At the Frick

It’s been a while, but I can’t not post anymore. Please take a moment to visit the Bacopa Literary Review Editors’ Blog and read the post for today put up by Mary Bast, the Bacopa Literary Review Editor-in-Chief. My story “Eva” was published in the 2016 issue and was the 2016 Fiction Runner-up Prize Winner. Mary’s been very gracious and generous in her comments to me about the story, and now she’s taken them public. I know it’s not nice to boast, but I feel very honored to have a blog post about my work that starts with the mention of Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient), Alice Walker (The Color Purple), Russell Banks (The Sweet Hereafter) and  Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale ).  And then while you’re there, don’t just look at today’s post. Spend some time looking around. It will be time well spent.

And now for something different…

The pigeons in the picture are not  at the Frick. They’re part of a fountain at a former convent that now houses a school of art in San Antonio. The Frick is an art museum in New York. The poem below is a repost from a few years back.

At the Frick

In the museum, the bronze statuary,
Small enough to be held in hand, excites
You. The artist’s craft, his love of form both
Transparent, his hand invisible, his soul,
Poured like liquid stone, became these figures,
And we become the air through which they move.

Yet in a poem, I could give you more
Than these perfect bodies. I could give you
All of their warmth, all of their hue, and more.
I can give you the sun in a blue room,
Balconies with no way down, salt-laced rhythms
Of tides, sea birds unreachable. But still
I can never see nor feel in the cold
Dead bronze the things you see, the things you feel.

Originally published in A Matter of Mind, Foothills Publishing, 2004.
© copyright 2004, 2015, 2017 Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic Blog.
All rights reserved.

Am I still blocked? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

green bed

Go ahead — hit that space bar.

I have some writer friends that I know will recognize an exchange similar to this:

“You should get out if these dreary rooms, Henry. They’re half the reason you’re blocked.”

“Am I blocked? I’d just thought of myself as a slow typist.”

“What do you do, hit the space bar once a day?”

John Updike in “Bech Panics” in Bech a Book (1970)

Just my way of saying, like I said in the comment on the last post, I’m coming back. Just watch this space. Things have happened.

Enjoy your day —

 

About the Muse

 

Contemplation

Contemplation (c) JH Saling

“The words and phrases that describe the erotic happen to be the same that apply to poetic inspiration: pleasure, a deep satisfaction, mystery, unknowing, a chance encounter, the unpredictable, a letting go, a giving over, a giving into, a forgetting of the self, and the getting of a gift.”  (John Foy, writing in The Raintown Review Volume 12 Issue 1, March 2014.)

 

The following poem originally appeared in Poet Lore (1985) and was later included in A Matter of Mind (Foothills Publishing, 2004)

Encounter

Her child-combed hair that smells of hay,
Thighs dusted with plowed earth,
She sheds her patterned dress and climbs
The attic stairs to me,

Where we collide among the cries
Of angry springs, sterile
Thrusts, and pain of ruined farmers’
Sons. A shotgun across

His chest, her father sleeps. Look. Smell
The sweat of honest work.
This girl works as hard as any
Man. Now she’s mine, until

Dawn, when he and I see her work
The fields, saddle shoes filled
With air next to school books along
The road that melts in light.

© Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic, 1985, 2004, 2014.

 

And while we’re on the subject of the farmer’s daughter, let’s listen to Crystal Bowersox. Her work is pure inspiration. Her words pure poetry.

 

Remains of the Season

Check out this latest post at Roxi St. Clair. (And then spend some time roaming the site. You’ll be glad you did.)
It demonstrates an excellent understanding of the Haiku Sensibility and how to apply it in English poetry. The only suggestion I would make if I were editing the poem would be to consider the word “at” rather than “to” in the fifth line.

The Partridge Part 1

IMG_4132On the Poetry Editors and Poets list on LinkedIn, there is an ongoing discussion on what exactly is stream of consciousness and how is it used in poetry. One poster has called for members to post examples of stream of consciousness poetry. Here is my contribution. It is a poem I wrote when I was in graduate school and entered in a competition for graduate student poetry. It won honorable mention.

The Partridge, Parts I & II
A Riddle and Proposed Solution
By
Joseph Saling

Poetry has become incestuous.
Conversation with a friend,  May 18, 1981

 Donald E. Carr points out that the sense impressions of one-celled animals are not edited for the brain. “This is philosophically interesting in a rather mournful way, since it means that only the simplest animals perceive the universe as it is”.
Annie Dillard, 
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Icarus fell because he believed
one could soar too high.
In my yard, flowers
restore a sense of order to chaotic days.
In my house, the books scream at me
from many rooms.  I’ve lost all power
to see or know or dream
of Michelangelo, of works that aren’t
and never could be.  In my yard
foremost resides a sense of order.
You know who I am.  Look down.
You’ll find me trampled under foot.

The quail exploded
from the weeds and pheasants stretched
their necks and lifted
their bodies in flight.
We made fires in the cleared fields.

Mowers cut the air
with noise. In the yard
I come and go, dreaming of
Michelangelo.
My hand smells of gas,
sweats on the vibrating chrome,
lifts to take a beer.

There’s never silence,
even when the work is done;
freeways never cease.

They grumble like gods’ stomachs
taking Modern Communion.

In a theater, as in Plato’s cave,
shadows flicker on the wall.  Here there are
no truck sounds, no incessant pounding, no
backing machines with warning whistles;
only frozen iotas from the past
that pass into our future.  Celluloid sound
walls that block the roar from Boeings crying
as the sky, molecule by molecule,
is swiftly subdued.  That was 43,
and none of us was eager to go.

One crazy one night
shot off his own toe while we
waited for the boats.
We all envied him
being the only sane one.

Television light,
pulsating energy, strokes
the blades of a fan,
causes it to slow,
even reverse direction.

Now there is no noise;
the sound’s erased them
all, even the memory
of crickets, only
an electric whine
and voices almost human
on mid summer nights.

You weren’t there to see.
My Lai
’s only a match flame.
We built other fires
.

You could pass your fingers through
the fan, it moves so slowly.

You know who I am.  The one on the bus
with the misshapen head.  The one who
embarrassed you with too loud talk.
It’s my eyes that you refuse
to look into, so mine teach you nothing.
You see me talk to myself, and sigh
to get off.  In all this world
there’s only idiots who see what is.

Visions are easy.
I saw the lighted tree once
in October blaze.
I saw a boy fall
reaching to pick an apple.

No one buried him.
He fell and was drowned.
I heard his parent warn him
that that would happen,
and he believed it.
No quail were left in the field.
We’d created yard.

Mowers cut the air.
In my yard I come and go.
I trample flowers,

and in them find a dead bird
my cat has brought home to share.

 © Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic, 1981, 2014

Comets

Comet Hale Bopp

Comet Hale Bopp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the next few weeks, if it doesn’t destroy itself and the sun doesn’t burn it up, Comet ISON just may put on one hell of a show. Enthusiasts have already called it a “comet of the century” and dubbed it a “Great Comet.” Within just a few days, this very small space rock — only about three miles across — will slingshot around the sun, traveling at .2 the speed of light and passing within 730,000 miles of the sun’s surface. Using only gravity as a propellant, it will dance across our sky with a show that, if the predictions are even remotely accurate, will dazzle, amaze, and stay with you for a very long time.

Perhaps you’re already watching. Some people who rise early enough — at least an hour before dawn — and have a clear view of the lower eastern sky and have been tracking the comet with the aid of binoculars or a telescope have already formed a bond with this visitor from the outer reaches of our solar system. I know I’ve seen several comets in my life. But the one I most clearly remember and feel connected to is Hale-Bopp, the Great Comet  of 1997 that followed me half way around the world.

Hale-Bopp

We saw the comet Hale-Bopp stand still
Above the ocean at Ka’anapali Beach,
Just like the crow we saw one morning rise
In Boston, a black knight errant, holding still
Against the wind, and flapping its wings to stay
In place while others watched then rode the wind
Up through the sky — first one, then three, while the first
Held still, then dipped, then rose along their arc.

Again in Atlanta, we saw Hale-Bopp
And watched its tail that arced above Stone Mountain,
As stony as the frieze on the mountain’s face,
The infamous past held lifeless there until
A laser called it back and thundering hooves
Like in a page from Faulkner roared inside
The head of a thousand Hightowers then died
When floodlights splashed against the granite wall.

I once saw black Ogunquit sea birds skate
Across the water’s surface with their wings
Outstretched and necks pushed forward like a horse
Gaining speed to rise up from the waves,
A white spray arcing from their tails beneath
The granite cliffs and slate New England sky.

© Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic, 2004, 2013.

Our encounter with the visitor from afar, may be closer than we think.

Revision

As a writer, what type of relationship do you have with your creations?

Brian’s sense of humor isn’t right…

Revision:

© Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic 2013.

For another take — a magnificent take — on a writer and her character, you must see this video of a poem by by Astrid ‘Artistikem’ Cruz. Then visit the project website at the link below.

Here is the site: A Study on Character Development.

The Only Constant Is Change

Even the rate of change changes.

The following poem was originally published in Birmingham Poetry Review, No. 31, Summer/Fall 2005.

(Try playing the video and audio tracks together; just wait for the music to start before starting the audio.)

From the Choir Loft

Singing is twice praying.

On alternating days we sang the Mass
At seven, boys, then girls, then boys again.
Sometimes the only ones who’d show
To sing were me and Hal the organist,
And I could barely hum a note. Refrains
Eluded me, so Hal would sing it solo.

Now Hal had music in his hands and feet;
The organ‘s pipes were a part of him.
But when he tried for music from his throat,
Well, Father said it sounded kind of sweet
If sweet meant scratchy, hoarse, and thin
And not unlike the bleating of a goat.

Mosaic vault showing the Lamb of God, the Patr...

From Kyrie to Agnus Dei, Hal
Sang all the parts, sang treble, alto, bass
And never worried what the music said.
The words were all that mattered. Still somehow
He’d hit the final note then turn his face
And wink at me and proudly raise his head.

Hal quit the church when Kyrie became
The simple English Lord and anyone
Who wanted stood and strummed communal chords
For masses where the singing was the same
As elevator sap, and Hal seemed stunned
To learn that music is in deed the words.

© Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic, 2005, 2013.

Pain Shadow (on exhibit)

Congratulations to Robyn Lee on the acceptance of her fine work for exhibit by PainExhibit.org. Go see her post entitled Pain Shadow (on exhibit) on her Through the Healing Lens blog, But don’t just stop with the one post. Take the time to read her story and then wander through the images and words. It’s time well spent.

The Artist’s Focus

This is from an essay on Ingmar Bergman by John Simon published in the September 1972 issue of Film Comment. I’d like to hear your thoughts on it, especially on its implications for the artistic process.

“But no film maker — or novelist or painter [or poet(?)] — should be expected to concern himself with all facets of human experience, nor need he examine more than one at a time.”