A Twelfth Century Love Letter: Heloise Remembers Abelard

An amazing passage from a letter of Heloise to Abelard, those twelfth-century lovers who ended up in a nunnery and a monastery after their affair was discovered. Strip away the contemporary details (their religiosity and its attendant guilt, etc.), and Heloise might be writing a blog today: In my case, the pleasures of lovers which … Continue reading A Twelfth Century Love Letter: Heloise Remembers Abelard

The best job application letter that didn’t work

James Murray (1837-1915), the Scottish lexicographer and philologist, sent the following letter regarding a job at the British Museum in late 1866. Largely self-taught, he later became the first editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. Before then, this letter somehow didn’t get him the British Museum gig: I have to state that Philology, both Comparative … Continue reading The best job application letter that didn’t work

Hart Crane & His Father

In early January, 1924, the poet Hart Crane, twenty-four and basically broke, received a letter from his father offering to hire him into the family business. To a friend, Crane wrote, “Along comes a letter from my father this morning offering me a position with him as travelling salesman! This is unacceptable, of course, even … Continue reading Hart Crane & His Father

Fire Houses (poem)

If forced to choose a favorite short poem of mine, one that brings together nearly everything I’m interested in, it would have to be this one: Fire Houses All the old stories have their fire houses: hostels, banqueting halls, stopping places, some leading to the Otherworld, some made of iron, and all of them set … Continue reading Fire Houses (poem)

Jung’s Great Dream

Jung traveled with Freud and others to America in late September, 1909, and on the boat returning to Europe, he had a dream. Whatever you make of Jung’s overarching theories and scholarship, it always seems better to think of him more as a poet or mystic, and so his strength seems to lie in descriptions … Continue reading Jung’s Great Dream

Odin & Baldr (poem)

Odin & Baldr The High One heard the lowest prophecy: already riddled with the worst of dreams, his boy Baldr would be killed by his brother. And worse: another brother would avenge him, family hacking down family. And worse: these murders would lead to the end, to three winters of war and three more years … Continue reading Odin & Baldr (poem)

“Bone Antler Stone” reviewed in the Big Windows Review

Many thanks to Tom Zimmerman at The Big Windows Review for his review of Bone Antler Stone. I’ve pasted an excerpt below, and you can read the entire review here. Excerpts and reviews from the book are here. “… [Bone Antler Stone] is an act of powerful sympathetic imagination that forges a connection between lost cultures … Continue reading “Bone Antler Stone” reviewed in the Big Windows Review

Female Figurines and a Shipwreck: Two Poems from “Bone Antler Stone”

Here are two of my favorite poems from Bone Antler Stone: one on the famous ice age “Venus” figurines from 20-30,000 years ago, and another on a shipwreck from 1300 BC. You can order the entire collection here, or find more poems from the book here. Female Figurines for Evie Hum the words with me and … Continue reading Female Figurines and a Shipwreck: Two Poems from “Bone Antler Stone”

Happy Black Friday

For those who are out stampeding each other for flat-screen TVs, and for those forced to work so others can get their amazing deals, here’s my usual Black Friday post: When asked if the news of the day surprised him anymore, the poet Joseph Brodsky—who grew up in Soviet Russia and came to America in … Continue reading Happy Black Friday

Review: Bone Antler Stone by Tim Miller

Originally posted on Riggwelter:
Miller, Tim, Bone Antler Stone, High Window Press, 2018. ISBN: 9780-2440-0959-5. £9.99 As the title might suggest, (pre)history and nature feature strongly in Tim Miller’s collection Bone Stone Antler (The High Window Press), but also song, fire, life. The collection has four sections: Landscapes & Rituals, Burials (which I found particularly moving), Artefacts… Continue reading Review: Bone Antler Stone by Tim Miller

The Great Myths #46: Sacred Language & Homer’s Poets (Greek)

Here are two passages from Homer’s Odyssey featuring the common household bard of prehistoric Greece. The first poet, the description of which probably lent to the legend that Homer himself was blind, performs stories of the Trojan war before a disguised Odysseus, bringing him to tears. The second is the bard at Odysseus’ own home … Continue reading The Great Myths #46: Sacred Language & Homer’s Poets (Greek)

The Great Myths #44: Sacred Language & Two Hymns to Speech (Hindu)

Rig Veda 10:71: The Origins of Sacred Speech Bṛhaspati! When they set in motion the first beginning of speech, giving names, their most pure and perfectly guarded secret was revealed through love.       When the wise ones fashioned speech with their thought, sifting it as grain is sifted through a sieve, then friends recognized their … Continue reading The Great Myths #44: Sacred Language & Two Hymns to Speech (Hindu)

The Great Myths #43 Sacred Language & the Story of Gwion Bach & Taliesin (Welsh)

One of the longer myths I’ll post here, the following story is well worth it, and is indeed a master-class in mythology and folklore. Containing shape-changes, chase scenes, mysterious births, borrowed identities, and competitions of all kinds, it is in the best sense a holy mess, including its sudden and (to us) perhaps unsatisfying ending. … Continue reading The Great Myths #43 Sacred Language & the Story of Gwion Bach & Taliesin (Welsh)

The Great Myths #42: Sacred Language & the Story of Caedmon (Christian)

A brother of the monastery is found to possess God’s gift of poetry [A. D. 680] In this monastery of Streanaeshalch lived a brother singularly gifted by God’s grace. So skilful was he in composing religious and devotional songs that, when any passage of Scripture was explained by interpreters, he could quickly turn it into … Continue reading The Great Myths #42: Sacred Language & the Story of Caedmon (Christian)

Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 13: “The perfect image of a mighty mind, of one that feeds upon infinity”

Here are excerpts from the last book of Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude.  Other excerpts  are here.   In one of these excursions, travelling then Through Wales on foot and with a youthful friend, I left Bethkelet’s huts at couching-time, And westward took my way to see the sun Rise from the top of Snowdon. Having reading … Continue reading Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 13: “The perfect image of a mighty mind, of one that feeds upon infinity”

Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 12: “making verse deal boldly with substantial things”

Throughout the summer I hope to post my favorite bits from Wordworth’s 1805 Prelude. Book 12 continues his meditations in Book 11, which was titled “Imagination, How Impaired & Restored.” Other excerpts are here.   Such benefit may souls of humblest frame Partake of, each in their degree; ’tis mine To speak of what myself … Continue reading Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 12: “making verse deal boldly with substantial things”

Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 11: “Habits of devoutest sympathy”

Excerpts from Book 11 of  Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, which he calls “Imagination, How Impaired and Restored.” Other excerpts are here.   Long time hath man’s unhappiness and guilt Defained us: with what dismal sights beset For the outward view, and inwardly oppressed With sorrow, disappointment, vexing thoughts, Confusion of the judgement, zeal decayed – And … Continue reading Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 11: “Habits of devoutest sympathy”

Cyril Edwards (Interview)

I’ve relied on many translators and scholars in the writing of To the House of the Sun, and over the years I’ve been lucky enough to correspond with a few of them. Their specialties vary widely—Greek religion, Hinduism/Indo-European studies, Egyptology, Arthurian romance, etc.—and it seems that their enthusiasm and love for language, history, and religion … Continue reading Cyril Edwards (Interview)

Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 10: “In the very world which is the world of all of us, the place in which, in the end, we find our happiness, or not at all “

Excerpts from Book 10 of Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, where he concludes his story of being in France during the Revolution. Other excerpts are here.   A poor mistaken and bewildered offering, Should to the breast of Nature have gone back, With all my resolutions, all my hopes, A poet only to myself, to men Useless, … Continue reading Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 10: “In the very world which is the world of all of us, the place in which, in the end, we find our happiness, or not at all “

5 Poems by Robinson Jeffers: “Lend me the stone strength of the past”

The Maid’s Thought Why listen, even the water is sobbing for something. The west wind is dead, the waves Forget to hate the cliff, in the upland canyons Whole hillsides burst aglow With golden broom. Dear how it rained last month, And every pool was rimmed With sulphury pollen dust of the wakening pines. Now … Continue reading 5 Poems by Robinson Jeffers: “Lend me the stone strength of the past”

Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 9: “I saw the revolutionary power toss like a ship at anchor”

Excerpts from Book 9 of Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, where he begins his story of being in France during the Revolution. Other excerpts are here.   ’Tis mine to tread The humbler province of plain history, And, without choice of circumstance, submissively Relate what I have heard. Book 9, 642-645 Oft then I said, And not … Continue reading Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 9: “I saw the revolutionary power toss like a ship at anchor”

Books for Days

With June finally done and the rush of bringing out two books behind me, let me thank everyone who has purchased copies. There are still a few of each book left from my initial batch; if anyone is interested, I’m selling them myself much cheaper than Amazon etc., & they will be signed. If you … Continue reading Books for Days

Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 8: “A weight of ages did at once descend upon my heart”

Excerpts from Book 8 of Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, which he titles “Love of Nature Leading to Love of Mankind.” Other excerpts are here.   With deep devotion, Nature, did I feel In that great city what I owed to thee: High thoughts of God and man, and love of man, Triumphant over all those loathsome … Continue reading Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 8: “A weight of ages did at once descend upon my heart”

The Island, the Museum, the Church: 3 Readings from “Bone Antler Stone”

My poetry collection Bone Antler Stone—a panorama of ancient Europe from the painted caves of Lascaux to contact with Greece and Rome—comes out on Thursday. You can order it here. Below are readings of three of those poems, inspired by a tidal island, a museum, and a Viking cathedral on the island of Orkney, all … Continue reading The Island, the Museum, the Church: 3 Readings from “Bone Antler Stone”

On “Bone Antler Stone”: Ancient Europe, the Narrow Book & Finding Poetry Again

My poetry collection Bone Antler Stone—a panorama of ancient Europe from the painted caves of Lascaux to contact with Greece and Rome—comes out on Thursday. You can order it here. Here’s an essay on how it came to be written: The poems of Bone Antler Stone go way back, as a book about ancient history … Continue reading On “Bone Antler Stone”: Ancient Europe, the Narrow Book & Finding Poetry Again

Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 7: “This parliament of monsters”

  Excerpts from Book 7 of Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, on his time living in London. Other excerpts are here.   Above all, one thought Baffled my understanding, how men lived Even next-door neighbours, as we say, yet still Strangers, and not knowing each other’s names. Book 7, 117-120   Shall I give way, Copying the … Continue reading Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 7: “This parliament of monsters”

Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 6: “No absence scarcely can there be, for those who love as we do.”

Excerpts from Book 6 of Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, on his friendship with Coleridge. Other excerpts are here.   There is no grief, no sorrow, no despair, No languor, no dejection, no dismay, No absence scarcely can there be, for those Who love as we do. Book 6, 253-256 I too have been a wanderer, but, … Continue reading Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 6: “No absence scarcely can there be, for those who love as we do.”

Sympathy for Suicide

From Bearing the Names of Many/The Lonely Young & the Lonely Old, just as illness and war are spreading: People are committing suicide all over the place. I am enjoying this in part because the people killing themselves were the type, only a year ago, most likely to condemn suicides as evil, as cowards, as cruel … Continue reading Sympathy for Suicide

There are a lot of lonely people out there, & they deserve a book of stories

There are a lot of lonely people out there, and with my collection of stories The Lonely Young & the Lonely Old coming out on Monday (you can order it directly from the publisher, Square, Small Press Distribution, and Amazon), I want to write for a moment about why I devoted an entire book to … Continue reading There are a lot of lonely people out there, & they deserve a book of stories

Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 4: “Need I say, dear friend, that to the brim my heart was full?”

  Excerpts from Book 4 of Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, on his time home from college. Other excerpts are here.   Why should I speak of what a thousand hearts Have felt, and every man alive can guess? Book 4: 33-34 Delighted did I take my place again At our domestic table; and, dear friend, Relating … Continue reading Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 4: “Need I say, dear friend, that to the brim my heart was full?”

Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 3: “Unknown, unthought of, yet I was most rich”

Excerpts from Book 3 of Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, on his years at Cambridge. Other excerpts are here.   Things they were which then I did not love, nor do I love them now: Such glory was but little sought by me, And little won. But it is right to say That even so early, from … Continue reading Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 3: “Unknown, unthought of, yet I was most rich”

Don Henley’s Mesopotamian Connection: “The Boys of Sumer”

I’ve tried submitting this to many prestigious journals of Ancient Near Eastern history, but no one seems to believe that the following pretty much a word-for-word translation from some dusty cuneiform tablets: Nobody on the road Cuz roads ain’t been invented yet I feel it in the air Babylon stinkin like a bitch Inundated river, … Continue reading Don Henley’s Mesopotamian Connection: “The Boys of Sumer”

Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 2: “The self-sufficing power of solitude”

Excerpts from Book 2 of Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude. Other excerpts are here.   Thus the pride of strength And the vainglory of superior skill Were interfused with objects which subdued And tempered them, and gradually produced A quiet independence of heart. And to my friend who knows me I may add, Unapprehensive of reproof, that … Continue reading Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 2: “The self-sufficing power of solitude”

Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 1: “Invigorating thoughts from former years”

Excerpts from Book 1 of Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude. Other excerpts are here.   Time, place, and manners, these I seek, and these I find in plenteous store, but nowhere such As may be singled out with steady choice – No little band of yet remembered names Whom I, in perfect confidence, might hope To summon … Continue reading Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 1: “Invigorating thoughts from former years”

“the shining days when the world was new”: Virgil Greets the Spring

From the second of Virgil’s Georgics, translated by David Ferry: It’s spring that adorns the woods and groves with leaves; In spring the soil, desiring seed, is tumid, And then the omnipotent father god descends In showers from the sky and enters into The joyful bridal body of the earth, His greatness and her greatness … Continue reading “the shining days when the world was new”: Virgil Greets the Spring

Voices behind the words : An interview series with writers (Interview #12, Jonah Finn of Crime Poetry)

Originally posted on Real Free – Flowing Words:
Welcome readers to another entry on “Voices behind the words: An interview series with words. This is the 2nd time I’ve had a trifecta of writer interviews on this series. The other time was in February. I digress, this time around I spoke with the poet Tim… Continue reading Voices behind the words : An interview series with writers (Interview #12, Jonah Finn of Crime Poetry)

“The sun sets into the sea to simmer”: 4 poems at The High Window

Many thanks as always to David Cooke over at The High Window, who just published four new poems of mine in their spring issue, and are the last batch before The High Window Press brings out my entire collection of poems from ancient Europe, Bone Antler Stone. Please also consider following them on WordPress, Twitter, and Facebook, … Continue reading “The sun sets into the sea to simmer”: 4 poems at The High Window

Wallace Stevens, “Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour”

Here’s the twenty-third psalm of American poetry, & the place where Wallace Stevens brought so much of his complexity (despite his usual high-falutin title) to a stunning simplicity. It’s also a great love poem:   Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour Light the first light of evening, as in a room In which we rest … Continue reading Wallace Stevens, “Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour”

The Great Myths #31: The Child Krishna & the Universe in His Mouth (Hindu)

One day when Rāma and the other little sons of the cowherds were playing, they reported to his mother, “Kṛṣṇa has eaten dirt.” Yaśodā took Krishna by the hand and scolded him, for his own good, and she said to him, seeing that his eyes were bewildered with fear, “Naughty boy, why have you secretly … Continue reading The Great Myths #31: The Child Krishna & the Universe in His Mouth (Hindu)

The Poet Speaks #13: Richard Wilbur & John Berryman: “The artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him”

Even though I’ve never read a word of his poetry, John Berryman has been haunting me lately. Two friends who are also poets that I admire deeply have both praised his work, and recently I’ve come across remarks from a handful of Berryman’s peers, reflecting on his life and his suicide in 1972. Here are … Continue reading The Poet Speaks #13: Richard Wilbur & John Berryman: “The artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him”

The Great Myths: Climbing the World Mountain (To the House of the Sun)

autographed copies of To the House of the Sun are always available directly from the publisher at 40% off (includes shipping), by clicking here   SELRES_1bdcfa3c-300a-48ef-b10e-893100acd61SELRES_1bdcfa3c-300a-48ef-b10e-893100acd& the mountain I ascended came from heaven: & the rock I walked on broke away once long ago from the vault of heaven— & so as I walked, I … Continue reading The Great Myths: Climbing the World Mountain (To the House of the Sun)

The Great Myths #30: The Holy Grail Appears (Middle High German)

The story of the Holy Grail’s appearance to a young man named Perceval/Parzival/Parsifal, is told in many places, and goes something like this: he comes by chance upon the Grail Castle, and is introduced to a wounded man, the Fisher King; during a feast that night, the Grail appears, and if only Parzival would ask … Continue reading The Great Myths #30: The Holy Grail Appears (Middle High German)

In Praise of Imperfection: Adolescent Whining, the Black Death, & How We Live Today

…here is a section (from a small book of essays) that one reader has asked me to post here, as I work on revising the entire thing… Like many of us, as a lonely and vaguely unhappy teenager I justified a natural tendency towards silence and social awkwardness with the thought, Why would I want … Continue reading In Praise of Imperfection: Adolescent Whining, the Black Death, & How We Live Today

The Poet Speaks #11: George Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Philip Levine, Stephen King, Seamus Heaney: “struggling erring human creatures”

George Eliot, on empathy: The greatest benefit we owe to the artist, whether painter, poet, or novelist, is the extension of our sympathies…. Art is the nearest thing to life; it is a mode of amplifying experience and extending our contact with our fellow-men beyond the bounds of our personal lot. The only effect I … Continue reading The Poet Speaks #11: George Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Philip Levine, Stephen King, Seamus Heaney: “struggling erring human creatures”