Sunday, July 31, 2011

"Watching Fog Roll Off The Shack At Toad Hall Pond"

Watching Fog Roll Off The Shack At Toad Hall Pond

This white-picket life once was dangerous:
snow caves in winter, quicksand in summer.
Nothing in this world was sacred.

I ran away through backwoods, through nettles
and poison oak, scrabbled over barbed wire.
This American life once was dangerous;

it took my every immunity to rush the Brahman
in the field. Now I walk as though on clover.
Nothing in this world can be sacred.

Each of my children is a dandelion clock.
I foreknow their sail over this river in the sky.
This white-picket life once was dangerous

before such letting go, such letting slip
the cordage that bound me to any of my beloved.
Nothing in this world could be sacred,

not spring, not fall, the rouge of any Roman dusk.
This white-picket life once was dangerous
although it was a gross, disintegrating menagerie.
Nothing in this life is sacred.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011

This Writing Life... an excellent new post at the Cheek Teeth blog

Cam Scott Cameron Scotthas posted yet another stellar essay at Cheek Teeth -- about the joys and displeasures of living as a writer in these times.  It's a read lush with images and craftsmanship--readers of pulp/pop fiction beware!

"What It Takes to Make a (Writing) Life"

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Toad Hall
2330 Benton Road N. Haverhill NH 03774
Tel 603.787.9823

The editors and publisher of Toad Hall Press hope you will please join us Sunday July 31, 2011, 2–4 PM, to celebrate the publication of Damon McLaughlin’s chapbook, Olduvai Theory, winner of the 2011 Toad Hall Chapbook Contest. The party will be at Toad Hall, at the address shown above.

The author is flying in from Tucson for the launch of the book, and poets and writers from across the US will also attend.

Toad Hall is proud to serve wine from the Vineyard at Seven Birches, our neighbor, and the creations of chef Dina Dubey of No Thyme to Cook. We promise great poetry, food, and wine.

Please let me know if you can come! E-mail or telephone 603 787-9823.

Advance praise for Olduvai Theory:

From the dawn of history to the end of time, Damon McLaughlin’s ecstatic jeremiads and coruscating haiku-like lyrics trace the trajectory of civilization across cosmic Big Bang, Pangean pea soup, eons-long bebop to the extravagant hopes and daily despair of our own American good-night. “I don’t know if this is/our first sun dance or our last,” the poet warns, “but the drums are coming./They’re coming, and a new mutilation will begin.” These are urgent poems for our darkly emergent times. 

-L. S. Asekoff


In the face of predictions that earthly catastrophe is on its way, Olduvai Theory serves up poems that tear through the language like strife, as though freeing propriety from bondage: “I don’t know if this is // our first sun dance or our last, but the drums are coming. / They’re coming, and a new mutilation will begin.” They can also sidle up to you with the delicacy of the ephemeral: “Lights of the city / float / one thousand paper lanterns.” Often raucous and outrageous in tone – at times surreal and ecstatic, if not dark with foreboding, Damon McLaughlin’s poems possess an assured and commanding voice.

-Merrill Leffler


Damon McLaughlin's chapbook Olduvai Theory predicts "this great something's end" then asks "Why give it a name?" Like Matthew Arnold, McLaughlin knows that love is the only answer in the face of the unanswerable, "Come here my darling, my moonbeam, my honeybunch. / These are questions to which you are the only answer..." This powerful collection explores the beginnings and endings we face every day and culminates with the epic "A Day in the Life of America." You won't be disappointed.

-Shaindel Beers


Maria van Beuren
Editor-in-Chief, Toad Hall Press



Thursday, July 7, 2011

e.e. cummings' [love is more thicker than forget]

Yesterday's Poem of the Day at the Poetry Foundation was a great little cummings poem entitled "[love is more thicker than forget]," which originally appeared in Poetry magazine in 1939.  It's a very typical cummings piece with lots of wordplay, syntax play, and some breaking of the rules, so to speak, but it is equally typical that for all that entertainment, it's also meaningful: love ain't got no rhyme or reason and, when rightly felt, easily subsumes us.

The poem is composed of 4 quatrains written in an ABAB common verse, a ballad form used by many poets of the past (and of the present and future?) including Dickinson (who used a true ballad stanza of ABCB and to whom I will return to later).  This easy, consistent meter and rhyme scheme gives the poem a sing-song like quality, which adds to its fun--at least to this contemporary ear--and keeps the stanzas in neat little digestible packages.  cummings also employs a significant amount of alliteration, sometimes stretching the device across two lines, as he does with the "TH" sound in the poem's opening--"love is more thicker than forget/ more thinner than recall"--and sometimes squeezing it into a single line as he does here with "M"--"love is more mad and moonly."  In brief, soundPLAY is throughout.

But for all the play, there's some meat to the poem, too.  For all those comparisons--love is more than, love is less than, etc.--cummings' descriptions of love are unique and not at all inaccurate.  We all feel it, but who can describe it precisely? It's an irrational, gut feeling that cannot be precisely compartmentalized and explained; nevertheless, we all know it when we feel it--lust/love confusions aside.  Burn's "O my Luve's like a red, red rose" is nice but quaint.  I think I prefer the euphoric silliness of cummings' descriptions.

I prefer two of his descriptions most of all, and they are contained in the second and fourth stanzas respectively:
it is more mad and moonly
and less it shall unbe
than all the sea which only
is deeper than the sea

it is most sane and sunly
and more it cannot die
than all the sky which only
is higher than the sky

A few cool things happen here.  Although every stanza is an echo of every other because of the demands of the form, these two are more exact, which gives the last stanza punch and the poem closure.  "Moonly" (female) and "sunly" (male) are a nice pair, given the poem's theme, and of course the repetition of "only" helps bind the stanzas together.  It's interesting, too, each of those instances state how one thing and only one thing is more or less than itself: only the sea is deeper than the sea, and only the sky is higher than the sky. Is there a better metaphor for describing love at its largest ineffability?

But what I most enjoy about this poem is its reference in these stanzas to Emily Dickinson's "The Brain—is wider than the sky—". In this piece, Dickinson writes about the powers of the imagination, using both sky and sea in the way--more or less--that cummings does to describe love.  Substitute love for the brain in the Dickinson poem, and it still makes perfect sense (although the brain is much more Dickinson...). As to the power of either, both poets more or less have the same to say, illustrating how closely linked these two pieces are, though they were written maybe...80 years apart.

So, for all his unique cleverness, cummings' is a pilferer. Who was it who said "mediocre writers borrow, great writers steal"?  Eliot? Yet again that adage rings true.