The Vanishing Point

All these years
learning to verse, 
learning to draw, 
learning to live

with my skin on,
it dawns:
there's something sublime 
about the line.  

In the beginning was the word, 
the word nobody heard,
and only the shadow, 

only the shadow 
where the hell the line goes.


It isn't where

a line begins
or where it ends,
but whether it deems
itself feigned

or suddenly, strangely


punch line 





bottom line 





front line











hard line 



main line.

Says Rudolf Arnheim, the line that describes the beautiful is elliptical.  It has simplicity and constant change, and cannot be described by a compass, as it changes direction at every one of its points.  

This could also be said of the lyric poem, particularly before beauty, science, and the arts were divorced.  

Yes, my child, all things 
come from the wild. 
Even the arts were once

If pressed, yes, okay,

Ah, art, oh, modernism!  What have you made of the horizon, what have you learned from your physics, what have you done to the line ?  The one that vanishes into eternity, into the cloud of the imagined, the line that sweeps our visionary vision up the holy moly mountain or down the deep, dark, mysterious hall --  and in so doing, connects us all ? 

Well, the divorce was an ugly one, and I suppose to speak of art this way is pretty sketchy, a bit suspicious, a little too close to religio-speak for the age of reason and enlightenment.  

A poetic line is not a wall, 
but a turn in the sudden
scheme of it all, 

a breath 
that breathes before the fall, 
a calm that comes

before the storm,
a philosophic
casting call,

a silent 
that language is limber,

a word is a bridge,
and a poem is not a wall. 

North of Mist

Just north of mist,
along the border,
  half a color
from the water,

under the kiss
of shadow's daughter,
  (two breaths backward,
one word upward),

past the rumpled
terra cotta,
  down the salve
of templed sorrow,

up the scales
of Bach, and Buddha, 
     down the moon
of broken solder,

through the eyes
of someone's father,
    in the grass
beside the water;

one part liar,
one part seer,
    one part lyric,
one part scholar,

this is the walk
we come to wander, 
    one part illness, 
one part healer. 


(North of Mist first appeared in Poetry Magazine)


Colorada Labors of Love: Books, Beavers, and Beloveds

A review by Greg Hobbs of Belle Turnbulle's book, (Unsung Masters Series, Pleiades Press) appears in the current issue of High Country News. This is a book that my friend, David Rothman, fought hard to put into print.  A small bevy of us blurbed, reviewed, and sat on panels in order to bring Belle out of obscurity in the state and beyond.  Big thanks to Brian Calvert of High Country News for publishing it.  From Hobbs' review: 

I like best the gems Turnbull sets within that narrow band of wetland seeps, wildflowers and pygym forest located just above timberline.  This is where 'ancient mysteries' govern above and beyond homesteaders, timber-cutters, and forest regulators.  In her world, 

Magistrate and forester 
Exist forlorn in those rude airs 
Where dwell the ancient liberties.

San Miguel politician, poet, and old friend Art Goodtimes, shown here with Placerville's Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, was visiting a couple of weeks ago, on his way to gigs on the front range celebrating Belle.  He's written a wonderful review of her work in The Telluride Watch, and gives a lovely nod to our beloved Palisade Cafe 11.0: 

Dear friend Dave Mason, former Colorada Lariat, has sent me his new collection of essays, which I think is soon to be available to the general public. I've learned a good deal about essay-writing from him in recent years, and had read many of these essays before publication.  Only he can make me see Pound anew ...or send me back to Omar Khayyam afresh.  

My essay became lyric, fragmented, made up of associations as much as ideas, deliberately avoiding the yoke of a thesis.  -- David Mason 

Dave and his extraordinary wife from Oz,  Chrissy, (pen name, Cally Conan-Davies), are regular visitors of our home here on Trickster Ridge in Palisade: 

Dave has written an Ode to Colorado for Colorado Tourism, and they've created of it a visual appreciation of the state:

Love Letter to Colorado, David Mason

Chrissy's an extraordinary poet herself: 

Hudson Review

A couple of old Fruita friends, Cullen Purser and Dan Rosen have recently created a visual ode to Labors of Love, Sisyphean efforts, and the Colorada Beaver.  Cullen and his wife, Jeannine, own and operate Cavalcade, a venue devoted to nurturing the musical and performing arts, and Dan is the owner and founder of Lithic Books out in Fruita Land.  Both are old friends of an eccentric sort.  

Palisade artist Mary Mansfield doesn't seem to do an awful lot of self promotion.  Whenever I catch a glimpse of her down the hill, I always feel a little star struck.  Absolutely love her work:

Mary Mansfield, Palisade CO Artist/Sculpture

Jeff Lee and Ann Martin of Denver, founders of The Rocky Mountain Land Library, are the ultimate practitioners of the labor of love.  Here's an overview of their work from the New York Times:  

Rocky Mt Land Library

The Land Library also has a online presence, featuring poets and their works.  Here you'll find work from Edwards poet Jodie Hollander, who's been instrumental in getting the word out about the Land Library, old friend Uche Ogbuji, artist Meridith Nemerov, yrs truly, and others:  

GARO/Poetry/Rocky Mt Land Library

Meanwhile, it's been a warm, dry fall, and we are hoping to get a little bit of the wet stuff here on the western slope this weekend.  

I'll be demonstrating painting with alcohol inks at Solon Sanguinetti's on Friday night:

And I'll be presenting a short slide show, (poetry and art) at Mesa County Public Library for "Ignite", along with 11 others on Saturday at 1pm.  My thanks to coordinator and writer Rebecca Mullen, of Mesa, for inviting me to present.  

IGNITE GJ Sentinel


        -  Belle Turnbulle

Mountains cast spells on me—
    Why, because of the way
Earth-heaps lie, should I be
Choked by joy mysteriously;
    Stilled or drunken-gay?
Why should a brown hill-trail
    Tug at my feet to go?
Why should a boggy swale
Tune my heart to a nameless tale
   Mountain marshes know?
Timberline, and the trees
    Wind-whipped, and the sand between—
Why am I mad for these?
What dim thirst do they appease?
    What filmed sense brush clean?


Coyote Calls us to the Things of This World

The howl of the coyote is America's original national anthem.   - Dan Flores

Coyote Call

Love Calls Us to the Things of This World

                           - Richard Wilbur

The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul   
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple   
As false dawn.
                     Outside the open window   
The morning air is all awash with angels.

    Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,   
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.   
Now they are rising together in calm swells   
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear   
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;

    Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving   
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden   
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.
                                             The soul shrinks

    From all that it is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every bless├Ęd day,
And cries,
               “Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,   
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven.”

    Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world’s hunks and colors,   
The soul descends once more in bitter love   
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,   
    “Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;   
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,   
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating   
Of dark habits,
                      keeping their difficult balance.”


Wilbur had a way of keeping all the balls in the air .... -- AE Stallings


O Egypt, Egypt -- so the great lament
Of thrice-great Hermes went --
Nothing of thy religion shall remain
Save fables, which thy children shall disdain. 
His grieving eye foresaw
The world's bright fabric overthrown
Which married star to stone
And charged all things with awe.

And what, in that dismantled world, could be
More fabulous than he?
Had he existed? Was he but a name
Tacked on to forgeries which pressed the claim
Of every ancient quack 
That could from a smoky cell
By talisman or spell
Coerce the Zodiac?

Still, we summon him at midnight hour
To Milton's pensive tower,
And hear him tell again how, then and now,
Creation is a house of mirrors, how,
Each herb that sips the dew
Dazzles the eye with many small
Reflections of the All -- 
Which after all, is true.  

- Richard P Wilbur

(links from National Geographic, American Scholar, The New Yorker) 


On the Oppositional Element

The second volume of the Robert Frost Letters is out, and I've busted my budget to get my hands on a copy.  The first volume was lengthy and rich, and clearly only the tip of the trail.  A couple of fragments, from WH Pritchard's review (from the Fall, 2016 issue -- am catching up on my reading), Hopkins Review:

I was determined to have it out with my youngers and betters as to what thinking really was. We reached an agreement that most of what they had regarded as thinking, their own and other people's, was nothing but voting -- taking sides on an issue they had nothing to do with laying down.

Frost sets himself against "clash" in the classroom; debating and disagreeing was well enough for coming lawyers, politicians and theologians,

...but I should think there must be a whole realm or plane above that -- all sight and insight, perception, intuition, rapture ...Having ideas that are neither pro nor con.  The differences that make controversy become only the two legs of a body the weight of which is on one in one period, and on the other in the next.  Democracy, monarchy, puritanism, paganism, form, content, conservatism, radicalism, systole, diastole, rustic urbane, literary, colloquial, work, play. I should think too much of myself to let any teacher fool me into taking sides on any one of these oppositions. 

Of course this is the same guy who likened writing free verse to playing tennis without a net.   And of course he had his political views, but clearly he's  talking about the the classroom here, and particularly within the humanities.   

As a perpetual student and long time teacher, I'm left wondering what the classroom really is.  I've often said my two kids have been my greatest teachers.  The husband has taught me what love is.  And I've learned more from the scorpion, the ground squirrel, the scrub jay, and the mountain than I have in any classroom.  What's all that to do with humanities, or literature, in particular? My old friend Jack used to say, All learning is conversation.  

It would follow that I've been imagining Uncle Walt, Father Frost, and Grandmother Emily having a post-modern beer in a dusty bar called The American Sublime.  

When I come back to earth, it doesn't end well.  The beer too hoppy.  Walt makes a pass at Frost, Frost takes a poke at Emily, and she ends up eyeballing the door. 

In my own teaching or presenting, (often outside the halls of academia, and often within it, as an outlier), I've the luxury of saying things like: 

When we speak of writing formal poems, we often place an emphasis on the technical aspects: scansion, the integrity of the line, the requirements of the various fixed forms, etc.  In the midst of all this, it’s easy to forget that the reason versecraft exists is to create a vocabulary in which to describe what the ear already knows.  In other words, prosody, or the study of the meters, is useful in providing the terms with which to talk about poems, but not so much in the making of poems. 

More and more, students and facilitators are telling me they're interested in learning versecraft, are interested in the fixed forms, want to know what makes a sonnet tick, desire a working understanding of the iambic line, and even express an inexplicable interest in rhyme.    

On the one paw, I'm delighted New Formalism (a movement I've long been associated with, though I'd no idea it existed at the time), has begun to shed some of its archaic and stodgy reputation.  On the other paw, I find myself astonished by how quickly a pendulum can swing...I've been seeing formal work alongside vers libre in all manner of journals and anthologies of late -- something unheard of twenty years ago -- has there been a profound shift in aesthetics, receptivity, consciousness, reading habits ?  

Or are poets and editors ....(gasp) ....fashionistas ?

No matter, Poetry says, I've a way of dismissing these things.

Excellent, says Politics, I've a way of clinging to them.

Ah, the Humanities, oh the Classroom, egad, and mother of crisis, Politics! 

From deep in the bowels of myth, tradition and consciousness, science gurgles, religion coughs, and the eyes and ears of social media flicker on and off.  

This might be construed as the rough beast stirring, a random electrical blip, or an innocent, wide-eyed blink. 

Yes, I've no choice but stick with poetry.  It's a good thing in the end, I suppose, when one's inclination is also one's bane, one's practice, and one's sanctuary.  Below, a mighty fine introduction/meditation on the subject, (Natasha Tretheway), and a sampling from the 2017 Best American Poetry, out last month, in which yrs truly appears, in full feather jacket:

And a couple of other little poems of mine, from the current HR:



A Horse Made of Driftwood

A horse made of driftwood walked into my dreams the other night. Soon after, an old poet appeared, riding the back of a turkey buzzard.  The elk in the road turned into a moose.  Italy paused, having lost her boot.  There were no words, but there was some sort of curtain, and some sort of curtain parting.   I woke feeling a little like Brando.  I coulda been a Krishna.  

Meanwhile, after long thought, (and suddenly off the cuff), one comes to realize the lyric poem is not enough.   One has to wonder if language itself aches to escape itself.  I suspect it does.  In the wake of the boat, the row.  In the throes of the boat, the rumor of autumn.  Floods, fires, and refugees, sun, moon, and Weldon Kees.  

It's when  going upstairs, not down, I tend to trip, or stumble.  Up, down, back and forth. Mumble, mumble, mumble.  My kingdom for a (deep, dark, and absolutely clear) truffle.  


Oh, Nico

by Peter Anderson

Succubus from the tobacco leaf, sometimes I wish you would turn me loose, but you have your ways and you know where to find me, usually at night on some mountain-town sidewalk after a few beers.  You know how to get my attention, like the older but attractive woman stealing a french fry from my plate at the bar and girl.  You love to flaunt yourself.  And I am all too willing to entertain your flauntings.  Oh, Nico.  You are like the Harley-leathered bartender in that downtown Montrose tavern, one of the few places where they still let you in.  Like her, you are both attractive and dangerous, and maybe that's the appeal.  Or maybe it's how you leave me with my thoughts as I breathe you in.  How you dance your night-sky tango when I let you go.  It's true, I love to undo your slinky belt and slide off your see-through negligee.  And you smell so good when you are naked and ready to burn.  And I love the anticipation of lighting you up.  And how you disappear and drift away saying I'm here and I'm gone but there's more where that came from.  You drive me to drink when you do that, but then  I want you even more.  And you are always willing to come back.  Damn you.  Too often your scent lingers and it is clear that I have been with you.  My wife hates you and so do my daughters.   You took my old man.  I hate you in the mornings when you linger uninvited, though you can be pleasant over coffee.  Leave now and don't come back.  But you will and you will and you will.  And I will say good-bye, and good-by, and good-bye.  For now.

from "Coming Home: Field Notes" by Peter Anderson


Coming Soon

A poem of mine entitled "Deconstruction" in Best American Poetry, edited by Natasha Tretheway, due out in September.  

Also due out in September: Nasty Women, and Unapologetic Anthology of Irreverent Verse, Lost Horse Press

Aug 10: I'll be doing a reading in Edwards for the good folks at the Rocky Mountain Land Library

Aug 26: I'll be co-teaching with Jodie Hollander at the Solarium for the Western Colorado Forum, 10-1, and doing a reading that evening at 8 pm at Lithic Books in Fruita, during the Jack Mueller Festival.

Sept 15-16: I'll be teaching a day-long workshop in Salida, and reading at Book Haven, I believe the night before.

It appears I've emerged from my hermitage.

Wailing Walls

I've been asked to produce a large painting of the Wailing Wall for my nephew and his wife, who are Orthodox Jews.   As I've never been, they sent several photographs of the angle they prefer, and asked, with a bit of a grin, as I'm of Syrian/Lebanese heritage, to leave the mosques in the background out of the painting.

This led me to some google searching, only to discover that yes, indeed, many modern artists' rendition of the Western Wall is depicted this way, devoid of context or historical background, as it were.

In a strange coincidence, at the time they asked, I was actively writing a cento --harvesting lines from various poems and songs on the subject of walls.