April 2024


In New York I heard Michael Ondaatje read from his newest book, A Year of Last Things, which is a collection of poems. Ondaatje is fairly soft spoken; so are the poems. And they are full of twilight and evening. Both the opening poem, “Lock,” and the closing poem center on a spot on a river, and on the magical lift (and resultant unfamiliar perspective) that a lock “in its evening light” enables:

Where you might see your friends
as altered by this altitude as you

The fresh summer grass,
the smell of the view—
dark water, August paint

At the reading Ondaatje was asked, predictably, what, when he writes a poem, spurs him into making poetry and not prose. I can’t remember his answer.

Events 2024

Poets House, New York, NY
April 3, 2024


Westchester Poetry Festival, Dobbs Ferry, NY
April 6, 2024


Georgia College, Milledgeville, GA
April 9, 2024


Birdhouse Theater, Milledgeville, GA (with Alice Friman)
May 14, 2024


Normal’s Books & Records, Baltimore, MD (with Dustin Junkert & Shane Moritz)
June 1, 2024


Reinhardt University, Waleska, GA
June 19, 2024

February 2024


It grows harder, while teaching, to sink into something I’m not reading for a class. But this month and last, as my graduate class read poems by T.S. Eliot and then Gwendolyn Brooks, I read the first part of Brooks’s autobiography: Report From Part One. Here are notes on her childhood, her children. On teaching; on her trip to East Africa. On her poems, early ones, and on poems to come. Unsurprisingly her prose is rich and warm and sometimes bubbling and always exacting—”…even in writing prose I find myself weighing the possibilities of every word just as I do in a poem,” she tells an interviewer. (“I’m a black poet,” she tells the same interviewer, in 1969, “and I write about what I see, what interests me, and I’m seeing new things.”) From an early section:

Dreamed a lot. As a little girl I dreamed freely, often on the top step of the back porch—morning, noon, sunset, deep twilight. I loved clouds, I loved red streaks in the sky. I loved the gold worlds I saw in the sky. Gods and little girls, angels and heroes and future lovers labored there, in misty glory or sharp grandeur.

Also, poems from a very old copy of Anthony Hecht’s The Hard Hours (1968). The page-paper so thick the pages feel almost like sailcloth. A favorite is “Behold the Lilies of the Field,” as well as a sonnet (after Du Bellay) about voyaging home that contains this line:

But slate is my true stone, slate is my blue.