Thursday, 19 February 2015
Sunday, 15 February 2015
First, here’s part of an interview from the US National Book Foundation Archives conducted by Diane Osen.
“Born in Detroit, Michigan on January 10, 1928, two-time National Book Award winner Philip Levine first began composing poetry at the age of 14, inspired by the flowering of a mock orange bush he had purchased with money he had earned washing windows.
“’I looked on the work my hands had wrought’, he recalled later, ‘then I said in my heart, as it happened to the gardener, so it happened to me, for we all go into one place; we are all earth and return to earth. The dark was everywhere, and as my voice went out I was sure it reached the edges of creation’.”
Unsurprisingly, in 1954 Levine went on to marry Frances Artley - a gardener! The couple had three children but Levine dedicated his professional life to writing -
"for people for whom there is no poetry ... the people I grew up with who brothered, sistered, fathered, and mothered me and lived and worked beside me. Their presence seemed utterly lacking in the poetry I inherited at age 20, so I've spent the last 40-some years trying to add to our poetry what wasn't there”.
Levine, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1995 for his collection The Simple Truth, served as US poet laureate 2011-2012 and died in Fresno, California on Saturday aged 87.
I found the poem below published in a blog by Michael Schiavo in August 2004.
“They spoke of the horse alive
without skin, naked, hairless,
without eyes and ears, searching
for the stable boy’s caress.
Shoot it, someone said, but they
let him go on colliding with
tattered walls, butting his long
skull to pulp, finding no path
where iron fences corkscrewed in
the street and bicycles turned
like question marks.
“Some fled and
some sat down. The river burned
all that day and into the
night, the stones sighed a moment
and were still, and the shadow
of a man’s hand entered
“The white horse never
returned, and later they found
the stable boy, his back crushed
by a hoof, his mouth opened
around a cry that no one heard.
“They spoke of the horse again
and again; their mouths opened
like the gills of a fish caught
burst from the red clay walls, and
they said a new life was here.
Raw grass sprouted from the cobbles
like hair from a deafened ear.
The horse would never return.
“There had been no horse. I could
tell from the way they walked
testing the ground for some cold
that the rage had gone out of
their bones in one mad dance”.
© Natalie Wood (15 February 2015)
Wednesday, 11 February 2015
The doe kid being cuddled in this picture was barely 24 hours old when members of the Karmiel branch of the English Speakers Residents Association (ESRA) met her at Havat Rom, the Organic Goat's Cheese Farm in Kamon, Misgav, Galilee.
But before I give you my thoughts on the happy scene, I’ll recall a great cultural and political scandal here in Israel during the first Palestinian Intifada in 1989.
It happened when the renowned singer-songwriter, Chava Alberstein produced a version of the popular Passover melody Chad Gadya criticising Israeli policy and the army’s presence in Lebanon. It caused a huge outcry; at least one music shop owner threw out his entire stock of her material and the recording was temporarily banned from being played on several radio stations.
Now, read my own take on both the pictures and the seder (Passover meal) favourite:
Only One Kid
I’m the new kid,
But in the flash that set
my heart beating, Lailah,
Angel of Life, skipped past
my upper lip, so that
first sip of Mummy’s milk
tasted of all the world’s
woes just taught me.
I’m only a tiny kid,
but I know who made me.
Heaven decreed that Daddy’s seed
shaped me girl, not boy. Strong,
not weak. Long-limbed, velvet-eared,
worth a queen’s treasure –
far higher than any amount of zuzim.
Meeting me beneath her
apple bough, Eve foretold
I’d sail the flood, hear Sarah
laugh. Feed, shoe a hundred hapless,
Arameans as they wandered weary,
At least, she vowed, I’d not be
Azazel’s, sacrificed for others’ sins.
I’d dwell instead on Sinai’s
softer slopes; prance with Miriam’s
In this life, I‘ll reign again,
not destroyed by cat
or butcher’s blade,
then quite forgot.
Now, give me due place
among you, to end
on a joyous, rousing note,
with the singers,
not the sung.
I’m only one kid.
© Natalie Wood (11 February 2015)
Tuesday, 10 February 2015
Prize-winning Israeli poet, Ada Aharoni has asked that details of the US-based Syndic Literary Journal be distributed. She appears in the current, January 2015 edition.
LeRoy Chatfield, who founded Syndic in San Francisco and published it 1958-1960, re-launched it fifty years later in 2010 and the fest now appears on-line at syndicjournal.us.
Material on the site is available in both audio and text. To subscribe, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is neither charge nor registration involved.
Here’s a taster by Terry Scott from the August 2010 re-launch.
At time of publication, Scott was living in Hermosa Beach, California, concentrating on photography, song-writing and travelling.
“I awaken in the dark
and draw the blanket closer ‘round my hunched shoulders
while I ponder the luxury
of catching a bit more sleep.
Unfortunately, my bladder has other ideas.
I grope blindly for my shoes
and begin the long walk to the communal toilet,
crossing my arms in front of my chest as I stumble forward,
crossing my legs when I find it occupied.
I, like the other campers here,
squinting against a light which is neither moon nor sun.
We’re a motley bunch.
Our clothes, rumpled from sleeping in them,
match face wrinkles more pronounced from fatigue.
But, like many campgrounds where I’ve stayed,
we share a silent bond,
a camaraderie born of shared hardship and deprivation.
The normal defences fall away.
We smile at each other
and whisper “good morning” as we cross paths in this urban space
where the campers sleep fitfully,
dreams disturbed—not by the sound
of distant coyote howls—
but by the all-too-near cries of our children,
in pain and afraid;
by the foreign sounds of strangers
hunting their own sleep nearby.
We toss and turn,
grateful for the soft foot-fall of the nurses’ shoes,
silently padding in to check our babies’ vital signs,
in this space where we all
share one common name: “Mom”
and where privacy—for our children and ourselves—
is a valued, but non-existent thing.
As the morning sun streams through the window blinds,
painting a picket fence on the linoleum floor,
I feel a kinship
with all the other urban campers,
dishevelled though we may be…
some of us waking under bridges,
some of us in our children’s hospital rooms
but all longing
for a peaceful night’s sleep
in our own beds”.
© Terry Scott, 2004
(Written 1/26/04 at Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles)
© Natalie Wood (10 February 2015)
Friday, 6 February 2015
(With apologies to Mancunian poet,
Cathy Bryant and Verbatim Poetry)
Vining flowers from
vintage Balinese, your
sleek, elegant pima
jacquard dress slides on -
off! - with kid leather love.
Perfect for our garden wedding
and following spring soirée,
you’ll be forever rendered in
soft shades of earth and sky,
thence packed with deft,
minimal precision for our
(Based on a garment description from the Peruvian Connection catalogue, spring 2015)
© Natalie Wood (06 February 2015)