Monday, April 30, 2012




one in all

mind in body

the strange in the ordinary

the ordinary in the strange

a swarm of bees

in an old chest

in the loft

of an abandoned



the mild soft

summer night

of my non-existent


covering me

with its huge

voiceless wings


comes in due time

your rough little cheeks

first snow


to someone

for the first

for someone

for the last



at all then let

me be a tiny



almost bodiless


nothing through

which can flow

the infinite

light of being

of becoming



of the night where

the flowing world

becomes fleetingly transparent

and on my right

your breathing

we have been

so thirsty

so silent

we two together

on the seashore sometimes

in Saaremaa


on the white piano


through the blue

stream of dusk

that carries

me with


with this house

this room

this you

I am ready

to go

to flow

it is good

like remembering

that I

have stored the matches

and firewood

for winter


thirst for you

the greatest

deepest longing

gives your hand

into mine

between your two phrases

between two glances

the wind

rustles over the forest



flows itself clean

little by little

perhaps we too


to take each other

by hand

back to the endless

purity of

this world


we have never

really left it



let me look

with your

gentle glance

through myself

through the twilight

that floods

our room

our world

Breitenbush Books, 1985

Translated from the Estonian
by the author and Sam Hamill

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Pretty Boy Floyd

Born in Georgia, raised in Oklahoma, Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd robbed banks. His range through the 1930s was in the Midwest and south central states. Following the death of John Dillinger in July 1934, "Pretty Boy" (he hated his nickname) was named Public Enemy Number 1.

In October Floyd's life would end when he was killed in an Ohio apple orchard by the police; the FBI were also in on the chase, led by the legendary lawman Melvin Purvis. The outlaw was 30 years old. A fellow Oklahoman, Woody Guthrie, wrote a terrific song to Floyd, and another northern midwestern boy is singing it here.

Pretty Boy Floyd by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore

A rare chance to hear Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore reading (and accompanying himself on zither) from his classic collection of shamanic poetry ‘Dawn Visions’, originally published by City Lights back in 1964, when the author was in his early twenties. The poems were written during explorations of mind and space in Mexico and California. As Moore describes it, a period of “immersion on the ocean of poetic inspiration, my near drowning in a sudden flood of imagery and pushing further and further, almost under water in it, surfacing to sing.” From a similar well sprung The Floating Lotus Magic Opera Company, which Moore founded in 1966, blending Zen Buddhism, music and dance of eastern folk theatre and Antonin Artaud into higher dimensions, performing their plays at night, in an amphitheater in North Berkeley, by torchlight.
In 1970 he renounced written poetry and became a sufi, traveling widely in Morocco, Spain, Algeria and Nigeria. Moore broke his silence in the early eighties and has since published numerous spiritually informed books

City Lights Books

Friday, April 27, 2012


back road chalkie
photo © bob arnold

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Wendell Berry

I've watched Wendell Berry's NEH speech (linked below, go for it). He's not a great speaker, too dry, a bit feeble (don't blame him, it's hard work having a conscience), lacking a humor that is important to start into and thread a long speech, though a few in the audience admit to their opening moments of nervous laughter.

Of course the speech has a great theme: affection, and written well by the farmer/poet who has shown the same in many of his best poems.

I note almost all the past NEH speakers are from safe ground: no Gary Snyder, no Noam Chomsky, no Susan Sontag, no Studs Terkel, no Amiri Baraka. We continue to die a slow death.

I have to say a color guard at the start of the program, and two holding rifles (loaded?), doesn't make me feel comfortable for anyone in the audience. Its choreography looked clumsy indoors, even a parody. Recent blitzed minds holding US service rifles and what they have done with them is inches from one day one of these militants turning it on the audience. Or the speaker.

The aura of the pre-speech felt like faded glory. A much younger writer should have been chosen to read the Berry poem ( we are talking here of sustainability, right? ). I know they have young and authentic Kentucky poets and writers all over the blue grass state. Our moderator had to make sure the speech afterwards was thoroughly rinsed with bleach by saying it didn't reflect the opinions of the US government (to say the least!). Somehow it is lost on those in power that a poet, teacher, farmer, neighbor, essayist like Berry — who has made a lifetime of books (and readers) to fill whole shelves and with the potential of being stocked in every library around the world — is the voice of the citizen, and so the greater voice of any government.

Of the writers Wendell Berry bravely learned and quoted from: Wallace Stegner, Wes Jackson, Albert Howard, Aldo Leopold and even E.M. Forster — except in their regional roosts (Leopold/Wisconsin etc) just go try to find these authors' books in your local bookstore. You say you no longer have a local bookstore? Ah, yes, more of the problem.

Wendell Berry is hardly a modern Henry David Thoreau, as he's often described. That distinction might better be served by his friend the late Harlan Hubbard. Get out there and beat the bushes for Hubbard's "Walden" of a sort — his masterpiece volume Payne Hollow.

It's long been known Berry doesn't use a computer. I'm far but a good example for one using modern conveniences — though it could be argued that one, like Berry, who calls himself an environmentalist and is often championed as one — is, in fact, out of touch with the current environment without a computer. Before your backwoods brains boil over, think about it. In this case, a computer as tool. As accessibility. As electronic pathway and still keeping all the trees. As canoe. Some computer users have the agility to glide.

For this speech Thoreau would have definitely shown up open collared, quoted John Brown, Walt Whitman and perhaps passages from the Gita, and told the authorities there would be no speech until they get rid of the armed soldiers who have nothing to arm at such a speech. He would have made some people unhappy. Some of those unhappy would then make their own stormy speeches and articles how Thoreau once almost burned down his town with a got-away grass fire. All true, he was an adventurous young man. Balanced and sustained everything he touched with an exploratory and inventive way. To this day he has no one, like John Muir in the west, who can rival his hardscrabbled and persistent methods. A whole other era, a whole other heaven — a time of foot-to-mind powers. Both fellows were hikers, dreamers, doers, travelers, mystics, working authors, field hands, respectful trespassers.

Wendell Berry is a farmer in the truest sense, with a long family heritage. I can close my eyes and imagine this speech being said on a milking stool, late in the day, dim lights in all the barn windows, and everything in the barn, including the pesky swallows that nest, falling peacefully asleep.

photo: guy mendes

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Sunswumthru A Building

building books
by bob arnold

Of all toolboxes yanked from trucks, or automobile trunks, lifted out of back seats, or even carried in as a canvas bag, I never saw a book tucked away in one. A book is about the last thing ever spotted on a job site, and usually it is a tossed away manual for some equipment. But I read books on the job — sandwich in one hand, Basho in the other hand. I would carry my books in my lunch pail. Though because I read, I often earned the nickname “Preacher.”

So it isn’t any accident I still bring books to my building job sites, now thirty-five years at it and going strong. I started out as a boy carpenter working for my family lumber business and those jobs were mostly modern quick-built homes. A dynamo crew could nail up a half-dozen homes over one summer. I soon moved to Vermont and worked with building crews here or there, but really I worked best alone or with one companion helper. There were countless old homes I worked on, repairing stonework to carpentry. One of my strangest jobs was helping an owner build his large house — mostly I was there to show him how to frame and he would carry on when I had to be away — though his one demand for the house was that he wanted no windows, just a front door. Since he lived the greater part of the year at a university job far from his new home, he was wary of vandals and wanted to keep any out by keeping any windows out.That was until I reminded him how vandals could just as easily chain saw an entry into his house to rummage inside, steel door or not. On hearing that, he agreed to put a few windows in. Small ones. Since this friend was a university librarian, we talked books and writers from sun up to sun down on the job and then on the long drives he gave me back to my home.

In the year 2000, I began to build a cottage on our land with my fifteen-year old son, Carson. A two-story, timber-framed, steel roofed and wood side-shingled building, boxed out with many windows since I have been storing salvaged windows from other jobs for years. No better place to draw the daylight and save on wall material.The cottage hunched on a wide stone ledge and was a complete bugger to hand lay dry stone upon and under the building frame, but we did. A month long chore. And during that time Carson and I talked music and books and films and even reminisced about the trips we did together as a family on trains, and we also fought and fussed a little because it was hot work and because we are father and son. Building this cottage together — twelve feet wide by eighteen feet long — would be the first leg of Carson’s home school studies. A program that kept him happily away from the local high school and into percolating sessions of book learning and back work earning, as they once used to say. When Carson asks what books meant the most to me as a builder — including the books I would bring along to jobs as companions — whether they had anything to do with building or not, these are the ones that always spring to mind. A neat dozen. Someday, we will have these books on a shelf in the cottage when we’re done.

Working and Thinking on the Waterfront by Eric Hoffer (real worker/real writer)

The Long-Legged House by Wendell Berry (real farmer/ real writer)

Payne Hollow by Harlan Hubbard (husband & wife homesteading quiet team)

The Rock Is My Home by Werner Blaser (my bible for stone work and its environment)

Indians in Overalls by Jaime de Angulo (no better writer to start you at dirt level)

The Granite Pail by Lorine Niedecker (no better poet for the fine point flowing details)

The Selected Letters of Robinson Jeffers ed. by Ann N. Ridgeway (who made his West Coast days around legends & stone)

The Celtic Twilight by W. B. Yeats (this could be inter- changed with Synge’s The Aran Islands: both ultimate, tidy, lunch pail companions)

The Sign of Jonas by Thomas Merton (the other ultimate, tidy, lunch pail companion)

. Ian Hamilton Finlay by Yves Abreioux (in the evening, after work, to sit and visit with this craftsman’s world)

A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander et al (no better on towns, buildings, construction worldwide)

The Folk Songs of North America by Alan Lomax (because there should be a song in your working head)

photos © bob arnold

In all my years since writing this essay and finding more & more books to tuck into the lunchpail, it was the recent one by Malcolm Ritchie that came my way via an island in Scotland that has had me tucking it into my pail all the last week. I'm surveying over a stone outcrop that I plan to start building a small dry stone structure on through spring, summer and fall and this book has been going with me as I carry tools and my lunchpail up to the wooded spot. Chapters short and powerful, vividly setting me immediately in and around the rice fields and thatched homes, with hearth fires of a small village life in Japan. Ideal to perch onto an old stonewall where I am 'stealing' my stone to make a new stone place, where one day someone can arrive and sit inside (large enough for one, or two who are adorable) and read awhile from a born classic like this. The size of the book, by the way, is pitch perfect in one hand, strong bound and cover photograph and logistics just asking to be carried along with you.
A companion.

click onto photographs to enlarge

Tuesday, April 24, 2012



Rain all day —
The lilacs bow


Rain all day
Heads to ground
Geese graze


Rain all day
What is green
Is greener


Rain all day
The bucket splashes


Rain all day
Tulips fold


Rain all day
I run again
Like a kid


Rain all day
Rain all night

photo © bob arnold

Monday, April 23, 2012


Diane di Prima

"Poet Laureate of San Franscisco and feminist revolutionary icon Diane Di Prima has inspired so many of us for over 50 years, whether we know it or not. She was one of the only women of the Beat Generation and was instrumental in shaping the way we view gender based politics. She was homies with Ezra Pound! She has published over 4 dozen books of poetry! She is the mother of 5 children!!

Diane is undergoing a series of painful and difficult surgeries, including having all her teeth removed. Without going into any more details, let's talk about what we can do for a woman who did so much for the advancement of women. If you or someone you know has been inspired by Diane personally or by her large body of work over the last 50 years, please donate anything you can to help her get through this intensely difficult time and the many operations that she is about to go through. Your donation will go towards rehabilitation and medical costs."


photo : bill wilson

Sunday, April 22, 2012


update on Congressman Don Young (R) of Alaska:

Visit my November 21, 2011 post on Young and his humiliating treatment of author Douglas Brinkley here

the guardian u.k.



It seemed like
they were
waiting for
us when
we reached
the bottom
of the trail

and it
was their
or sons or
we passed
on the

going up —
these three
women from
India with
dresses and

skirts and
and scarves
waiting on
a bench in
the woods
I had to

if I

you should
have seen
their smiles

earth day 2012

photo © bob arnold

Saturday, April 21, 2012


This is a stunning book to find in any bookstore or library waiting on the shelf. Portrayed with the same quiet essence and shy qualities of the photographer, Vivian Maier, who kept her life and work as a photographer hidden or unknown to almost everyone she knew.

The cover photograph sets the standard — the photographer in half shadow, and of course on the street, eye on us.

Interior photographs are full page, resonant, and untitled, we are spoken to by the photographs, very little text. What text there is will be inched in by the hardworking curator of all things Vivian Maier — John Maloof — and the astute essayist Geoff Dyer. It's all win~win.

Vivian Maier (February 1, 1926 – April 21, 2009) was born in New York, grew up in France, and returned to the US at age 25. She worked for almost forty years as a nanny in Chicago's North Shore. During those years she produced 100,000 photographs, primarily of people and cityscapes outdoors and most often in Chicago. She was, according to the families she worked for, very private, spending her days off exploring the streets of Chicago and taking photographs, most often with a Rolleiflex camera.

For a brief period in the 1970s, Maier worked as a nanny for Phil Donahue's family.

Her photographs during her lifetime remained unknown, even untouched and in most cases undeveloped until they were discovered by a local historian, John Maloof, in 2007.

Toward the end of her life, Maier was homeless for a period, living on her Social Security and making do. Some of the children she had taken care of in the early 1950s bought her an apartment in the Rogers Park area of Chicago and paid her bills. Good Samaritans. In 2008, Maier had a mishap on ice and struck her head. She never fully recovered and died in 2009, at age 83.

I've selected some photographs from the book below interspersed with John Maloof's recollections about the photographer.


I acquired Vivian's negatives while at a furniture and antique auction while researching a history book I was co-authoring on Chicago's NW Side. From what I know, the auction house acquired her belongings from her storage locker that was sold off due to delinquent payments. I didn't know what 'street photography' was when I purchased them.

It took me days to look through all of her work. It inspired me to pick up photography myself. Little by little, as I progressed as a photographer, I would revisit Vivian's negatives and I would "see" more in her work. I bought her same camera and took to the same streets soon to realize how difficult it was to make images of her caliber. I discovered the eye she had for photography through my own practice. Needless to say, I am attached to her work.

After some researching, I have only little information about Vivian. Central Camera (110 yr old camera shop in Chicago) has encountered Vivian from time to time when she would purchase film while out on the Chicago streets. From what they knew of her, they say she was a very "keep your distance from me" type of person but was also outspoken. She loved foreign films and didn't care much for American films.

Some of her photos have pictures of children and often times it was near a beach. I later found out she was a nanny for a family on the North Side whose children these most likely were. One of her obituaries states that she lived in Oak Park, a close Chicago suburb, but I later found that she lived in the Rogers Park neighborhood.

Out of the more than 100,000 negatives I have in the collection, about 20-30,000 negatives were still in rolls, undeveloped from the 1960's-1970's. I have been successfully developing these rolls. I must say, it's very exciting for me. Most of her negatives that were developed in sleeves have the date and location penciled in French (she had poor penmanship).

I found her name written with pencil on a photo-lab envelope. I decided to 'Google' her about a year after I purchased these only to find her obituary placed the day before my search. She passed only a couple of days before that inquiry on her.

I wanted to meet her in person well before I found her obituary but, the auction house had stated she was ill, so I didn't want to bother her. So many questions would have been answered if I had.

Unfolding the mystery of Vivian Maier

The original flickr discussion

The media on Vivian

New York Times LENS

Friday, April 20, 2012








The Claudius App is proud to announce the publication of César Vallejo's "Lost" Interview, published in the Heraldo de Madrid in January 1931, recovered, translated, and generously annotated by Kent Johnson. Over coffee with the Heraldo's interviewer (Q: César Vallejo, why have you come here? CV: Well, to drink coffee.), Vallejo discusses precision,Trilce in relation to its predecessors and contemporaries, and a non-extant then-forthcoming volume of poems, The Central Institute of Labor. This is the sole record of the great poet's conversation, and the first appearance of it, unabridged, in English.

Jeff Nagy & Eric Linsker

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Levon Helm

May 26, 1940 – April 19, 2012

Ah, a huge loss to music, acting, neighbors, friends, mankind.

To each of us.

Just listen to him sing, you'll hear it.

It must be 1968 or so and I am reading an interview with Jimi Hendrix and there's the guitar god speaking like an excited kid about a band by the name of The Band.

Hendrix mentioned an album titled "Music From Big Pink".

What in the world? I thought.

Immediately I went out the door, down the drive, along the sidewalk of houses and dogs and friends until I came to my small town and kept walking, to the Main Street
and into the red doors of Woolworth's and there in the record bin, about three wide,
was the album Hendrix had spoken about. Praised to the heavens. New in plastic and $2.95.
Capitol Records.

I bought it with little money I owned.

Played the record to death.

And still play it.

I was a drummer then and Levon was a drummer, one who sang with a great side whip charging southern voice. He was calvary.

Decades later we raised a son and he became a drummer and of course he took to Levon like every drummer I ever met did. One day he called Levon, who he didn't know, and Levon certainly didn't know him, and it was just after Levon's throat surgery for cancer and he spoke quite awhile to this young sixteen year old drummer.

I could get tears in my eyes thinking of that quality of man.

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down by The Band on Grooveshark

by the way ~
this wheel's on fire is a terrific read
title taken from a terrific song
and one of the
top-notch books ever published
in this country on music,
musicians and the road


W.G. Sebald

For how hard it is

to understand the landscape

as you pass in a train

from here to there

and mutely it

watches you vanish.

Crossing the Water

In early November 1980

walking across

the Bridge of Peace I almost

went out of my mind

At the Edge

of its vision

the dog still sees

everything as it was

in the beginning

October Heat Wave

From the flyover
that leads down
to the Holland
Tunnel I saw
the red disk
of the sun
rising over the
promised city.

By the early
afternoon the
reached eighty-
five & a steel
blue haze
hung about the
shimmering towers

whilst at the White
House Conference
on Climate the
President listened
to experts talking
about converting
green algae into
clean fuel & I lay

in my darkened
hotel room near
Gramercy Park
dreaming through
the roar of Manhattan
of a great river
rushing into
a cataract.

In the evening
at a reception
I stood by an open
French window
& pitied the
crippled tree
that grew in a
tub in the yard.

Practically defo-
liated it was
of an uncertain
species, its trunk
& its branches
wound round with
strings of tiny
electric bulbs.

A young woman
came up to me
& said that al-
though on vacation
she had spent
all day at
the office
which unlike

her apartment was
air-conditioned &
as cold as the
morgue. There,
she said, I am
happy like an
opened up oyster
on a bed of ice.


W.G. Sebald
translated by Iain Galbraith
Across the Land and the Water
(Random House, 2011)

'I don't think one can write from a compromised moral position," remarked the German writer WG Sebald, who has died, aged 57, in a car crash in East Anglia. That scruple put him at odds with much of contemporary writing.

Scorning the Holocaust "industry", and what he referred to as an official culture of mourning and remembering, Sebald disliked feel-good sentimental portrayals of terrible events - such as Thomas Keneally's Schindler's Ark. He claimed no false intimacy with the dead.

He wanted to find a literary form responsive to the waves and echoes of human tragedy which spread out, across generations and nations, yet which began in his childhood. In the ruined cities and towns of post-war Germany the causes of the destruction of an entire society were never discussed. His father, who came home a stranger to his three-year-old son in 1947, after being released from a POW camp in France, said nothing about the war. Silence and forgetting were conditions of his early life.

read more

(the guardian. u.k.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Alan Chong Lau's painting for the Year of the Rabbit
sent to Bob & Susan
via mail art

Alan & Kazuko still live at the same address
where we went to visit and stay with John Levy
Seattle 1979 ~
When John moved out, A & K moved in
No fuss, no muss

We went back some years later and arrived at dawn
too early to knock at any apartment door
so we walked the pleasant neighborhood
and called all the house cats from their porch stoops,
many came!

Then we went to knock at Alan and Kazuko's door
but Alan had already left for his job
at a grocer's, so we bid Kazuko good morning
and headed down into the city, and there
was Alan, poet/artist, working in the vegetable bins

We had a grocer's visit with Alan ~
Some years later published this booklet
of poems and drawings from Alan's grocer ways ~
we have all his paintings that were gifted to us
now in frames

Alan's Longhouse booklet
available from:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012



A poet friend from Scotland tells another to
Meet me in Vermont when she arrives

In our town we live for months & months
Both unknown to one another

Then a poet from North Carolina
Visits to read in town

He is friendly and speaks of
Poets he knows hereabouts

My name comes up
He nods my way

Unknown to me the woman from
Scotland is in the audience

This is how we meet

[ BA ]

photo © susan arnold

Monday, April 16, 2012


Peter Lamborn Wilson
Sloow Tapes

please click on image to enlarge

I love mail-art and have practiced it myself for forty years in all sorts of sending venues.

I also love receiving mail from outposts close to the earth, barely any funds, scratching together a great idea and running with it: music, poetry, film, art, anything handmade. The world won't quite end if we continue to make the hand~makers! So teach your children well, share with your neighbor, put your poems and art and music, one by one, into hands.

The Other World out there, of business and profits and arguments and fights, doesn't have a clue what any of this about. Much of the world continues to listen to dignified idiots, or actually think there needs to be a qualification as to a 99% and a 1%.

Well there is a difference and it's rather easy to detect: 99% counts their change.
1% doesn't carry change.

Sloow Tapes is out of Belgium and run by
bart de paepe

it's delightfully handmade and of immediate purpose: poets or musicians at work and prepared all on easy access cassette, with personalized inner sleeves about the performer and often art work to match the eye and meal. Good stuff.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


These 23 Days in September by David Blue on Grooveshark

Now and then you can walk into a used music store and if you're lucky get to hear a little gem like this song rolling. . .and even better find a copy of the LP tucked under other bins, on the floor, stuffed in a box, sort of like a coffin. Blue was young when he passed away from a heart attack while jogging in Washington Square Park in New York City, 1982, age 41. He had recorded eight albums, appeared in Bob Dylan's Renaldo and Clara, as well as Wim Wenders An American Friend and other films, and at one time his name was on the same breath and wavelength as his Greenwich Village folk musician cohorts Tom Paxton, Eric Anderson, Dave Van Ronk, Bob Dylan et al. A few words are in order to remember and certainly respect the memory of the man and artist — but really I want to share the song with you and have it play & play. Forever. It wasn't on the Grooveshark mammoth jukebox, so we loaded it on.