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“Cauldron & Drink” – New Poem at Crannóg

Many thanks to the editors of Crannóg, who published my poem “Cauldron & Drink” in their most recent issue. It’s one of my favorites from my upcoming book of poems from old Europe.  For readers outside of Ireland and the UK, I’ve pasted an image from the journal below, although I would encourage everyone to subscribe.   Advertisements

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Tao Te Ching #68 “This is the virtue of nonaggression”

Good warriors do not arm, good fighters don’t get mad, good winners don’t contend, good employers serve their workers. This is called the virtue of noncontention; this is called mating with the supremely natural and pristine. – Thomas Cleary   In ancient times the perfect officer wasn’t armed the perfect warrior wasn’t angry the perfect victor wasn’t hostile the perfect […]

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Tao Te Ching #64: “The most massive tree grows from a sprout, the highest building rises from a pile of earth, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a step”

What is at rest is easy to hold. What has not shown up is easy to take into account. What is frail is easy to break. What is vague is easy to dispel. Do it before it exists; govern it before there’s disorder. The most massive tree grows from a sprout; the highest building rises from a pile of earth; […]

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Tao Te Ching #63: “Do nondoing, strive for nonstriving, savor the flavorless, regard the small as important, make much of little, repay enmity with virtue”

Do nondoing, strive for nonstriving, savor the flavorless, regard the small as important, make much of little, repay enmity with virtue; plan for difficulty when it is still easy, do the great while it is still small. The most difficult things in the world must be done while they are easy; the greatest things in the world must be done […]

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Tao Te Ching #57: “the people simplify themselves”

Use straightforwardness for civil government, use surprise for military operations; use noninvolvement to take the world. How do I know this? The more taboos there are in the world, the poorer the populace is; the more crafts the people have, the more exotic things are produced; the more laws are promulgated, the greater the number of thieves. Therefore the sage […]

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Two New Poems from Old Europe

Bone Antler Stone: Poems

Many thanks to the editors of the Cumberland River Review, who just published two of my poems from old Europe, on burials in ancient Sweden and Russia. You can read them here. The full collection of these poems will be published next year by the High Window Press in the UK, under the title Bone Antler Stone. You can read more of […]

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Tao Te Ching #51: “this is called Dark Virtue”

The Way gives birth, virtue nurtures, things form, momentum completes. Therefore all beings honor the Way and value its Virtue. The honor of the Way and the value of Virtue are not granted by anyone, but are always naturally so. So the Way gives birth and nurtures, makes grow and develops, completes and matures, builds up and breaks down. It […]

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Robert Okaji (5 Poems)

Originally posted on Underfoot Poetry:
As Blue Fades Which defines you best, a creaking lid or the light-turned flower? The coffee’s steam or smoke wafting from your hand. Your bowls color my shelves; I touch them daily. Sound fills their bodies with memory. The lighter’s click invokes your name. And the stepping stones to nowhere, your current address. If the…

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Tao Te Ching #45: “Clear stillness is right for the world”

Great completeness seems incomplete; its use is never exhausted. Great fullness seems empty; its use is never ended. Great directness seems restrained, great skill seems inept, great eloquence seems inarticulate. Movement overcomes cold, stillness overcomes heat. Clear stillness is right for the world. – Thomas Cleary   Perfectly complete it seems deficient yet it never wears out perfectly full it […]

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Tao Te Ching #39: “Attaining unity”

When unity was attained of old, heaven became clear by attaining unity, earth became steady by attaining unity, spirit was quickened by attaining unity, valley streams quickened by attaining unity, all beings were born filled by attaining unity; and by attaining unity lords acted rightly for the sake of the world. What brought this about was unity: without means of […]

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Tao Te Ching #36: “Flexibility and yielding overcome adamant coerciveness”

Should you want to contain something, you must deliberately let it expand. Should you want to weaken something, you must deliberately let it grow strong. Should you want to eliminate something, you must deliberately allow it to flourish. Should you want to take something away, you must deliberately grant it. This is called subtle illumination. Flexibility and yielding overcome adamant […]

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Tao Te Ching #33: “Those who know others are wise; those who know themselves are enlightened.”

Those who know others are wise; those who know themselves are enlightened. Those who overcome others are powerful; those who overcome themselves are strong. Those who are contented are rich; those who act strongly have will. Those who do not lose their place endure; those who die without perishing live long. – Thomas Cleary   Those who know others are […]

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Tao Te Ching #32: “The Way is essentially nameless”

The Way is essentially nameless. Though simplicity is small, the world cannot subordinate it. If lords and monarchs can keep to it, all beings will naturally resort to them. Heaven and earth combine, thus showering sweet dew. No humans command it; it is even by nature. Start fashioning, and there are names; once names also exist, you should know when […]

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Tao Te Ching #29: “Should you want to take this world”

Should you want to take this world, and contrive to do so, I see you won’t manage to finish. The most sublime instrument in the world cannot be contrived. Those who contrive spoil it; those who cling lose it. So creatures sometimes go and sometimes follow, sometimes puff and sometimes blow, are sometimes strong and sometimes weak, begin sometime and […]

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Tao Te Ching #28: “Know the male, keep the female”

Know the male, keep the female; be humble toward the world. But humble to the world, and eternal power never leaves, returning again to innocence. Knowing the white, keep the black; be an exemplar for the world. Be an exemplar for the world, and eternal power never goes awry, returning again to infinity. Knowing the glorious, keep the ignominious; be […]

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Tao Te Ching #27: “Good works are trackless”

“Good works are trackless” Good works are trackless, good words are flawless, good planning isn’t calculating. What is well closed has no bolt locking it, but cannot be opened. What is well bound has no rope confining it, but cannot be untied. Therefore sages always consider it good to save people, so that there are no wasted humans; they always […]

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Tao Te Ching #26: “Gravity is the root of lightness”

Gravity is the root of lightness; calm is the master of excitement. Thereby do exemplary people travel all day without leaving their equipment. Though they have a look of prosperity, their resting place is transcendent. What can be done about heads of state who take the world lightly in their own self-interest? Lack of gravity loses servants of state; instability […]

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Tao Te Ching #24: “Those on tiptoe don’t stand up”

Those on tiptoe don’t stand up, those who take long strides don’t walk; those who see themselves are not perceptive, those who assert themselves are not illustrious; those who glorify themselves have no merit, those who are proud of themselves do not last. On the Way, these are called overconsumption and excess activity. Some people disdain them, so those with […]

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Tao Te Ching #23: “To speak rarely is natural”

To speak rarely is natural. That is why a gusty wind doesn’t last the morning, a downpour of rain doesn’t last the day. Who does this? Heaven and earth. If even heaven and earth cannot go on forever, how much less can human beings! Therefore those who follow the Way assimilate to the Way; the virtuous assimilate to virtue, those […]

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Tao Te Ching #22: “Be tactful and you remain whole”

Be tactful and you remain whole; bend and you remain straight. The hollow is filled, the old is renewed. Economy is gain, excess is confusion. Therefore sages embrace unity as a model for the world. Not seeing themselves, they are therefore clear. Not asserting themselves, they are therefore meritorious. Not taking pride in themselves, they last long. It is just […]

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Tao Te Ching #19: “Eliminate sagacity, abandon knowledge”

Eliminate sagacity, abandon knowledge, and the people benefit a hundredfold. Eliminate humanitarianism, abandon duty, and the people return to familial love. Eliminate craft, abandon profit, and theft will no longer exist. These three become insufficient when used for embellishment causing there to be attachments. See the basic, embrace the unspoiled, lessen selfishness, diminish desire. – Thomas Cleary   Get rid […]

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Tao Te Ching #18: “When the Great Way is deserted”

When the Great Way is deserted, then there is humanitarian duty. When intelligence comes forth, there is great fabrication. When relations are discordant, then there is family love. When the national polity is benighted and confused, then there are loyal ministers. – Thomas Cleary   When the Great Way disappears we meet kindness and justice when reason appears we meet […]

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Tao Te Ching #17: “Very great leaders in their domains”

Very great leaders in their domains are only known to exist. Those next best are beloved and praised. The lesser are feared and despised. Therefore when faith is insufficient and there is disbelief, it is from the high value placed on words. Works are accomplished, tasks are completed, and ordinary folk all say they are acting spontaneously. – Thomas Cleary […]

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Tao Te Ching #16: “Attain the climax of emptiness”

Attain the climax of emptiness, preserve the utmost quiet: as myriad things act in concert, I thereby observe the return. Things flourish, then each returns to its root. Returning to the root is called stillness: stillness is called return to Life, return to Life is called the constant; knowing the constant is called enlightenment. Acts at random, in ignorance of […]

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Tao Te Ching #13: “Favor and disgrace seem alarming”

Favor and disgrace seem alarming; high status greatly afflicts your person. What are favor and disgrace? Favor is the lower: get it and you’re surprised, lose it and you’re startled. This means favor and disgrace are alarming. Why does high status greatly affect your person? The reason we have a lot of trouble is that we have selves. If we […]

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Tao Te Ching #12: “Colors blind people’s eyes”

Colors blind people’s eyes, sounds deafen their ears; flavors spoil people’s palates, the chase and the hunt craze people’s minds; goods hard to obtain make people’s actions harmful. Therefore sages work for the middle and not the eyes, leaving the latter and taking the former. – Thomas Cleary   The five colors make our eyes blind the five tones make […]

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Tao Te Ching #10: “Carrying vitality and consciousness”

Carrying vitality and consciousness, embracing them as one, can you keep them from parting? Concentrating energy, making it supple, can you be like an infant? Purifying hidden perception, can you make it flawless? Loving the people, governing the nation, can you be uncontrived? As the gate of heaven opens and closes, can you be impassive? As understanding reaches everywhere, can […]

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Tao Te Ching #6: “The valley spirit not dying”

The valley spirit not dying is called the mysterious female. The opening of the mysterious female is called the root of heaven and earth. Continuous, on the brink of existence, to put it into practice, don’t try to force it. – Thomas Cleary   The valley spirit that doesn’t die we call the dark womb the dark womb’s mouth we call the source of Heaven and Earth as elusive as gossamer silk and yet it can’t be exhausted – Red Pine   The valley’s daemons never die, The valley called the dark world womb; The portal of the dark world womb They call tree root of sky and land. A hidden yet seeming presence, Use it and stay strong. – Moss Roberts

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Tao Te Ching #4: “The Way is unimpeded harmony”

The Way is unimpeded harmony; its potential may never be fully exploited. It is as deep as the source of all things: it blunts the edges, resolves the complications, harmonizes the light, assimilates the world. Profoundly still, it seems to be there: I don’t know whose child it is, before the creation of images. – Thomas Cleary   The Tao […]

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Tao Te Ching #3: “Not exalting cleverness”

Not exalting cleverness causes the people not to contend. Not putting high prices on hard-to-get goods causes the people not to steal. Not seeing anything to want causes the mind to be confused. Therefore the government of sages empties the mind and fills the middle, weakens the ambition and strengthens the bones, always keeping the people innocent and passionless. It […]

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Week of the Bomb: Thursday

What to make of any of these voices? This week’s posts—the words not of those protesting the bomb after, but of those who made and decided to use it—are the sum of something I have wanted to put together, quite literally, for years, and talking with my wife about each of them has convinced me that I have to at […]

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Week of the Bomb: Wednesday

Finally, voices from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When The New Yorker dedicated its entire August 31, 1946 issue to John Hersey’s Hiroshima, the editors wrote that they did so “in the conviction that few of us have yet comprehended the all but incredible destructive power of this weapon, and that everyone might well take time to consider the terrible implications of […]

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Week of the Bomb: Tuesday

Many of the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project had families in Europe, or were refugees from Europe themselves, and so the atomic bomb they were helping to make had an obvious adversary in mind. When Germany surrendered, however, many felt much less animus against Japan, and in part this conflict is narrated in the voices below. Also included […]

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Week of the Bomb: Monday

Impossible decisions remain impossible, even after they’ve been made. Following on yesterday’s post, here are the voices of those scientists and politicians who admitted the horror of the atomic bomb, but saw its creation and deployment as unavoidable; who felt caught up and even powerless in the equally inevitable march of scientific discovery; those who naively thought that such a […]

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Week of the Bomb: Sunday

With the anniversary of the Trinity Test just passed, and the anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki coming up, I realize the atomic bomb has been following me for years. The first book of poetry I ever owned was the anthology Atomic Ghosts, which featured dozens of poets responding to the nuclear age; and after I first moved away from home to […]

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Tim Miller (Bog Poems)

Originally posted on Underfoot Poetry:
LAST MEAL Their stomachs a bestiary only of grain during a time of feasting and boasting and meat, bellies a mush with the barely digested gruel of barley and rye and buttercup, goosefoot and hawksbeard, linseed and clover and knotweed, with spelt and yarrow all a last gnarl or bit of weight above the waist,…

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Don’t Be Such a Boar

After receiving an email from a reader interested in the mythology surrounding bears, I remembered my own obsession with the boar. This was written some time ago, and one day will hopefully be expanded for a small illustrated book. Forgive the in-line citations, which may be an eyesore, but it would take too long to turn them into footnotes. The […]

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Heaney’s Bog Poems (Forerunners)

Originally posted on Underfoot Poetry:
Here’s Seamus Heaney, first talking about his poems on the bog bodies of Iron Age Europe, in Dennis O’Driscoll’s Stepping Stones, and then the bog poems themselves, spanning three of his collections: Wintering Out, North, and District and Circle. Also, since I hope to do a post on the bog bodies at some point, interested…

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Virginia Slachman: Eden Park Meditation

Originally posted on Underfoot Poetry:
Eden Park Meditation i How odd that the days lengthen; the hours braced against a brittle sun that sears the lip of ice at the base of the black oak.                                          The ice and the sun are opaque and impenetrable, a sealed world. This world. The days don’t dwindle into twilight but linger so silently we hardly notice the future in these perplexed angles of light.                         Later, at the feet of the boxwood, night rustles anxiously, or is it merely the wind. No, there are certain tensions. The night wants what it is owed. ? ii Mornings, I walk the circular pond and the pond stares back. I won’t go near enough to see the distorted reflection staring up at me                                                          The sky is there; clouds shunt past, rapid as recognition, the sky a blank eye as is the sun. I stand at the edge, I am                                                                  a poor lot, my mind sees nothing useful. Not the world as it is, darkling sense, dear winged plume of thought . . . the pond and what is reflected–images of light on a blinded eye. What makes us think the water will tell us what it holds. ? iii Year after year the same: winter rushing towards us in a cool, blue cloak, pale and in a chilled clarity: Through the trunks of the thickest oak the day goes forward and that one wood thrush,…

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What’s a Genius to Do?

It’s been said of Picasso: “At the age of sixteen, he produced two paintings which were of academic perfection…. So what do you do with your life if you’re producing academically perfect works at the age of sixteen? Every step afterwards is an innovation.” Indeed, whether you like where Picasso went or not, it’s undeniable that he never stopped moving. […]

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On Friendship

I’ve been trying for ages to write about a friend from many years and cities and jobs ago, and the questions that have always trailed out from his story are, What do we owe our friends and family? What do we owe to the people we love? What kind of difference can we make in their lives? This friend had […]

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To Criticize the Critic

What use does criticism serve, if any? I’m thinking here of the reviews of books, movies, or music, whether the smallest notices in newspapers on up to book-length studies. Do some of us genuinely enjoy a good suggestion? Have we found a handful of voices that we trust, that feel like a friend, and so we’re likely to see or […]

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Go Ahead and Fuck Up

Not sure who the equivalent is for you, but Albert Camus was one of the first authors I found outside of Stephen King and Dean Koontz. The high school teacher who introduced me to him also laid an egg it took years to get over: the apparently insurmountable gulf between “popular” and “serious” literature; and so even more than other […]

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Prufrock & Other Observations (Forerunners)

Originally posted on Underfoot Poetry:
A hundred years ago, in June of 1917, the small Egoist Press in Bloomsbury, London, issued a book of poems by the American expatriate, T. S. Eliot, Prufrock and Other Observations. Much like trying to read the Bible after a religious upbringing, it is almost impossible now to read especially the first four poems—“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” “Portrait of a Lady,” “Preludes,” and “Rhapsody on a Windy Night”—without reference to the veneer, reputation, and sometimes repudiation, that have attached themselves to Eliot in the century since. (And many of the remaining poems make you wonder why that reputation took hold at all.) But here are all twelve of them. What an odd bird the book was then, and how strange so much of it still seems now. ? The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse A persona che mai tornasse al mondo, Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse. Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero, Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo. Let us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky Like a patient etherized upon a table; Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets, The muttering retreats Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells: Streets that follow like a tedious argument Of insidious intent To lead you to an…

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Robinson Jeffers (Forerunners)

Originally posted on Underfoot Poetry:
Remember when poets made the cover of Time? It’s too bad the reputation of?Robinson Jeffers has pretty much disappeared; but read any of the following poems aloud and see if you don’t hear something brutal, beautiful, and essential. While he?seems to have staked his reputation on the longer narratives that pretty well fill his Collected Poetry, it’s his small, powerful lyrics that strike me as being as good as anything ever written. INSCRIPTION FOR A GRAVESTONE I am not dead, I have only become inhuman: That is to say, Undressed myself of laughable prides and infirmities, But not as a man Undresses to creep into bed, but like an athlete Stripping for the race. The delicate ravel of nerves that made me a measurer Of certain fictions Called good and evil; that made me contract with pain And expand with pleasure; Fussily adjusted like a little electroscope: That’s gone, it is true; (I never miss it; if the universe does, How easily replaced!) But all the rest is heightened, widened, set free. I admired the beauty While I was human, now I am part of the beauty. I wander in the air, Being mostly gas and water, and flow in the ocean; Touch you and Asia At the same moment; have a hand in the sunrises And the glow of this grass. I left the light precipitate of ashes to earth For a love-token. ?…

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Kitty Coles (6 Poems)

Originally posted on Underfoot Poetry:
Black Moon Season for walking out into white frost under the black moon. Feeling the grass bend, the cold enfold flesh, the dark draw closer. Scenting the wet earth, lying fallow: ice has its own smell. Tasting night on the tongue, cobwebby, thin, and the mouth’s own heat. Watching the breath steam, cloudy, abundant, twining with old leaves. Hearing the silence staking its own claim. Then – the keen owl cry sadly to fierce stars as once the wolves cried, walking here also. ? ? Daylight Fox We watch her circle the house, crouched low to the ground. Her hollow flanks flutter, in out, in out, and her fur, black-tipped, as if charred, shivers with them. She has sensed the warmth of breath, the throb of a heart. She has scented the rust of blood, its salt abundance. Her doggish ears tense forward. Her gilt eyes narrow. Her pulse comes fast and feet shift slowly, slowly. And we, behind the window, observe her progress, her imperceptible and ceaseless movement, and wonder where the thing she stalks is waiting, living and trembling, waiting for its death. ? ? The Girl Of Wood A quiet girl, this one: sometimes, she mutters, hushy and breathless, gibberish of her own, or groans deeply, on an autumn evening, her feet encased by damp, her hair wind-blown. A sturdy girl, this one, phlegmatic, stocky, her movements reluctant, her broad feet planted…

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Michael McGill (5 Poems)

Originally posted on Underfoot Poetry:
Documentary A woman in a documentary is frozen in my mind. She stands behind an asylum window and whispers in a foreign language. The subtitle below her reads, “Please let me out of here.” She is framed by the subtitle; framed by the edit of her portrayal. Finally, she is framed by the asylum itself.…

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Anglo-Saxon Poetry (Forerunners)

Originally posted on Underfoot Poetry:
Many thanks to David Cooke for contributing this week’s Forerunner, and it’s quite a treat. Below he has recorded a good portion of two Anglo-Saxon poems, “The Ruin” and “The Seafarer” in the original Old English. Also included is the original text, an English translation and, following “The Ruin,” David Cooke’s response to the poem,…

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New Poetry Series

To celebrate Walt Whitman’s birthday today, S4N Books is announcing their new series, Pocket Poems. It will feature classic long poems and books of poetry in small pocket-sized editions. The first three volumes are now available: the 1855 and 1892 editions of Whitman’s Song of Myself, and Alfred Tennyson’s elegy, In Memoriam. Future titles will include books by William Wordsworth, […]

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J. S. Belote (5 Poems)

Originally posted on Underfoot Poetry:
Boriska Snowmelt mangles gray potato fields, oxcarts rot & sink by dung heaps, & month after month the heaps rise—   I don’t care. Again the sky is opaque. &, still, wizened, Andrei goes on painting icons. In one he gives Christ a cloak the color of earth. He hangs it nonchalantly over His left…

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David Cooke (6 Poems)

Originally posted on Underfoot Poetry:
Gold Its lack of reaction has made it unique, that and the way it can magnetize fools: forty-niners, Midas, the futures mob— so gung ho, yet always dazzled by it, like urchins dreaming of gilded pavements. Locked in a vault, it validates paper. It’s what the rich cling to when the bubble bursts, smiling at…

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New Poetry Blog

I’m happy to announce the launch of a new poetry blog I’ll be editing, Underfoot Poetry. It will include original, unpublished work from poets around the world, as well as a series I call Forerunners, featuring influential poetry from the past. The first installments of both are up right now: six new poems from the British poet Daniel Paul Marshall, […]

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Is Shakespeare Just “Okay”?

Heresy of heresies perhaps, but is Shakespeare just “okay”? I love the idea of Shakespeare, and how enthusiastic actors get about him (Al Pacino and Kevin Spacey have both made wonderful documentaries about their affection for Richard III). I love reading about Shakespeare and imagining the life we know so little about, like those sixteen months that somehow gave us […]

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The State of Poetry Now?

Are poets today largely talking to themselves? Are many of them happy to do so, locked away in academia or whatever other cloister? Are the ones who want a wider public, and who want to take on larger subjects, just curating their shelf of books for future generations to find? I heard somewhere that after September 11, Bruce Springsteen was […]

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“To the House of the Sun”: Review

The historian, medievalist, and poet Jeff Sypeck has just published the most thorough review yet of my long poem, To the House of the Sun. The highlights are pasted below, but I encourage anyone to read the entire review here. And while you’re there, check out the rest of his blog, where he writes about other long poems, and all things medieval. Autographed copies of the book are still available here at a steep discount; simply choose the seller S4N Books. *** […] Tim Miller has joined a select group of quirky poets who feel called to contend with a neglected form, the book-length narrative poem, and what he does with it is brilliant. […] To the House of the Sun evokes millennia of faith, storytelling, and scholarship simply by committing to its orthography: from its first lines, it looks like the typed-up notes of a young scholar seized by inspiration as he transcribes and translates a cryptic inscription. Look closer, though, to see the designs of a careful poet: these lines mark where the singer’s words intersect time; alliteration evokes a sense of place (“the sands of Savannah facing the sea”); and psalmic repetition gives them incantatory power, affirming poetry’s roots in enchantment. This could be Gilgamesh, King David, or Hildegard of Bingen, and Miller honors that ageless mysticism here. To the House of the Sun sounds and feels like an ancient text, layered with fragments of sources and traditions, a […]

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Green waves of long old life (3 New Poems)

Many thanks to Sam Smith, editor of the Welsh magazine The Journal (formerly Of Contemporary Anglo-Scandinavian Poetry), for publishing three of my poems from Old Europe. Those outside the UK cannot subscribe, so I include a screenshot of my page below, but I would UK readers to check out the print edition. Other poems from this collection can be found […]

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To the House of the Sun: A Poem by Tim Miller

Buy the book here Visit the publisher’s website here Signed copies are now available at a steep discount, directly from the publisher—only $14.95. Order them from Amazon here, and choose S4N Books as the seller. December 16 The poet and historian Jeff Sypeck participated in Via Negativa’s year-end Favorite Poetry Book survey, and kindly wrote this about To the House of the Sun: The best poetry book I read this year was To the House of the Sun (S4N Books, 2015), Tim Miller’s epic poem about the travels of an Irish-born Georgian seeking revenge against his own father during the Civil War. Miller contacted me back in the spring because he found me online and thought I might like his work. He was right: To the House of the Sun is a sprawling, strange, deeply moving poem inspired by the the world’s great religious texts and definitely in conversation with them. It’s a difficult, harrowing, inspiring, incantatory book, and I’ve never read anything like it. September 28 The poet Daniel Paul Marshall had these good words to say about To the House of the Sun: Tim is the author of the American Civil War epic poem To the House of the Sun, which I have been fortunate enough to read. It isn’t just a work of literary pulchritude, but in addition, a work of scholarly dedication to a variety of traditions, myths, histories, traditions, of literature & the humanities generally. […]

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Classic Jam Hits

Going through my computer the other day, I found the .pdfs of these classic book sets, and thought to post them here for whoever wants them: Frazer’s The Golden Bough, The Mythology of All Races, and Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament. Whatever their limitations now, they are still great resources. I can’t remember where I found […]

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Their Great Buzzing (New Poem)

Many thanks to the editors of Concho River Review, who just published my poem “Neighborhood” in their Fall, 2016 issue. You can see the table of contents, and subscribe to the magazine here. (They previously published by essay “Blindness, War & History” in their Fall, 2014 issue) Since it is not available online, a screenshot of the poem is below […]

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Old Ritual, Ancient Travel, & Fire Houses (3 New Poems)

Many thanks to the editors of The High Window, who just published three new poems of mine. They are part of a larger sequence on the mythology, history, and archaeology of old Europe. You can read them here. For those interested in further info behind the poems, these are good starting places: Star Carr: Starr Carr – the official site […]

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6 New Poems

Many thanks to Chris Murray, editor at Poethead, for featuring six of my poems here. They include four poems from Orkney: Skara Brae Horses on Orkney Bone, Antler, Stone – Museum Pieces Cuween Chambered Cairn – (where the author photo comes from)  And two other personal favorites I’ve been looking forward to seeing published: Robert Oppenheimer Daedalus and Icarus  

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Conrad in the Underworld

Following yesterday, here is Book 31 from To the House of the Sun, and my version of the Underworld journey. In Books 29 and 30, Conrad has spent the winter of 1865 communing with the ghosts of the Donner Party at Donner Lake; but upon seeing his starved body suddenly rejuvenating, they flee, and he begins to sink through the […]

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Burials (2 New Poems)

Many thanks to Michael Bartholomew-Biggs, poetry editor at Londongrip, who just published two new poems of mine. They are from a larger sequence on prehistoric burials in ancient Europe. The poems can be found here. For those interested in more info on the burials, these are both good starting places: Vedbaek Finds Amesbury Archer    

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Living Orkney (Essay)

Many thanks to the editors of Living Orkney, who published a small essay on our trip to Orkney last year. Since few people outside of Orkney have access to the magazine, the article is pasted below. Each day there solidified everything I hold sacred about history, religion, poetry, and so much else, and I doubt I’ll ever exhaust the well […]

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John Donne: Holy Sonnets & Good Friday

There’s a sense that, eventually, somebody could have written much of the best of John Donne’s poetry. His tremendous blend of looseness (many of the poems can feel casually spoken) coupled with an almost impenetrable density and complexity, or his mixture of the erotic and humorous and newly-scientific in some of his love poetry, feel at times like they would […]

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Early Yeats (12 Poems)

A recent article tells the astonishing story about theatre majors who were unable to act out flirting: “Accustomed to soliciting one another via text, and more used to hookups than dates, this verb was no longer a touchstone for college students, and ‘flirting’ did not elicit any specific physical or emotional behaviors (sustained eye contact, light touch, smiling, playfulness) from […]

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Daniel Paul Marshall (6 Poems)

I would encourage anyone with an interest in poetry to check out the work of Daniel Paul Marshall. He has kindly allowed a handful of his poems to appear below, but many more are available at his website. Originally from England, he now lives on Jeju Island, Korea, where he runs a café and guesthouse which he built with his […]

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Kafka’s Diaries

  My recent post about Thomas Wolfe elicited a handful of comments like, “I loved to read him when I was young, but as I get older he no longer holds up.” My own versions of Wolfe are people like Hesse and Dostoevsky, but Kafka has remained one of those authors I latched onto in high school who has never lost […]

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George Orwell in the Coal Mines

As an addition to my last post, here is George Orwell’s complete description of going down into the coal mines of northern England, taken from the second chapter of his 1937 book, The Road to Wigan Pier.  The entire text of the book can be found here. *** When you go down a coal-mine it is important to try and […]

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George Orwell & Empathy

As usual, George Orwell says it better than anybody. Here he is in his 1937 book The Road to Wigan Pier, asking his readers not to give up using coal, but just to recognize whose labor is providing them with coal. Nowadays I would only add to the coal miner all the people behind all of our conveniences; because if […]

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Uma Instructs the Gods (Kena Upanishad)

And here’s one of my favorite bits from the Hindu Upanishads, chapters three and four from the Kena Upanishad. From the translation of Swami Nikhilananda: Brahman, according to the story, obtained a victory for the gods; and by that victory of Brahman the gods became elated. They said to themselves: “Verily, this victory is ours; verily, this glory is ours […]

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Thomas Wolfe

On this anniversary of Thomas Wolfe’s death, I’m reminded that every few years I turn around and he’s there again. Whether in influencing Ferlinghetti or Kerouac, or anecdotes about his editor Maxwell Perkins trying to beat his holy mess novels into some more coherent shape, or just his own troubled life, Thomas Wolfe always shows up. I still haven’t read […]

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Notebook 7: Varieties of Religious Practice & Belief

Notebook 7: Varieties of Religious Practice & Belief (As an appendix to Humility is Endless, the seven-part Notebook is a collection of connected quotations from scripture, interpretation, and history, which further illustrates the destructive nature of fundamentalist belief and religious certainty of any kind. My own commentary is the thread running through them all.) This simple sentence, found in a […]

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Notebook 6: Suffering & Justice

Notebook 6: Suffering & Justice (As an appendix to Humility is Endless, the seven-part Notebook is a collection of connected quotations from scripture, interpretation, and history, which further illustrates the destructive nature of fundamentalist belief and religious certainty of any kind. My own commentary is the thread running through them all.) One of the largest obstacles to belief in a […]

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Notebook 5: All Religions Act This Way

Notebook 5: All Religions Act This Way (As an appendix to Humility is Endless, the seven-part Notebook is a collection of connected quotations from scripture, interpretation, and history, which further illustrates the destructive nature of fundamentalist belief and religious certainty of any kind. My own commentary is the thread running through them all.) For insight into how much suffering is […]

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Notebook 4: Religion Against the World & for the World

Notebook 4: Religion Against the World & for the World (As an appendix to Humility is Endless, the seven-part Notebook is a collection of connected quotations from scripture, interpretation, and history, which further illustrates the destructive nature of fundamentalist belief and religious certainty of any kind. My own commentary is the thread running through them all.) The first way for […]

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Notebook 3: Religion as Mystery, & the Limitations of Knowledge

Notebook 3: Religion as Mystery, & the Limitations of Knowledge (As an appendix to Humility is Endless, the seven-part Notebook is a collection of connected quotations from scripture, interpretation, and history, which further illustrates the destructive nature of fundamentalist belief and religious certainty of any kind. My own commentary is the thread running through them all.) Near the end of […]

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Notebook 2: Religion & Originality

NOTEBOOK 2: RELIGION & ORIGINALITY (As an appendix to Humility is Endless, the seven-part Notebook is a collection of connected quotations from scripture, interpretation, and history, which further illustrates the destructive nature of fundamentalist belief and religious certainty of any kind. My own commentary is the thread running through them all.) One of the ways in which all religions justify […]

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Notebook 1: God’s Will & Interpreting History

NOTEBOOK 1: GOD’S WILL & INTERPRETING HISTORY (As an appendix to Humility is Endless, the seven-part Notebook is a collection of connected quotations from scripture, interpretation, and history, which further illustrates the destructive nature of fundamentalist belief and religious certainty of any kind. My own commentary is the thread running through them all.) As an addition to this essay, here are more instances from history where, to our peril, various contemporary events were interpreted as obvious manifestations of divine action. While the superficial justification for anti-Semitism has always been a variation on, “[Because] Jews suffered proved that Jews deserved to suffer,”[1] this is also generally true for everyone at some time or another: it is always assumed there is an obvious, divinely sanctioned correspondence between our religious or political or civic affiliations, and the fates of those religions and nations, even though there rarely is. Even worse, throwing such explanations on the sufferings of others allows us to ignore that suffering entirely, or even grin in assuming that it is deserved. The refrain is this: there is simply no reliable or coherent way to ever interpret material or political events of any kind, and of anyone, as the result of divine pleasure or displeasure. And so there is no basis for judging people of other political or religious persuasions when things go good or ill for them, or for us. Each of the following quotations suggests the folly, and attendant […]

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Viking Jesus

To see the ways in which a religion works, one of the best ways is to observe their missionaries and how they adapt stories created in one historical and geographic area, for people and places wildly different. On this point, nothing beats the ninth-century Saxon saga Heliand, which presents Jesus as a chieftain, prayers as runes, and refers to the […]

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The State of Poetry … in 1993

The following essay was published in the New Criterion in February, 1993, and reflects a view of American poetry from at least the 1970s forward. It’s quite depressing to read this two decades later, since the status of poetry as a subculture can’t help but be worse than it was then, and worse in part because the technology noted as […]

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Voices from 1900-1914

About a hundred pages into writing a novel that takes place in Vienna and Paris between 1897 and 1943, one of the best sourcebooks on the early part of the story has been Philipp Blom’s The Vertigo Years: Europe, 1900-1914. Below are a few dozen voices from that time, and while some of the accents and stresses may seem silly […]

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Week of the Bomb: Friday

What to make of any of these voices? This week’s posts—the words not of those protesting the bomb after, but of those who made and decided to use it—are the sum of something I have wanted to put together, quite literally, for years, and talking with my wife about each of them has convinced me that I have to at […]

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Week of the Bomb: Thursday

Finally, voices from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When The New Yorker dedicated its entire August 31, 1946 issue to John Hersey’s Hiroshima, the editors wrote that they did so “in the conviction that few of us have yet comprehended the all but incredible destructive power of this weapon, and that everyone might well take time to consider the terrible implications of […]

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Week of the Bomb: Wednesday

Many of the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project had families in Europe, or were refugees from Europe themselves, and so the atomic bomb they were helping to make had an obvious adversary in mind. When Germany surrendered, however, many felt much less animus against Japan, and in part this conflict is narrated in the voices below. Also included […]

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Week of the Bomb: Tuesday

Impossible decisions remain impossible, even after they’ve been made. Following on yesterday’s post, here are the voices of those scientists and politicians who admitted the horror of the atomic bomb, but saw its creation and deployment as unavoidable; who felt caught up and even powerless in the equally inevitable march of scientific discovery; those who naively thought that such a […]

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Week of the Bomb: Monday

With the anniversary of the Trinity Test just passed, and the anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki coming up, I realize the atomic bomb has been following me for years. The first book of poetry I ever owned was the anthology Atomic Ghosts, which featured dozens of poets responding to the nuclear age; and after I first moved away from home to […]

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Walking the Brough of Birsay, Orkney

Here is an astonishing walk from mainland Orkney to that tidal island, the Brough of Birsay, and the Pictish, Viking and Christian monastic ruins there. Certainly there are longer and more exhausting walks, and perhaps there are more beautiful places to end up, but I’ve never had such a total experience, a combination of effort and beauty, than what we […]

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A Gallery of Greeks & Romans

Talking with a friend about ancient Greece the other day reminded me of being in Athens back in 2007, and taking two days to wander through its National Archaeological Museum. The best part was all the faces, whether reliefs from numerous funeral stele, or the later busts of Roman emperors or other higher-ups. Nearly all of these are below if […]

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“I respond more to revelation”: Hart Crane on Fire

Perhaps because he embodied that rarest of combinations—the energy and enthusiasm of youth, and actual genius—there are few writers better at articulating the fire of creation than Hart Crane. The following selection from his letters carries Crane from his early twenties to a few years before he died at thirty-two: here is is writing The Bridge, becoming intoxicated with John […]

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