Monday, November 30, 2009

Five Fine Functions

Five Fine Functions

Genetic coding.
Mutual attraction.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Reflections From Mississippi

Patricia Neely-Dorsey writes from Mississippi to inform us that her book of poems, Reflections of Mississippi Magnolia-A Life in Poems, has been published. It is available from . . .

And the native of Tupelo also maintains the blog . . .

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Poetry, Technology, and Florida's Poet Laureate

The position of Poet Laureate in Florida comes with bad news and good news. The bad news is that it is an unpaid position. The good news is that there is no limit to the term.

Dr. Edmund Skellings is the Poet Laureate of Florida, and his biography is rare. Teaching at different Florida universities, he has offered such traditional courses as those in Shakespeare and Understanding Poetry, but at the same time, he was genuinely a pioneer in technology and the arts & humanities. For some details,including titles of Skellings' works, please see the . . .

Skellings Link

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Essay on Pakastani Literature

Here is a link to an interesting essay Jahane Rumi on contemporary Pakastani literature:

Jamaican Writer Geoffrey Philp Wins Award

Fellow blogger Poéfrika has posted news about a prize going to Jamaican writer Geoffrey Philp:

Poet Laureate of North Dakota

Larry Woiwode is the poet laureate of North Dakota. He is also a novelist. Here is a link to more information:

Accra, Ghana; and Belo Horizonte, Brazil

According to data accompanying the "Vistors' Map" of the blog, computers in Accra, Ghana, and Belo Horizonte, Brazil, have passed by Poet's Musings.

Accra is on the coast of Ghana. Here is one photo from there--of Kwame Nkrumah Park:

And here is a photo of a place in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, which is situated in eastern Brazil and the metropolitan area of which includes approximately 6 million people:

Winter's Mixed Results

Winter's Mixed Results

Snow to rain and back to snow
again. Then comes just cold,
which freezes slush and snow
and mud. At last we're slowed
down and up, our feet and wheels
and winged chariots set back
to sluggish paces, in some cases
even stopped by frozen slop
of slush and snow and mud.

This weather lurks beneath
the mean temperature. We're
put in a mercury-mood--heavy,
gray, not quite solid, depressed
by cold. After thaw, abrasive
rains scour streets. Hard wind
mutters under eaves, in
gaps between urban structures.
We escape again into feverish
bustling and maniacal toil, into
a flow of routine we hold, dear.

Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Monday, November 23, 2009

On "Howl"

I still teach Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" (as opposed to someone else's "Howl?) in most poetry-writing and modern/contemporary American poetry courses I offer. It's a great example of a protest poem, and of "prophetic" poetic rhetoric going at least as far back as the Hebrew Bible. At the same time, it is squarely (not in the Beat sense of the term) in the tradition of Whitman and Jeffers, in the context of American poetry.

Not without its problems? Of course. As bad as Ginsberg and compatriots may have had it in the 1950s, others had it worse, so occasionally students, with good reason, ask, "Was it really all that bad?" Also, it is a dense poem. It asks patience. But that can be a good time.

I also like to teach the poem as one that gives the effect of a spontaneous "rant" but that is actually carefully crafted. And of course it is a crucial poem in the context of gay and lesbian literature.

I would cease teaching it if students seemed disengaged from it, but they still seem to find a purchase or two in the poem. They like to discuss it, critique it, and learn from it, at least on my campus.

In any event, here is a link to an interesting spectrum of views, from poets and others, on "Howl"

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

November Poems by Hood and Plath

Here is a poem by 19th century British poet Thomas Hood about November and called "November." I found it in November--on a site called, not November, but, of all places. In this poem, Hood seems to play Dr. No.


by Thomas Hood

No sun--no moon!
No morn--no noon!
No dawn--no dusk--no proper time of day--
No sky--no earthly view--
No distance looking blue--

No road--no street--
No "t'other side the way"--
No end to any Row--
No indications where the Crescents go--

No top to any steeple--
No recognitions of familiar people--
No courtesies for showing 'em--
No knowing 'em!

No mail--no post--
No news from any foreign coast--
No park--no ring--no afternoon gentility--
No company--no nobility--

No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member--
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,

I feel as though I should go watch an episode of "Yes, Minister," now.

Then I found an odd video "of" Sylvia Plath reading "November Graveyard"; the video actually does that strange and clumsy thing of taking a still photo and making the mouth seem to move. A bit gauche and unsettling. The poem interests me in a way that most of Plath's poems interest me: for its use of sound. With reason, many readers focus on the less than cheerful subjects and outlooks in her poems, but I've always thought her to be masterful with sound, too. The link to the . . .


Poems By Don Mattera

Following up on the previous post . . ., here is a link to four poems (which I enjoyed a lot) by Don Mattera, South African poet:

Mattera poems

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New South African Poets

I ran across the site, Poets On Fire, which represents a group devoted to poetry, poetry readings, spoken-word events, and so on, across the UK. A relatively recent post mentions a reading (last month) that featured four South African poets I had not heard of:

Keorapetse Kgositsile, Lebo Mashile, Don Mattera and Phillippa Yaa de Villiers.

Now I will look for some poems by these writers.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

Neruda's "If You Forget Me"

I enjoyed this video-dramatization of Pablo Neruda's "If You Forget Me," and I hope you do, too:

And I'm sure you have probably seen the film, Il Postino, which features Neruda as a character, played by Phillipe Noiret.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Carl Sagan on Voyager

The late Carl Sagan was so passionately rational about discoveries in space that he seemed sometimes to be speaking prose-poems, as in this short video about some of Voyager's discoveries as it moved on through the solar system:

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Canadian Women Poets

Here is a link to some information about Canadian Women Poets:

The Link

Wendy Francisco and Dog-Lovers

We had a genuine dog-lover over for dinner the other evening, and the next day she sent along a link to the following video that presents a song ("God and Dog") by Wendy Francisco, with illustrations,that gives equal time to dog-lovers (given my last post on cats), and that, for poets, treats "frailty" as a three-syllable word--because in the context, it needs to behave as a three-syllable word:

Wendy Francisco on God and Dog

How To Be A Cat

In honor of our cat, who is now sitting in front of the television screen and staring at me in a patient but accusatory way, I am re-posting a poem from about a year and a half ago:

How To Be A Cat

Be the noble curator of your excellence, for
fate made you perfect. In all things, be precise:
standing, sitting, staring, walking, sniffing, eating,
sleeping, killing. Never look in mirrors,
which are windows for the insecure. Sleep
in a variety of comfortable places, which
were created for you alone. Make acquaintances,
never friends. The latter tend to cling.

All phenomena are potential enemies. Therefore,
stare, listen, listen, stare, sniff, stare, listen, sniff,
hide, stare, and listen. Never perform tricks. Leave
those to dogs, who need to be wanted and want
to be liked. Talk as necessary, but never just
to chit-chat. Crack the whip of feline fury as
you wish. Keep the blades of your four feet sharp
and retracted like long-held resentments. Let
your soul's motor idle and strum the taut cord
of your body. No one owns you.

God made you and likes you best. In a world
that's dubious, you are certain. You never
make mistakes. You are entitled to what
you want; otherwise, why would you want it?
No matter what else you may be undertaking,
never be reticent to stop and groom yourself,
for you are superb, and self-maintenance
doubles as self-admiration. You are a cat,
a form of beauty that enters stealthily,
naps, and agrees to be admired. You
are a cat. Everything is as it should be.

Hans Ostrom
Copyright 2008 Hans Ostrom

Anthology of Modern Turkish Poetry

Here is a link . . . information about EDA: An Anthology of Modern Turkish Poetry, published in 2004.

Tennessee's Poet Laureate

Margaret Britton Vaughn is Tennessee's Poet Laureate. Here is a link to an article about her and her work.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Poets Laureate In the Southwest?

As far as I have been able to determine, the Southwest of the United States is not excessively friendly to the idea of having a state poet laureate. Apparently, no such position exists in either Arizona or New Mexico.

In Texas, however, Karla Kay Morton is the state's poet laureate, and here is a link to more information about her and her writing.

Alaska's State Writer

Alaska's official State Writer is not the newly published Sarah Palin but Nancy Lord. The position seems to be similar to that of Poet Laureate, but maybe it's not a bad idea to open up such an office to other kinds of writers.

At any rate, here is a link to more information about Nancy Lord.

Race & Pedagogy Conference: Next Fall

The second national Race & Pedagogy Conference will take place on my campus next fall--on October 28, 29, 30.

Here is a link to more information.

If you are a K-12 or college teacher, a person otherwise involved in education, a scholar working in the area of race & pedagogy (and related issues), or are simply interested in the topic, please keep the conference in mind. A "Call for Papers" will go out soon.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Link To A Great Poetry Site

A librarian-friend sent along the following link to the U.S. Library of Congress's poetry site, which is extensive and most satisfactorily browsable:


Monday, November 9, 2009

Gathering Image

The other day some students and I visited the art gallery on campus, viewed the paintings, and then found a perch and began writing--or writing toward--an eckphrastic poem, or a poem concerned with another art-form besides poetry. The title of the exhibit was "Gathering Image, Fugitive Form," and the paintings & drawings that were featured occupied a fascinating position between the abstract and the representational. There was a series of paintings focused on the image of tree limbs.

Liminal Limbs

How tree limbs form patterns
and each branch follows its
own precise, crooked line
of work: such shaping is
the fruit of species and
individual, accident and
cell-division, weather
and vegetative whim. Whatever
the outcome of bark, branch,
and twig back-grounded by
sky, a painter comes along
and lets the branches suggest
an outcome on canvas, a tale
in pigment about color
and line, a story the tall tree
is alleged to have told. So
we turn from the canvas and
look through a gallery's
window at branches, which
wind shakes and bends.

Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Saturday, November 7, 2009

They Say About a Poem

They Say About A Poem

Technically a poem ought to have words
in it although a blank page beneath a
title's mighty inviting, a bit like a
snowy meadow after a day filled with
looking at city crowds. They say
about a poem that a poem should show,
not tell, and be, not mean, but others
think a poem should tow, not sell,
and, really, how can a poem that is
not be, and why can't it mean while
it's being? From poems people crave
imagery, they say, they say about
a poem, but actually all
the imagery's in their heads, put there

by literacy's reflexive response to
letters applied to a surface such
as paper or a surface such as plastic
or indeed an ear's membrane. Should
a poem have conflict? Opinions about
that bicker. I know a poem that featured
many quiet rooms where you could go to get
away from all that conflict in plays,
life, novels, factories, politics,
and movies--where you could listen

to a clock chime and watch the weird
butler straighten ancient paintings
on the walls of your personality, but
I guess that, too, is a conflict.

Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Professor Irwin Corey, Performance Poet

I saw comedian Professor Irwin Corey often on TV when I was growing up, and I instantly took to his schtick, which was to parody the speech of politicians, scientists, and academics. His riffs are not just mocking blather, however; they're intricately timed and worded. Now that I'm a professor, I find his act even funnier. Here is a link to a recent (2008) video of Professor Corey doing his thing (and please note his hands are part of the act):

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bob Dylan's Favorite Poets

The site,, includes a long essay on Bob Dylan and poetry. The essay claims that a debate about whether Dylan is a poet has "raged" for a long time. I don't think it's raged very much, and I don't think there's much of a debate, although I wouldn't care to rage about the question. He writes and records ballads, among other things, and ballads are poems. Of course, everyone has an opportunity to argue about how good the ballads (etc.) are--as popular songs or as poems or as both. But that's a separate question.

The essay mentions scholar Christopher Ricks, of course, who has written extensively in support of treating Dylan's work as poetry. A paragraph from the essay:

"Christopher Ricks, who has also penned books about T. S. Eliot and John Keats, argues that Dylan's lyrics not only qualify as poetry, but that Dylan is among the finest poets of all time, on the same level as Milton, Keats, and Tennyson. He points to Dylan's mastery of rhymes that are often startling and perfectly judged."

Also, the essay notes that among Dylan's favorite poets are Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, and Woody Guthrie. Dylan is also said to like Smokey Robinson as a poet.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Henry David Thoreau's Favorite Song

According to author Caroline Mosley, in an article cited on, Henry David Thoreau's favorite popular song was "Tom Bowling," with lyrics by Charles Dibdin. Factoring in time-travel (a form of transcendentalism, arguably), I might have guessed that HDT would have leaned in Bob Dylan's direction. Here are the "Tom Bowling" lyrics:

Tom Bowling

by Charles Dibdin

Here, a sheer hulk, lies poor Tom Bowling
The darling of the crew;
No more he'll hear the tempest howling
For death has broach'd him to.
His form was of the manliest beauty,
His heart was kind and soft,
Faithful, below he did his duty,
But now he's gone aloft.
Tom never from his word departed,
His virtues were so rare,
His friends were many, and true-hearted,
His Poll was kind and fair;
And then he'd sing so blithe and jolly,
Ah, many's the time and oft!
But mirth has turn'd to melancholy,
For Tom is gone aloft.
Yet shall poor Tom find pleasant weather,
When He, who all commands,
Shall give, to call life's crew together,
The word to pipe all hands.
Thus Death, who kinds and tars despatches,
In vain Tom's life has doff'd,
For, though his body's under hatches
His soul has gone aloft.