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Thursday 28 October 2010




Irish mannequin in store window during Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Louisiana: photo by Carol M. Highsmith, January 2008 (Library of Congress)

No one asked me where I wanted to be born
said the store window mannequin, but if they had,
I'd have preferred almost anywhere to this festival
of false delights, where the distance between wishes
and dreams is equal to the distance between
promises and lies. That is, it doesn't exist. The deer
do not come down to the water to utter
their spontaneous cries. There's nothing here but concrete.
The deer are legitimately terrified. I too
am terrified. Morning in the canyon, then again night
in the canyon. The gap grows ever more wide
the way the light falls

on a diagonal, the night in its radial aspect
defying meditation. A moon rose in the mind and each thing there
picked up its radial aspect in the night.
Sometime in another other
wise completely ordinary
random century.

Slot Canyons, Page. Arizona: photo by Carol M. Highsmith, May 2009 (Library of Congress)


Anonymous said...

Responding so quickly to something so fine seems a little indecent, but I'm reminded of that Henry Green description of prose -- that "it is not quick as poetry" -- and then I feel a little better about saying something so quickly about your poem and Carol Highsmith's pictures. For me, this is the finest thing I've seen on BTP, and that is saying a lot. Everything connects energetically, logically and beautifully and clarifies perceptions I think I've had, conclusions I think I've reached and certain goals I think I feel certain about. Labels do tend to be invidious and I've never been able to warm up to "post-modern". For me "modern", which I grew up with, and which includes knowledge and appreciation of everything that came before, still works and is amazing when someone expresses something new and original. This is modern and amazing and the words and praise could go on and on.

Anonymous said...

Yes, well said, Curtis Roberts. I don't know much about the subdivided -isms of poetry, but I'm surprised if modernism expresses distaste for concrete; however, I like the remark by Auden "when civilization is becoming monotonously the same all the world poetry, at least, there cannot be an "International Style".

TC said...

Thank you very much Curtis and Arthur, it is the kindness of generous (need I also say brilliant) souls like yours that encourages one on in one's continuing ... what's the word? follies? evasions? innocent pastimes? attempts at entertainment?

Now that modernism has surrendered its boldness and flamboyance along with its entitlement as an official avant-garde -- having been superceded in the wearying course of academic-consumer recyclings by the serial later -isms, toward none of which, of course, is it possible or permitted to feel warmth -- and so lost all the caché of danger and daring that once went hand-in-hand with the infamous willful obscurity, the closed coteries, etc. -- and thus in time become reduced to that wee timorous cowering thing, a bit of the trivium of history -- one feels toward it a curious and indeed growing fondness.

Not quite the same thing as nostalgia, though then again, for me, old stuffed playthings have never quite lost their charm, if only in memoriam. Anything for a scrap of false security.

(By the way, Curtis, credit where due, I must acknowledge that the usage of the word "random" in this poem in part reflects the influence of your daughter Jane and her peer group...)



In our parallel universes, "where the distance between . . . is equal to the distance between. . ."


light coming into cloud above blackness
of ridge, motionless leaves on branches
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

looking toward there, after
scanning the distance

being in the sense of it is,
i.e., in various ways

grey-white clouds above plane of ridge,
wingspan of gull flapping toward point

Anonymous said...

Continuing "with one's art".

That's true about modernism. I'm a bit nostalgic for the days when it seemed threatening, but you can never go back.

I don't especially mean to post as "abadguide", but it's the only thing I can get the machine to accept.


p.s. The word verification I have to type-in below, today, is "drityin", which is pretty close to the Norwegian for "I don't give a shit".

TC said...


Apologies for the Blogger hurdles and gauntlets, I hate to make this blog into a miniature version of the Spanish Inquisition, but there was such in intolerable volume of spam and such, finally I had to give in to the word verification machine.

Each bit of Norwegian I pick up from you is proving more useful than the one before. (In my imaginary conversations with imaginary Norwegian friends, that is.)

Have I ever told you, by the way, that I am actually a far better-selling author in Norwegian than in English (not that it would take much, but still)?

The notable text in question:

Tom Clark: Den gamle, langsomme historien om Vesten (Flamme Forlag, Oslo, 2009)

There's an interview with the translator at the back of the book, but I have never to this day been able to figure out what it says.

(We Americans are still working on being cultured people.)

TC said...

(Just so you'll know I am not making empty claims to fame among the fjords).

Sandra.if said...

I like that pic and words...!



And yes today too (10.30.2010), "in another other/ wise completely ordinary/ random century" ---


light coming into cloud above blackness
of ridge, black shape of leaf on branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

views from the edge of days,
events shape observer

time in seconds, written as
is, for the most part

silver of rain drop falling in channel,
wingspan of pelican flapping across it

Unknown said...


canyonesque, yes, I was just looking at images of deer
fording a stream (so it seems) on a wall at
Lascaux. and then, like an hour later, coming
over your awesome words, coupled, I might add,
with a reading od Pound's "Portrait d'une Femme" in between all of this, sped by four espressos on m hopme machiner and one at a local cafe. Bless your ever
magnificent voice, your gift, your song, etc. so utterly engaged with the world, the deer, etc. tis poem really brings tears to my eyes..

best, Neeli C.

Unknown said...

pardon my eyes

they make typos


Anonymous said...

Oh, great, I'll get it. Maybe I can translate the translator for you.

On that link it says:
Tom Clark har skrevet et sted om hjertet sitt: «My heart, then, though small, was full», og om dette enkle, men nydelige, verset sier Terje Thorsen, gjendikteren hans, at det også representerer Tom Clarks poetikk: en dyp empati og humanistisk innstilling til poesien. Det lille hjertet som fylles opp. Den store mannen som tar så liten plass. Blir det bedre? I boksingelen Den gamle, langsomme historien om Vesten får du et drøyt dusin av den litt tilårskomne amerikanske poetens beste dikt, de han selv mener har vært blant de mest slitesterke opp gjennom.

Tom Clark has written somewhere on his heart: «My heart, then, though small, was full» and about this simple but beautiful verse Terje Thorsen his translator says that it also represents Tom Clark's poetic (?): a deep empathy and humanistic sensibility towards poetry. The small heart that is full. The big man who takes up so little room. Is that better? In Singles Book The Old Slow Story of the West you get just over a dozen of the American poet's best poems that he himself believes have been among the most durable of them all.

Something like that.



Nice to find this again this "morning in the canyon," Irish mannequin in Halloween costume (10.31.2010), golden-crowned sparrows calling their spontaneous cries. . . .


light coming into fog against invisible
ridge, shadowed black of leaf on branch
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

what is left over, what not
yet accounted thought

vision, which is responding
to both, whiteness of

grey-white clouds reflected in channel,
shadowed green pine on tip of sandspit

TC said...

Many thanks Sandra, Stephen ("silver of rain drop..."), Neeli... sorry to be a bit tardy in answering, it's not that I didn't appreciate the great comments, but... er, sick leave.

Neeli, know what you mean (he squinted). The blind need never apologize to the blind. Lead us to your leader, quoth the blind man.

Arthur, that's awfully good of you, and what a thrill it is to learn what has been said about one in Norwegian.

I especially liked this bit:

"The small heart that is full. The big man who takes up so little room."

They've got the small heart part spot on. As to full, that's also correct, if one is allowed to count one's cardiac-retardant medications. (My ventricles runneth over with those.)

As to taking up so little room, that's literally the case lately as well. In this corner, over six feet long and weighing in at a puny nine and a half stone...

TC said...

Oh, and by the by, looking back over these comments I'm reminded we began with Curtis's mention of Carol Highsmith's wonderful photography. Those who have been following these last several posts will certainly echo Curtis's statement of admiration. It's my sense that Carol's tremendous work in surveying America, all of it donated to the Library of Congress, may well comprise that "missing link" we have long hoped to find, connecting-up the image of this nation which is the heritage of the great Farm Security Administration photographers -- Lange, Lee, Vachon, Delano, Wolcott, Rothstein et al. -- with these images of the America in which we find ourselves now.

A remarkable achievement.

I think perhaps many people may have missed Carol's gracious comments here.

I'm guessing she deliberately commented on a post that does not contain her pictures. I would take that sort of modesty as consistent with her whole remarkable endeavour.

It is a gift to all of us.

aditya said...

This one's a beauty ! And every ensuing comment as well. (how-should-i-say) What Fine people (?)

aditya said...

the deer still come down to the water
to utter their spontaneous cries

I have read this line some where else too Tom. Ofcourse I mean written by you.

Sometime in another other/ wise completely ordinary/
random .. poem.