, had expected. Yes,
I'd been invited: a technicality.  I spent

some time at the party's edge. I was
following a line of exclusionary logic:
If unwanted, behave peripherally
and keep close watch on arbiters.

Later I moved toward the center,
began to perform so as to prove
they should indeed desire my presence.
You know how that sort of thing

goes. I went from ignored to resented.
Outside finally in night air alone, I told
another departing guest, "I had a
strange time in there. I'm glad I'm out."

"You're not alone," she said to
me, adding, "and by that of
course I mean you are alone.
Good night."  "Good night," I said.

Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sounds Today


Sounds Today

On the street, a man bounces a basketball.
The sound's not different from that of chopping
wood. It stops when he shoots the ball at a
hoop. The sound from this is something
like a dull bell in fog.  The man shouts--
he sounds like a seal. A car goes by

in a slow rush, air displaced largely.
The car's sound-system thumps--that
speakered pulse all of us are used to now.
The city's sounds fill in an audio backdrop.
That wood-chopping, basket-ball-on-
pavement sound continues. The man
is frenzied because the sun's out and

Winter's been so long this year. He's
furiously glad, pounds that gray pavement
with his orange, hand-held planet.

Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Only Dreaming


Only Dreaming

In this wet city under gray today,
you'll sense how hard and wearily
so many people work. Could be
you'll grieve for grinding toil
demanded and surrendered. Or
maybe you won't have time to
feel much because you're working.

Later you'll get across the city
somehow as gray becomes night.
Inside where you live, you'll note
again how much you and your clothes
smell of the work you do. Now other
tasks await: to cook, to listen,
to worry, to count, to try to rest.
Only dreaming will seem effortless,
but that's dreaming, which is nothing.

Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Salvage Yard

Salvage Yard

When I pass a salvage yard, everything
in it's dear  because it's something
crumpled, because it used to be
something designed and functional. Each
piece took some work to make and worked
for a while.  The yard as a whole presents
gnarled pyramids of contorted metal,
smeared rust, and broken tonnage.

I couldn't operate a salvage yard
because I'd want to keep the junk.
The yard's a tomb without a pharaoh,
an installation without a gallery. It's
a steel opera, a metal consequence,
a there. Flattened Cadillacs, pretzeled
I-beams, broken bridges, arrested
scrap: reusable, yes, bound for
a furnace hell. And beautiful--heaped
indiscriminately in mud.

Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Salvage Yard Treasures of America

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Two Poems By President Obama

Here is a link to two poems written by President Obama and published in 1981 in the Occidental College literary magainze:

Poems by Obama

The first one, about a father, reminds me a bit of Theodore Roethke's "My Papa's Waltz."

Monday, April 19, 2010

All Politicians Wear Makeup

All Politicians Wear Make-Up

All politicians wear makeup because
cameras are their constituents. Actors
attempt politics because celebrity
has made them rulers of feudal
entourages. Pastors become actors
because they don't have faith that God
will fill the seats. Atheists become pastors
because they want to share the empty news.
Journalists become atheists because they
report on hell and no one seems especially
alarmed. Citizens become journalists
because journalism collapsed. Wisdom
becomes rare because so few seem
to have the patience for it. Information
replaces it.  People inhale fumes
of information, get high, gaze at their
screens, see politicians, all politicians
wearing makeup.

Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Cosmetics: Webster's Timeline History, 2007




I know there's no next time, each time
being one time and one life, one life.
So the thing is to work up an extra-time:
one as-if, a single could-be, or a solitary
the-way-it-was.  Walk in summer
up to that old barn with its baked,
rough-milled, untreated boards that
smell so great and watch black
carpenter-bees fly into, out of, holes
that just fit their bodies, and feel the body,
yours, taut, and look and breathe
that one time as someone puts a glass jar
over a bee-hole, and the next bee out
knocks itself silly against glass but
recovers, and a Ford that isn't old
passes by--sound of radio from an open
window, sound of a busted, snarling
muffler.  And there, see, are tall green
weeds and sweet-pea vines. In comes
fresh air, just as easy as that, and in
your right front pocket is a folding
knife with traces of trout-guts on
its blade, fine dust, a small
piece of quartz, and coins--
the currency of this extra-time,
this one-time borrowed back.

Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

The Carpenter Bee

Friday, April 16, 2010

President of the EU Writes Haiku

Herman Van Rompuy, from Belgium, is the President of the European Union, and he's just published a collection of haiku.

Here is a link to an article from Reuters online about Van Rompuy and the book.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

New Book On Creative Writing

British writer and professor Graeme Harper has just published a new book about creative writing, aptly titled On Creative Writing.  A link:

On Creative Writing

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rae Armantrout Wins 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

Here is a link to an article about Rae Armantrout's having won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in poetry:


And a link to the book:

Versed (Wesleyan Poetry)

Recommended Writer: Wendy Perriam

Not long ago I read a novel by Wendy Perriam, Coupling.  It's terrific--one of those relatively rare fine novels about contemporary romance, sex, and love.  The book reminded me of D.H. Lawrence's writing--with the crucial addition of subtlety, and with the addition of a more complex understanding of how people behave.  There is more than a little humor as well, and the protagonist is someone you're glad to follow through a narrative.  In a sense Perriam takes the venerable sub-genre of "novel of manners" and applies it deftly to our times.

Perriam is a British author of 14 novels and several short-story collections:  She's also a professor.

Here is a link to her site:

Wendy Perriam

And here is a link to an article about her, her writing, a short story collection, and her experience with an awful personal loss:

Article on Perriam

And a link to Coupling (although there is a paperback edition as well):


A Writer of Parables

A Writer of Parables

Once there was a writer of parables
who aimed to treat his readers'
maladies with narrative caplets
of wisdom. Almost no one read
his parables, for almost no one
read, and those who did read
had many reading choices. The few
who read his parables didn't know
the parables were meant instructively
to heal. They liked the parables,
however, because they were short
and crisp like chopped stalks
of celery. There was the parable
of the blind fashion-photographer;
of the return of the responsible
daughter; of the man who would play
only a rented harp; and so on.
Finally the writer of parables wrote
himself into a parable. He dissolved
into a little bit of his own home-made
wisdom and entered the bloodstream
of culture, completely absorbed.

Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Monday, April 12, 2010

New Book By Robert Sheppard

Here is a link to a new book by British poet Robert Sheppard, Warrant Error.

New Book By Stephen Bess

Here's a link to a new book by Stephen Bess, Liquid Lunch: Blues-Inspired Poems; Bess lives in Washington D.C.

Barker's Sonnet to His Mother

When I began to study poetry as an undergraduate, one of the first poems I encountered was George Barker's sonnet, "To My Mother."  Here 'tis:

To My Mother

by George Barker

Most near, most dear, most loved, and most far,
Under the huge window where I often found her
Sitting as huge as Asia, seismic with laughter,
Gin and chicken helpless in her Irish hand,
Irresistible as Rabelais but most tender for
The lame dogs and hurt birds that surround her,—
She is a procession no one can follow after
But be like a little dog following a brass band.

She will not glance up at the bomber or condescend
To drop her gin and scuttle to a cellar,
But lean on the mahogany table like a mountain
Whom only faith can move, and so I send
O all her faith and all my love to tell her
That she will move from mourning into morning.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Among My Favorites: Philip Larkin

British poet and librarian Philip Larkin's work is among my favorite.  He possessed a distinctive lyric gift, a sometimes droll, sometimes bleak view of modern life, the city, urban isolation, and a considerable sense of humor.  Probably his most famous poem is "This Be The Verse," which can probably be found online (I haven't looked).  As with Dickinson, it's difficult to pick favorites, but "High Windows" and "Home Is So Sad" certainly stand out.  The best thing to do is to rummage through is collected poems, though.  A link to that book:

Collected Poems, by Philip Larkin

And a link to the Philip Larkin Society::

Friday, April 9, 2010

Among My Favorites: Alan Dugan

Alan Dugan (1923-2003) remains one of my favorite poets.  His work earned him a Yale Younger Poet award and a Pulitzer Prize.  His poems tend to be quick and terse--bursts of direct first-person utterance; they're very smart but also accessible.  One of my favorites by him is "Love Song: I and Thou," which in part concerns trying to build a new house.  There is also a poem about an new bridge that is actually an old bridge.

Dugan titled his books simply Poems, Poems 2, Poems 3, and so on--up to 7, which is a collected poems edition.

A link to more information about Dugan.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Among My Favorites: James Cervantes

. . . And in another National Poetry Month episode of "Among My Favorites," I'll note  that James Cervantes, professor and poet, is among my favorites.  Here is a link to his site, which includes some terrific poems:

James Cervantes

And here is a link to a book:

Temporary Meaning: Poems, by James Cerantes

Among My Favorites: Jim Daniels

Among my favorite poets is Jim Daniels, an especially gifted narrative poet, and one whose work often focuses on the lives of working-class people and folks on the street.  He teaches at Carnegie Mellon University. His books include the following (and one may find a handful of poems online):

Revolt of the Crash-Test Dummies: Poems

In Line for the Exterminator: Poems (Great Lakes Books Series)

Night With Drive-By Shooting Stars (New Issues Poetry & Prose)

STREET: Poems by Jim Daniels, Photographs by Charlee Brodsky (Working Lives)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Visual Poetry

A link to an essay by Geof Huth about visual poetry (on the Poetry Foundation site):

Visual Poetry

And a link to a book:

Modern Visual Poetry

Poets and Disability

Broadening my search for poets and poetry during National Poetry Month, I found some interesting links concerning the subject of disability and poets.

Here's is a link to an essay by Jillian Weise concerning disabled poets; the essay acknowledges legitimate questions about such terms, concepts, and identities as "disabled poet," "poet with a disability," "'crip' poetry," and so on, and it spends time on the work of Josephine Miles and Louise Gluck.(I saw/heard Josephine Miles read at U.C. Davis once.)

Here is a link to a site for disabled poets, although the site seems not to have been updated since 2005.

Here is a link to a site called nonsite collective and a discussion of "poetics and disablement."

And finally here's a link to a poem by Wilfred Owen I had not seen before; it's titled simply "Disabled" and concerns a former soldier (in World War I, of course).

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Among My Favorites: Randall Jarrell

During National Poetry Month, I though I'd mention some of my favorite poets from time to time--in no particular order.  Randall Jarrell remains one of my favorites.  He wrote chiefly in free verse, and he often wrote dramatic monologues.  No doubt his most famous poem is "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner," a brief, uncanny, seemingly perfect poem.  I also like "Next Day," "The Woman at the Washington Zoo," and "90 North," among others.  Jarrell was also a well known--and somewhat feared--critic of poetry.  After he had reviewed one of Karl Shapiro's books, Shapiro wrote that he felt "run over but not injured" (my paraphrase) by the review.

Here's a link to more information about Jarrell.

And some links to books by and about him:

The Complete Poems

Poetry and the Age

The Bat-Poet

Remembering Randall: A Memoir of Poet, Critic, and Teacher Randall Jarrell

A Sad Heart at the Supermarket: Essays and Fables

National Poetry Month

It's National Poetry Month once more, at least in the U.S. Here's a link to what is offering in connection with NPM:

Monday, April 5, 2010




Gold is many things because we've made it so.
Heavy's the main thing it is, though.
If you'd find it by the river then,
the main imperative is to get low.

Find bedrock, which is the top
of something semi-permanent
that the river hasn't yet moved.
Find holes and crevices. Stop.

Get to the bottom of them. If
there's gold, there's where the gold
will be, along with lead, black sand,
and such. You won't hold it in your hand

'til after you've rinsed away what's
lighter in your pan, and even then
you may get only flecks. This has
never gone without saying: there

will never be enough of gold to
satisfy or even feed you because
whatever forces made gold,
made it rare. Gold's not fair.

It is of another scheme, a geologic
farce in which stars spit planets
like sunflower seeds and infinity
isn't amused. Lord knows gold glows--

but dully. It rarely shines. It hates
to move, wants to be left alone. It's
soft, hard to get, harder to hold. Sometimes
it's welded in a vein to quartz. We call that ore.

Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Sunday, April 4, 2010

George Herbert's "Easter"

One of the most famous poems by George Herbert (1593-1633) is "Easter."  I admire the vocabulary and rhyming in the poem, among other things.


by George Herbert

    RISE heart ;  thy Lord is risen.  Sing his praise
                                        Without delayes,
    Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
                                        With him mayst rise :
    That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
    His life may make thee gold, and much more just.

    Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
                                        With all thy art.
    The crosse taught all wood to resound his name
                                        Who bore the same.
    His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
    Is best to celebrate this most high day.

    Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
                                        Pleasant and long :
    Or since all music is but three parts vied,
                                        And multiplied ;
    O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
    And make up our defects with his sweet art.

I got me flowers to straw thy way ;
 I got me boughs off many a tree :
 But thou wast up by break of day,
 And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.

The Sunne arising in the East,
 Though he give light, and th’ East perfume ;
 If they should offer to contest
 With thy arising   they presume.

  Can there be any day but this,
  Though many sunnes to shine endeavour ?
  We count three hundred, but we misse :
  There is but one, and that one ever.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Tom Meschery's Poem About Charlie Rose

From the Oregon Lit. Review site, here is a poem by Tom Meschery, former National Basketball Association player and current published poet, about PBS talk-show host Charlie Rose--and other topics:

The Charlie Rose Show

The way he says “young men” sounds dangerous,
so I stop channel surfing and listen:  Charlie
leaning forward, hand on his chin, asking
some old guy, what his book’s about
and the old dude answering:  among humans
and in the animal kingdom as well,
young males cause trouble.  Nature intends it,
and we’re just now starting the long path
of remembrance, how they make us feel—
meaning mostly older males—threatened
and anxious.  A generational battle,
so to speak, which, from the point of view
of young men, makes all the sense
in the world according to Charlie’s guest,
author of The Decline of Males;
as in the case of some species in the world
and even in captivity, one or two
knock down, drag-outs with dad,
and the winner takes the prize:  females
and family felicity.  Which can’t, Charlie argues,
be analogous to today’s young men,
meaning the sons of his generation,
the baby boomers, to their random violence
Woodstock ‘99 being a case in point.

And I’m thinking Charlie Rose seems
a little ruptured, evoking images
from Clockwork Orange and Lord of the Flies
boys prancing naked around fires,
pig’s head on a stick, Paleolithic shadows.
So I ask my friend watching the show
with me “How does Charlie get off
being that fucking self righteous?”
But my friend points to the full moon
outside the window, smiles, and points
to the one rising over my belly button
just below the three green eagles flying
across my chest.  “Is that it, dude?” I ask
as Charlie Rose praises his guest for shedding
some light on such a difficult subject.
“Is that it?” and suddenly I feel better
knowing I’ve been given a license
to get back to the natural order of things;
say, if my old man gives me trouble,
which I’m telling my friend he did, last night
and in spades, I can simply arm wrestle
him into submission.  At least, that’s how
I’m seeing it, my eyes opening onto wide screens:
retreating glaciers, savannahs, jungles of primates,
tribes of hunters and gatherers, competing
for each bone of meat and feeling fine about it,
feeling just fine because God made us
this way, in his image—fathers and sons.

 Copyright Tom Meschery

A  link to one of Meschery's books:

Friday, April 2, 2010

Fashion Models

Fashion Models

The vacancy in eyes is neither feline
nor fishy. It's royal. Crowned by current
fashion with approved beauty, models
walk or stand ritually while gazes and lenses
pledge fealty. This slenderness

is a cousin of gaunt. Is the frame bones
haunted by flesh or vice versa? A fashion
model's an illusion, an unreal estate, an
expensive trick played on eyes, desire,
and retail markets. One need only focus

on an ear or an elbow, though,
and the game is up. The model is
human, the fashion is woven fibers
or tanned hide, and the pageant
is but a bright pretty bore.

Copyright 2010  Hans Ostrom