Reprinting here some of the poetry I’ve published over the years, now that a few of the magazines they were in are either defunct or on hiatus. Hoping I’ve got the revisions right–looks like I never saved some of the final versions of these for myself.
If you like these poems, please feel free to link to them here or at the original publication (if available). If you are a poetry journal and would like to reprint these, please get a hold of me and we can arrange things (if emailing vikingsbooksetc at gmail doesn’t work [it hasn’t so far] please feel free to comment on this page–you can also look up my contact info under the Temporary Faculty page for the Department of Scandinavian at UC Berkeley, though that will only be good through Summer 2016, I believe).
A Stone-Age Man Confronts His Son (or, Ug’s Sonnet)
You call me Neolithic Luddite, which,
of course, is true, because I will not touch
the shiny tin, the copper spades now wrought
by young men where my father’s father sought
the perfect rock, soft earth’s hard veins with scarred
and calloused hands, the shaper shaped and carved
just like the tool. And so I frown upon
your metals, formed in hells stoked far beyond
the needs of life, a void of abstract stuff,
from context freed, to hold your mental fluff.
You know, I think, deep down inside, that much
is wrought which ought not be, lest tool in turn
upon us wreak a forced division, such
that mind would lose the earth, the given spurned.
Maybe sounds a bit pompous, but that’s (supposed to be) part of the fun. Not sure anymore how I feel about how everything works in this poem (I think I was 26 or so), but it was received fairly well by the journal that published it. This came out in the Summer 2007 issue of Rose and Thorn, and was eventually nominated by the journal for the Best of the Net. Didn’t win, alas, but that’s OK. Written while house-sitting for friends of a friend, and at that mid-point in grad school where what I was learning (ranging from phenomenological to anthropological literature) was finally starting to cohere meaningfully for me. Maybe random, but I remember also working through Humphrey Carpenter’s book on the Inklings at the time, and noted as well the extensive library of Joseph Campbell’s work at the place I was staying–Campbell being a theorist of myth whom I’d recently learned to view with more skepticism. Not that much of this is “in” the poem, but I remember all this being my context at the time. Rose and Thorn invited me back to write three guest blog posts, and I wish I still had a copy of those–I talked about Beowulf in preparation for the Neil Gaiman-authored movie in one post, and about the uses of poetry and Richard Rorty’s final essay before his death in another. If anyone associated with the journal still has these saved somewhere, I would love to have copies myself!
Frail cloth and wood shut out the greater Wood.
I wrap myself in pine-panel and glass,
the curtains drawn, a childish, flimsy hood
against the grown-up depths, footsteps which pass
unheard along the deck, upon the roof.
I shun the windows which I cannot hide,
where trolls might press their faces, living proof
the forest peers right back, big-nosed, wild-eyed
against the pane. The night draws close and old
about my shell, forbids yet beckons, “Come,
the secret beauty waits, plunge into cold
and hidden dark.” For scattered there, among
the shadow trunks, the deep ones call me, scars
of light which mark out greater depths, the stars.
This poem is still up at Ideomancer, a great free journal of speculative fiction and poetry. Click the link in the title of the poem to go there and see the illustration they chose, as well as my thoughts about the poem and its inspiration. Unfortunately I hear that Ideomancer has folded, but at the moment the site is still up and everything still available to read..
The Waves on Lake Vättern
These little waves which lap up soft and wet
against the supple sand, which mildly let
their fingers slip into the waiting hands
of footsteps left upon Lake Vättern’s strands;
these gentle waves which rend the satin air
are like those kisses we no longer share.
All the poems here were written mid-late 2000s, though they were published 2010-2011. This particular short piece is the only one I’ve published from all the melodramatic, sulky poems I wrote on a trip to Sweden after a breakup (2007, I believe)–so yeah, a bit cheesy. 😛 It was published in February in Everyday Poets, one of many poems that month with a bit of a Valentine’s theme, so I think the cheesiness is forgivable. Fingers crossed that I have the proper revisions inserted for this and the other poems I’d published at Everyday Poets–I’m afraid I didn’t update my own files to reflect the revisions.
I want to buy a telescope to see
the stars, the galaxies and nebulae,
alone, aloof and unconcerned with high
and low, with yes and no and in-between,
just sitting deep, significant or not,
in saurian spaces, glowing dinosaurs
of fairy-land who romp upon the floors
of heaven, timeless motion. Not like clots
of dirty flesh, the stars float clean outside
the sphere of consequence, ungenerous
they give and take, a beauty out of dust
with nothing dear at stake. So when the tide
of care has turned we’ll both look through the lens,
forget my “no” and swim the stars as friends.
Published on Everyday Poets. As with “Ug’s Sonnet”, this is from maybe 2005 or 2006–can’t remember for certain. One of those commenting on the poem noted (at length) that this wasn’t actually a sonnet, as, despite the form, it did not involve very much of a “turn.” Or at least, that’s what I remember of the now inaccessible comment (again, really hope Everyday Poets will get their archive back up online). I bow to the commentator’s expertise, since my own academic specialty is in Nordic poetry predating the sonnet form, and the only creative writing courses I’ve taken have been in fiction writing. She (the commentator) offered another term for the form, but I’m afraid I don’t remember what it was.
Sketches of Leaves
Spangle leaves, dark reds
of taut, ripe grape—
the mottled paper produce
of the growing freeze.
In the near heavens
these stars proliferate,
abound and over-abound
Flared, crisp shrapnel
on the pillared ground.
of winter’s harvest.
Published in Everyday Poets. I’m afraid I really have no idea if this is the version that was published or not–in my correspondence with the editors I see that one had offered some potential revisions for lines at the end of the middle stanza and the start of the final one, but I don’t think I ever got around to replying, and I think the poem ended up published in whatever form I’d sent it to them–possibly this form. Written in Fall in Berkeley, enjoying the (for California) fairly colorful autumn colors. One of the first times I tried writing a poem without following a fixed meter. Honestly, it was just a chance to get myself writing and play around with imagery, so I’m happy it eventually got to a point where it was good enough for someone to publish it!
A Rainy Day in May
A rainy day in May,
chill wayward sprinkles lit
through cracked clouds, sun oblique
and sneaky—though denied
full glory, still she lights
this concrete plaza, says
these blocks shall not reflect
a gray, amorphous sky,
but flame in sharp relief.
Bright banks of craggy light
become a summer space,
where winter’s echoes melt
and trickle earthward, catch
fire, seed the air with scent
of baptized clay.
My last poem published in Everyday Poets, in 2012. Written while sitting on a patio at UC Berkeley not far from the mining circle–afraid I can’t remember what that specific location is actually called. This poem, fortunately, I have the final form of, preserved in my correspondence with the editors. I didn’t follow all their recommendations, as I was trying to keep to a rudimentary sort of meter (counting syllables, but not going for regular rhyme or anything like that), so chalk up any shortcomings here to my stubbornness. I may redo this one day following all of their recommendations–I always appreciated the comments I got from the editors at EP.