Saturday, May 31, 2014


You don't go wrong with Bobby Byrd

Otherwise, My Life Is Ordinary
Bobby Byrd
Cinco Puntos Press, 2014
701 Texas Avenue
El Paso, Texas


On page 84 of Bobby Byrd's new book of poems

Otherwise, My Life Is Ordinary

I notice while reading a poem

about George Bush that Bobby

spells the name of Katharine Hepburn

as "Kathyrn Hepburn" —

he does it not once, but twice

I say to myself, "Now what's going on here?"

I'm sure but I google anyway because I can

and sure enough I'm right and Bobby is wrong

but I don't plan to say a word to him

or else he'll think I think his book is wrong

and all this book is is right

[ BA ]

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Land Lines
 an illustrated journey through the 
landscape and literature of Scotland
photographs by Marius Alexander and Paul Basu
Edinburgh University Press, 2001

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


The Everyday

The great storms

are behind you now.

Back then you never asked

why you were or

where you came from, where you were going,

you were simply a part of the storm,

the fire.

But it's possible to live

in the everyday as well,

the quiet gray day,

to plant potatoes, rake leaves,

or haul brush.

There's so much to think about here in this world,

one life's not enough.

After work you can roast pork

and read Chinese poetry.

Old Laertes cleared brambles

and hoed around his fig trees,

and let the heroes battle it out at Troy.

Erratic Boulder

What an extraordinary place

to settle on,

on a ledge, poised

on the brink.

Don't you value your own success?

Let Me Be Like the Dung Beetle

Sorrow has settled over me

and weighs me down in a warm straw bed.

Let me at least move,

test my strength, lift this slab of sod —

let me be like the dung beetle

in spring when it digs itself out from the dung heap.


If you can make a poem

a farmer finds useful,

you should be happy.

A blacksmith you can never figure out.

The worst to please is a carpenter.

This Is the Dream

This is the dream we carry through the world

that something fantastic will happen

that it has to happen

that time will open by itself

that doors shall open by themselves

that the heart will find itself open

that mountain springs will jump up

that the dream will open by itself

that we one early morning

will slip into a harbor

that we have never known.


Not By Car, Not By Plane 

Not by car,

not by plane —

by neither haysled

nor rickety cart

— or even by Elijah's chariot!

You'll never get farther than Basho.

He got there by foot.

Animal Grave

Just a hollow

in the ground now,

sunk down,

stones have covered it over,

earth and leaves

have filled it


You pause a moment,

it's hardly

worth noticing,

a deer hoof

would barely

trip over it

— not now. 

Mountains Don't Attract Me Anymore

The mountains don't attract me anymore.

I've lived long enough between cold snowfields.

I will find my way in the woods, listen

to fall wind, and stop at the frozen ponds,

engage with streams. Even late in the year

you can find good berries there.

You have to cross mountains if that's not enough.

Peaks stand there, so you know where you are.


How Long Did You Sleep?

Dare you do this —

open your eyes

and look around?

Yes, you're here

here in this world,

you're not dreaming,

it's just as

you see it, things here

are like this.

Like this?

Yes, just like this,

not otherwise.

How long did you sleep?

I Pass the Arctic Circle

A man on the train points out the cairn on the mountain.

We're passing the Arctic Circle, he says.

At first we don't see any difference,

to the north the land looks the same,

but we know where we're headed.

I wouldn't have noticed this little event

if I hadn't, one of these days, passed seventy.


(Norway 1904~1994)

The Dream We Carry

selected and Last Poems
translated by Robert Bly and Robert Hedin
Copper Canyon Press 2008

All translations above by Robert Hedin except where noted "RB" [Robert Bly]



Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Malcolm Ritchie

small lines on the great earth

Longhouse 2014
ISBN 978-1-929048-21-2

112 pages

By credit card, check
with easy to use Paypal ~

Choose US order or International order


 plus $2.00 shipping (USA)

For International orders, shipping is $22 air


Monday, May 26, 2014


longhouse : land of poetry


Buffalo Bill Cody

Hunter, scout, Indian fighter, showman; 
Buffalo Bill romanticized the West in his Wild West Show
that toured through Eastern U.S. and Europe. This photo
of the colorful character was taken in
El Paso in 1915 by the Feldman Studio.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


drawings © bob arnold

But where are the snows of yester-year?  François Villon

Let's talk a moment about this last long winter. There are a few things to be said.

I was recently in attendance at an early morning book sale in a small Vermont town. Geraniums nodding out in the front of the building with the sun, not selling and maybe too expensive, but it was a plant sale nonetheless and the mainly elderly women who were working well at it had modest hopes everything would go well. If I wanted to contribute to that thought, I was welcome.

But how long was the winter we had all just passed through?

I heard it spelled out by three old women talking as they rustled books for the sale onto a table with one already lamenting, "I have so little time to read. When do you both have the time?"

One woman stayed silent while the other jumped on her high horse. "My goodness, after this past winter and how looonngg it was, it was the perfect time to read books. And I did. Plenty!"

That pretty much buttoned up and nailed down the thought, constant on the country dweller's mind, of 'where is the time?'

The New York Times, and our governor, tell us that there is so much time and so much boredom and so much unemployment in the back hills of Vermont that the only remedy amongst the constituents is to get yourself addicted to heroin. Forget books. Trees. Cows. Fields. Mountains and rivers without end. Become a junkie.

Our old ladies weren't part of this. That was another Vermont. But it could easily be their neighbors.

By the way, where are the young women, never mind the young men and the young people in general at these plant and book sales? Are there no longer mothers and grandmothers nabbing their grandchildren by the ear lobes and dragging them at the crack of dawn to work over these grand socialist community events? Books for a dollar or so, plants all bright and rain revived, packed into the school where they went to school. It all seems part and parcel to how one should grow up. Assist where you have been. Assist what once assisted you.

For a short piece of our long winter we did watch, like clockwork, each Sunday, our fill of cherry pie "Downton Abbey". We enjoyed it while watching, and even talked it up after each episode with two neighbors we would meet on our daily hikes in the woods along the river, but overall this past year's series was uneventful. Forgettable. Dry toast. No pie.

Which then got us hooked into the legend of "Game of Thrones." One should have an opposite of the Downton cycle just for measuring the imagination and the mind, keep the juices flowing, enjoy some spunk. Not quite resorting to pornography, however "Game of Thrones" almost is. I like the dwarf Tyrion (the most expressive face) and I like the Hound (another face) and I didn't like at all Ned Stark losing his head since he remains the only champion in all the lot, but then there's Jamie, who is cute (until he cut off all his hair) and it doesn't seem to matter that he had his good sword hand chopped off — remember, he's cute. And how in the world I returned to even having any care for the guy after he pushed the little kid out of the tower window — yes, yes, I realize Jamie was in the throes of sexual orgasm with his sister when the little kid stuck his face into the room, but still, a little kid? pushing him to his death? Except the kid didn't die since we're in a fantasy, and in a fantasy you can get away with any damn thing you please. It isn't a book sale where 50% of the books are junk and heading to the dump. The real life dump.

I also like the very tall and noble and hair cropped blond knight in shining armor who I've never paid attention to get the name of. For me she's the-tall-tall-woman-good-with-a-sword. Who bonded with Jamie, and she's the next best thing to Ned Stark when it comes to honor and grace. She better not lose her head.

Today honor loses its head. We fail to realize and understand that we are, often against our best intentions, becoming the very worst of our abilities because of the company we keep. The company that has been given to us. The company we have accepted. The company we've even rejected. The company we have become. Be careful when watching any t.v. And the very best portion of a book is you can talk back to the book, close it up and put it down and take a walk, there's a reflective depth and quiet between you both as you make your rounds. You know the book is set on the table waiting for you to return. You can see it. There is a still life resonance. A book on a screen is just another t.v. Try to make your encounters reciprocal. Nice try creators of the fine film "Her" — but a girl in the hand isn't better than one in the bush.

As Sweetheart says about "Game of Thrones" television creators — not to be confused with the old fart in New Mexico stirring up in his cauldron the big, fat books the television show pulls its magic from — "It's 20 and 30 year olds writing this stuff, any thing goes."

Yes, while another Spring has come.

[ BA ]

A once upon a time book sale crew

Friday, May 23, 2014


Back Road Chalkies
Steve Sanfield

may 2014 
photo © bob arnold

Thursday, May 22, 2014


The longer he is gone and the longer we have to endure film critics who have none of the independence and verve of a Manny Farber, the longer we miss his good eye and writing and the longer we return to his books. I like to find mine as I go along, adding them to my short shelf Manny Farber library.

Negative Space
Manny Farber on the Movies
expanded edition
Da Capo Press 1998


Alan Lau
Happy New Year of the Horse!

mail art we have been receiving from Alan and Kazuko for decades!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014



A Black Kite

These long cool days at the end of spring

begin with a soundless blaze at sunrise

above the distant rim of the valley

all day clouds gather and clear again

as I remember other cold springtimes here

through the coming and going of years

the losses the changes the long love come to at last

with the river down there flowing through it all

under the clear moment that never changed

in all that time not asking for anything

still the wren sings and the oriole remembers

and every evening now a black kite

glides low overhead coming from the upland

alone not climbing the thermals not hunting

not calling not busy about anything

wings and tail scarcely moving as he

slips out above the open valley

filled with the long gold light before sunset

sailing into it only to be there


W.S. Merwin
The Moon Before Morning
Copper Canyon Press, 2014


Single the sky, pulled taut above earth

single the sky, above water. Bound

to bark and leaves. You are solo.

Blended into paint and forced into color

the song of a man in his bed at dusk

the sparrows lighting outside his window.


Peter Gizzi
In Defense of Nothing
Selected Poems 1987-2011
Wesleyan, 2014


Tuesday, May 20, 2014


Photograph: Anonyme

According to the liner notes of his first (self-titled) album, musician Bob Dylan dedicated the first song he ever wrote to Bardot.


Here we have 250 letters between two poet friends
 ~ 1973 to 2013 ~
spanning from the Sierra Foothills to a Kentucky hillside farm

Distant Neighbors
The selected letters of
Wendell Berry & Gary Snyder
edited by Chad Wriglesworth
Counterpoint 2014

Monday, May 19, 2014


The Blouse

The sound of waves came in at the open door; the smell of the sea
and of the sun-warmed earth came in too. It was expected that very
soon death would enter. A row of women sat outside the hut--they
were waiting to mourn and howl when death came.

The huddle of bones and withered skin on the mattress inside the
hut knew death was coming. Although the woman was childless and
had no husband, she knew that the women of her tribe would make
sorrow-noise for her when death came.

The eyes of the dying woman were glassy and half closed. I knelt
beside her and put my hand over her cold bony one. My blouse touched
her and she opened her eyes wide. Turning her hand, she feebly
clutched the silk of my sleeve.

"Is there something you want, Mary?"

"Good," she whispered, still clutching the sleeve.

I thought that she was dead, holding my sleeve in a death grip.
One of the women came in and tried to free me. Mary's eyes opened
and she spoke in Indian.

"Mary wants your blouse," said the stooping woman to me.

"Wants my blouse?"

"Uh huh--wants for grave."

"To be buried in?"

"No, for grave-house."

I understood. Mary had not many things now but she had been important
once. They would build a little wooden room with a show window in
it over her grave. Here they would display her few poor possessions,
the few hoarded trifles of her strong days. My blouse would be an

The dying woman's eyes were on my face.

I scrambled out of the blouse and into my jacket. I laid the blouse
across Mary. She died with her hands upon it.
Emily Carr
Klee Wyck
the artist and author's first book, published in 1941
Douglas & McIntyre, 2003 


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Saturday, May 17, 2014


"I was trying to make a piece that could be listened to and yet could be ignored."

"In January this year (1975) I had an accident. I was not seriously hurt, but I was confined to bed in a stiff and static position. My friend Judy Nylon visited me and brought me a record of 18th century harp music. After she had gone, and with some considerable difficulty, I put on the record. Having laid down, I realized that the amplifier was set at an extremely low level, and that one channel of the stereo had failed completely. Since I hadn't the energy to get up and improve matters, the record played on almost inaudibly. This presented what was for me a new way of hearing music — as part of the ambience of the environment just as the colour of the light and the sound of the rain were parts of the ambience. It is for this reason that I suggested listening to the piece at comparatively low levels, even to the extent that it frequently falls below the threshold of audibility."

Discreet Music ~ Brian Eno
Obscure Records 1975