Cold Mountain poems

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Random Thoughts: September Edition

  • Humidity has made New England its home these past few weeks. The eviction notices don’t appear to be working.
  • According to translators Kazuaki Tanahashi and Peter Levitt, the famous Cold Mountain poems appear to have been written by more than one person over time.
  • Is that as shocking as Shakespeare wasn’t written by Shakespeare? Not quite, but I’m sure a few Hermit Hanshan fans might think so.
  • (Oh, and if you’re wondering, I’m on Team Shakespeare.)
  • Has anyone noticed how many women are running for political office this election cycle? What a wonderful “actions speak louder than words” follow-up to the Women’s Marches that occupied Washington in the days after the Electoral College Presidency took root.
  • Weeding. It’s a wonderful thing (once it’s done, I mean).
  • Baroque music, as exemplified by good old Johann Sebastian Bach, is a neat metaphor for the beauty of effective repetition and refrains in poetry.
  • Submittable has a cool filter button when looking over available markets. First you can click “poetry,” for instance, and then you can click “no fees.”
  • Now if only you could click “reading periods” and set up special columns for hand-picked periodicals.
  • Frustration #1: Journals that do not allow simultaneous submissions, but then take their time about reading your poems, effectively freezing them from consideration for whole swaths of time elsewhere.
  • Frustration #2: The Poetry World. Once you jump through the looking glass from the real world, you find yourself in a comforting, gut-reaction-from-Trump world where old white males are not the norm. All good*…
  • Asterisk*… except that old white male poets (motto: “I’m not dead yet!”) would be wise not to advertise their ages or give any hint of it in their poetry, as the Poetry World seems to like best elder poets of note (read: ones already famous). Beyond that, the journals are awash with Millennial poets.
  • Meaning: In the Poetry World, some would do their math just so: old + white + male = the new minority. Paying for the sins of their fathers, amen.
  • Bottom line of frustrations: If only race, gender, sexual orientation, culture, etc., didn’t matter. If only humanity and this brief license to life, as common denominators, mattered most. If only we’d drop the labels entirely and judge poetry on its merits as poetry alone, leaving differences at the publishing door.
  • Cold Mountain Poem #99, Dedicated to The Donald:

Greedy people are good at accumulating wealth,
like owls who love their young,
though when the children grow large, they devour their mothers.
Possessions are just like this.
When you give them away, you grow happy,
when you hoard them, it brings misfortune.
Owning nothing causes no harm,
like a bird flapping its wings in the great blue sky.

  • How’re the sales going, people? What? Not, so, and hot? Think the Little Engine That Could. It’s a great rallying image for every writer, no? I think I can, I think I can, I think I can….
  • I bring good tidings from the education world: Another reaction to what’s gone (way) down in Washington is the phoenix-like return of Civics in education. We have ordered Bill of Rights posters for every history classroom because we don’t want our rights to become history.
  • And how many Americans can actually name their rights as granted by the First Amendment?
  • Frightening answer: not as many as can name the Kardashian sisters and brothers and fathers and mothers.
  • Not wanting to end on a sour note, and in an attempt to encourage the cold snap of an early fall in New England, I leave you this reminder:

by Robert Frost

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if the were all,
Whose elaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the all.