From The Movement


A verse on movement from Thom Gunn, who was a member of “The Movement”; a group of poets who included Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin and Kingsley Amis.

Gunn celebrates his 89th Birthday today although he is not around to mark it himself.  Born the year of the Wall Street Crash in 1929 he passed away in 2004 just before the latest Stock Market collapse.  A man who spans two great depressions.

From the wave; by Thom Gunn

It mounts at sea, a concave wall
down-ribbed with shine,
and pushes forward, building tall
its steep incline.

Then from their hiding rise to sight
black shapes on boards
bearing before the fringe of white
it mottles towards.

Their pale feet curled, they poise their weight
with a learn’d skill.
It is the wave they imitate
keeps them so still.

The marbling bodies have become
half wave, half men,
grafted it seems by feet of foam
some seconds, then,

late as they can, they slice the face
in timed procession:
balance is triumph in this place,
triumph possession.

The mindless heave of which they rode
a fluid shelf
breaks as they leave it, falls and, slowed,
loses itself.

Clear, the sheathed bodies slick as seals
loosen and tingle;
and by the board the bare foot feels
the suck of shingle.

They paddle in the shallows still;
two splash each other;
they all swim out to wait until
the right waves gather.


The Nile

This is an article about the culture of denial.

Everybody should read this.

We are now at denial 2.0 where deniers don’t even justify the garbage they peddle, they just reference those who already build the pseudo-scientific denials.

What are you about, Food or Money?


Born this day in 1938 the multi award winning novelist and short story writer also pens sharply insightful poetry.  Her stereotype view of men and women below is all the funnier for her surname.

Women Whose Lives are Food, Men Whose Lives are Money; by Joyce Carol Oates

Mid-morning Monday she is staring
peaceful as the rain in that shallow back yard
she wears flannel bedroom slippers
she is sipping coffee
she is thinking—
—gazing at the weedy bumpy yard
at the faces beginning to take shape
in the wavy mud
in the linoleum
where floorboards assert themselves

Women whose lives are food
breaking eggs with care
scraping garbage from the plates
unpacking groceries hand over hand

Wednesday evening: he takes the cans out front
tough plastic with detachable lids
Thursday morning: the garbage truck whining at 7
Friday the shopping mall open till 9
bags of groceries unpacked
hand over certain hand

Men whose lives are money
time-and-a-half Saturdays
the lunchbag folded with care and brought back home
unfolded Monday morning

Women whose lives are food
because they are not punch-carded
because they are unclocked
sighing glad to be alone
staring into the yard, mid-morning
by mid-afternoon everything is forgotten

There are long evenings
panel discussions on abortions, fashions, meaningful work
there are love scenes where people mouth passions
sprightly, handsome, silly, manic
in close-ups revealed ageless
the women whose lives are food
the men whose lives are money
fidget as these strangers embrace and weep and mis-
understand and forgive and die and weep and embrace
and the viewers stare and fidget and sigh and
begin yawning around 10:30
never made it past midnight, even on Saturdays,
watching their braven selves perform

Where are the promised revelations?
Why have they been shown so many times?
Long-limbed children a thousand miles to the west
hitch-hiking in spring, burnt bronze in summer
thumbs nagging
eyes pleading
Give us a ride, huh? Give us a ride?

and when they return nothing is changed
the linoleum looks older
the Hawaiian Chicken is new
the girls wash their hair more often
the boys skip over the puddles
in the GM parking lot
no one eyes them with envy

their mothers stoop
the oven doors settle with a thump
the dishes are rinsed and stacked and
by mid-morning the house is quiet
it is raining out back
or not raining
the relief of emptiness rains
simple, terrible, routine
at peace


Behind the illusion.


Today is the birthday of Louse Erdrich, one of the leading lights of the second wave of  first nation American literature.  One quarter Chippewa Ojibwe and a member of the Turtle Mountain band.  Here is a poignant pen portrait of a life in things, a life in transit a damaged life.  Not at all like the photo most of the men have in their memory.


Francine’s Room; by Louise Erdrich


This is Tarsus, one place like anyplace else.

And this is my circuit, the rodeo, fair.

The farmboys blow through here in pickups, wild

as horses in their oat sacks.

The women wear spurs.

In the trailers the cattle are pounding for air.


My room is the same as last year. They always give me

end of the corridor, left, the top floor.

Privacy. Why not. I’ve been through here before.

I’m the town’s best

customer. A minor attraction.

I buy from their stores. Remember this bureau—


battered wood, the fake drawer and split mirror?

And even the glass marks, ring within ring

of spilled drinks. When I sit here

the widest warped links have a center.

Strung out they’re a year’s worth of slack, a tether

that swings around the spine’s dark pole


and swings back. Each time I return

something’s different,

although there’s a few I can always expect.

The cracks in the mirror: always more, never less.

The stains in the bedspread have spread.

And the rip in the window shade lets through more light,


strange light, since I come here to be in the dark.

Should be taped. A few things can be saved anyhow.

But I don’t want to get into that.


I set up my pictures. Mother and Father,

stiffer, more blurred every year.

I turn them to the walls when there’s customers, that

is the least I can do. What mending there is

occurs in small acts,

and after the fact of the damage,

when nothing is ever enough.

There is always the scar to remind me

that things were once perfect, at least


they were new. I first came here when I was a girl.

It surprised me, the things that two people could do

left alone in a room. Not long and I learned.

I learned what the selves are a man can disown

till he lets them to life in a room.


It’s the region’s hard winters, snowed in with the snow

half the year. I’d expect them to think up a few.

But nothing surprises me, not anymore.

The plumbing can only get worse with the cold.

It’s true, even summers the water is foul

and flows slowly, a thin brown trickle by noon.


Heat pours in the west, freak waves of dry lightning

soak the whole town in a feverish light.

Beneath me, the tables of water have dropped

to unheard-of levels. It’s been a long drought.

I bend my whole arm to the handle, the valve

yawns open but nothing comes out. What else should I

expect. Wrung cloth. The body washing in dust.

W.J. Smith 100 years young.


On the centenary of this poet laureate I think it worth noting that those who write poetry for children have a special place in the world.  Generation after generation they are forever young.  Smith also wrote for old fogies.  A long lived man who reached 97 years of age, born 100 years ago, this day, 1918.


Winter Morning; by William Jay Smith

All night the wind swept over the house
and through our dream
swirling the snow up through the pines,
ruffling the white, ice-capped clapboards,
rattling the windows,
rustling around and below our bed
so that we rode
over wild water
in a white ship breasting the waves.
We rode through the night
on green, marbled
water, and, half-waking, watched
the white, eroded peaks of icebergs
sail past our windows;
rode out the night in that north country,
and awoke, the house buried in snow,
perched on a
chill promontory, a
giant’s tooth
in the mouth of the cold valley,
its white tongue looped frozen around us,
the trunks of tall birches
revealing the rib cage of a whale
stranded by a still stream;
and saw, through the motionless baleen of their branches,
as if through time,
light that shone
on a landscape of ivory,
a harbor of bone.


Happy Birthday George Herbert


Portrait by Robert White of Herbert painted 40 years after the death of the poet.

Born this day 1593, Herbert is one of the Metaphysical poets.  This poem is considered symbolic of his struggle with holy orders, which he ducked in University for a career in Parliament, only to return to the cloth later in life.

The Collar : by George Herbert

I struck the board, and cried, “No more;
I will abroad!
What? shall I ever sigh and pine?
My lines and life are free, free as the road,
loose as the wind, as large as store.
Shall I be still in suit?
Have I no harvest but a thorn
to let me blood, and not restore
what I have lost with cordial fruit?

Sure there was wine
before my sighs did dry it; there was corn
before my tears did drown it.
Is the year only lost to me?
Have I no bays to crown it,
no flowers, no garlands gay? All blasted?
All wasted?
Not so, my heart; but there is fruit,
and thou hast hands.

Recover all thy sigh-blown age
on double pleasures: leave thy cold dispute
of what is fit and not. Forsake thy cage,
thy rope of sands,
which petty thoughts have made, and made to thee
good cable, to enforce and draw,
and be thy law,
while thou didst wink and wouldst not see.

Away! take heed;
I will abroad.
Call in thy death’s-head there; tie up thy fears;
He that forbears
to suit and serve his need
deserves his load.”

But as I raved and grew more fierce and wild
at every word,
methought I heard one calling, Child!
And I replied My Lord.