Tuesday, December 22, 2009



Nature is not fuzzy and warm.
-Gary Snyder

Charlie’s walk on suburban streets
He’ll sniff-out I’ll see
dead carcasses
pets and predators
Village Street Cleaners will eventually come by
or the Village Crew that chips fallen branches

and picks up owners’ trimmings left
at the curb
a bird, or a snake or a squirrel
might lie in the road for weeks

without rhyme or reason
but sometimes
I’ll come back with a shovel and bury the squirrel
you could throw them in the garbage bin
ship them on to the landfill
that’s what happens to most
small creatures

under a leaf pile is enough for fleeting life wren
it is nothing about sanitation for me
just a little bit more
to cover a creature with earth
pray soul
wings to heaven

Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe
a memorial today held for
Nanao Sakaki
died last year on December 21st He was 86

cold snap for days when I see the squirrel
“Some car got you good”
Charlie sniffs. I pull him away
squirrel’s mouth is pulled back in bloody maniacal grin
one dead eye open and looking at me
I bet you are frozen flat I think
funny true when I kick him out of the road
he comes up solid frozen stiff
top side sprawled limbs
bottom flat as a piece of paper

three days later, the twenty-first of December
a frozen dead squirrel sits in the passenger seat
of my old green Windstar Van
cirrus clouds up high blue sky wide straight drifted apart vapor trail line
“The poetic arguments,” I tell the squirrel. “shouldn’t be bandied about
as if a trail of words and the uncertainty of perceptions

even a call for cultural revolution
really would convince anyone. If you don’t feel alive, every particle alive,

every piece alive,
every dead squirrel carcass alive, stone, sound, breath,

every journey, every time Nanao appears alive
then it must be a dead world.

But I don’t have to tell you that do I squirrel”

the Comfort Inn parking lot is close to the bridge.
red and blue police lights flash on the Albany side
either a breakdown or a traffic ticket
nothing to concern a man with a dead squirrel and a mission
three crow reluctantly move out of my parking place
“Scavengers. You’ll get your due”
a cloud of small brown birds flow in and out of the field in front of us
exhale, breath in beauty… thank you Nanao

dance with high step lighter touch
cleared path
of roadway on to the 9-W bridge
to the very middle
cosmic giggle praise to the burning mad ones
ahimsa, nonharming, go in peace, totem squirrel,
totem bridge
tossed high over the mesh restraining fence
down to the icy water of the stream
out of sight destination unknown

Alan Casline
December 21, 2009
Normanskill stream

Sunday, November 8, 2009


elm trees at dawn November 7, 2009

When in Maine this October I picked up a nearly complete set of Science History of the Universe, published by The Current Literature Publishing Company, New York (1911). There is something especially interesting is reading one hundred year old scholarship and science. I do not have any of the "oh we are so much smarter now" attitude. I'm intensely interested in the words, phrases, metaphors, threads of thoughts, all the older ways of thinking. The section on Literature by is by the Managing Editor for the entire series Francis Rolt-Wheeler. He says in beginning that the essential difference between Speech and Writing is "the former appeals to the ear, the latter to the eye." He writes that the Chinese never conceived a smaller unit than a word and only when "an alien people" the Phenicians took to their own language the best "expedients at which Egypt arrived"did the alphabet come to be.
glyph of poetry at the yoga loft

For some time as a book-maker as well as a poet and writer, I've wondered at what the poem as an energy field consisted of when the page is "decorated" by an additional graphic image. Another book that is holding my interest is Daniel Belgrad's THE CULTURE OF SPONTANEITY published by The University of Chicago Press (1998). Both books have chapters on the beginning of writing, movement from picture to pictograph. Details of time and abstract conceptions are difficult to convey from the single picture. A record in pictograph form ( think a cartoon strip) can more completely tell a story. Belgard's Chapter 3 is titled Ideogram and his interest is how the avant-garde artists used native american pre-Columbian art to link ideas in paintings through "spontaneous picture-writing" Belgard also associates a number of poets ( such as Charles Olson's cultural-political project of reaching back and down) with a rejection of the abstract and impersonal qualities in modern culture's lack of attention to the local and specific life. The next stage of writing, referred to as the ideogram and as "hieroglyph" or simply "glyph" (think Chinese characters) is favored because it avoids the complete abstraction of phonetic alphabets and operates differently as "image" Ezra Pound wrote on his poetic method (1914), "the image is itself the speech. The image is the word beyond formulated language." The associations found with the field create complexities of meaning, expression and energy.

Poets from Top: Albert Glover, Dale Hobson, Paul Doty

Such is my introduction to my glyph of poetry at the yoga loft. After our four person reading set up in the yoga loft above The Blackbird Cafe in Canton, I left town and drove to my cabin. I knew I was staying there on what might be a cold November night and so I had set a fire in the woodstove the last time I was there, earlier in October. I had driven the four plus hours from Albany, N.Y. staring out at about 2 pm and found the mountains and highland from Newcomb to past Colton covered with snow. Thankfully as I came down off of Waterman Hill there was only a powdering of white. It turned out to be a cold night with temperatures in the twenties. Liquid in the evening, the marsh was frozen surface by the next morning. I was still buzzed from poetry by the time I got the lamps lit and the room warm. There was a good poetry crowd at the reading and my fellow poets, Paul Doty, Albert Glover and Dale Hobson delivered in good form as I would expect them to. My mind and heart were racing, filled with their words and of the social "intersubjectivity" of new and old voices, new and old friends. I took advantage by craving two new woodblocks and inscribing the ideogram in which I hope to communicate to them (and you). The greek is graphein to scratch, write and so I scratch and record an inspiring event.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


It started out innocently enough, I mentioned so many of the fascicles of A Curriculum of the Soul were printed by mimeo and they were so beautifully done. "Because of Guy Berard," Albert Glover said. Berard was the artist and designer involved. "Where is the machine, I'd like to take some photos of it?" I asked. "You did the printing yourself, right?" "Photos, yes, photos - that's a good idea, that's a very good idea.." he said looking me up and down as if measuring something in a distracted way. "Can't do it today. You'll have to come back tomorrow, today we have the..the piano tuner. Yes that's it the piano tuner. Come back tomorrow at three. The mimeo is not here. It is up on campus. We'll go tomorrow." The next day he drove. Said he'd be able to find parking. I noticed a small archaic symbol and mystical number combination struck to his window. "This will let us pass." he said. The road turned and twisted in the labyrinth of odd appearing building. They were typical two and three family wooden structures like those found in rundown slums through-out the Northeast. Yet these had no peeling paint and there were crowds of carpenters swarming the buildings, rebuilding porches, replacing weak boards and putting on new shutters. I was hopelessly lost and feeling more discontent looking over at my intently focused driver.

The unreal village went on forever. Suddenly he swerved, miraculously a place opened, where I saw none but a moment ago. "It has been thirty years since I have been this way." Glover said. "I must go first, to be sure the way is still open."
We entered a building and walked through the corridors with more strangeness. There were no people living here, just desks, offices with people sitting with piles of papers before them. They all seemed to know Albert. They said hello while ignoring me. I wondered how many others had been lured on the path I was on. We came to a door

Relics of Olson Cult revealed

which opened on to steep descending stairs. I took a deep breath and began my descent. They way was dark, time had no meaning on the endless stair. At last we came out in a subterranean grotto. Glover began speaking. "The mimeo machine is a Gestetner and there is a stencil maker also. They were left over here, in this corner." Quietly, carefully he began removing centuries (or maybe thirty years) worth of debris. There they were. My breath caught. I took out my camera and began taking pictures. Glover kept removing accumulated coverings. He maneuvered the printer till it came loose.
"We are taking these," he said daring me with his eyes to say "no". "Yes, lets do it," I said.
He grapped one end and I the other. A different doorway suddenly came into view opening to the daylight and green grass. We carried first the printer and then the stencil maker to his car and he drove us back to his home. Taking the mimeo printer out of the trunk and downstairs to his study area he said "Pat is going to kill me!" It was the obligatory remark of any married man which could have been left unsaid as it was alreadly implied by the situation. Albert Glover digs out Gestetner

The Gestetner machines were set up in a sort of altar area in a side room. Instead of incense an open can of mimeo fluid would be used during ceremonious visits. (Special Warning: Do not breathe in the mimeo fumes in imitation of the Rites of the Delphi Oracle). "It will never run again," Glover says. I respond, "You know how I've spoken of ambrosia. A different way of measuring life, not the bio way but by the life that is in something. Something has more life in it, it has more ambrosia. You can see it like a bowl of fresh picked fruit or a special bright beautiful day. If you drink ambrosia, that is the life that is restored. Those Gestetner machines have more life in them now then they did before." "Ambrosia," Glover says, "that is a good name for a magazine."

Monday, September 14, 2009


click on pictures for larger view

A day of high slow grey clouds with warnings of "sprinkles" coming through brief breezes of cooler and moist promise. Periods of sunshine visited regularly and no hard rain was seen to fall. The weather was "perfect" some were heard to say. I took my usual all-accepting attitude and, as directed, picked flowers so the outhouse would smell purdy. Host of the Wheeler Hill Readings (an outdoors series of poetry held in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State) Michael Czarnecki was amused when the weatherman stated there was a chance of "sprinkles". What sort of self-respecting weatherman uses the word sprinkles in an official sounding public report?
None that I knew of and I bet this guy doesn't know which way the wind blows either. But was "sprinkles" related to "sprites" or "fair" weather to "fairies?" I never got a chance to ask Michael as I was joining in and helping out with the domestic chores, chopping onions and trimming chapbooks. The Fair Folk are the fairies so I think there must be such as "fairy weather." I'll have to call up that weatherman to see what he knows about it. Looking it up I say we can rule out "sprites" as sprinkles comes from Middle English sprenklen; akin to Middle High German sprenkel spot. "There may be a spot of rain on Wheeler Hill this afternoon."

The other featured reader, Jennifer Campbell from Buffalo, New York arrived and shortly after the chairs and hay bales were filled with listeners and raconteurs and the reading started. Jennifer is co-editor of Earth's Daughters (a feminist literary journal) and has a FootHills Publishing book available Driving Straight Through (2008) Her poems displayed a variety of movements, comings and goings, strong swimmer knowing the tides and able to challenge and respect the natural forces. She also writes poems of human relationships, man/woman, family, friendship, toil. I get the sense she uses observation as we sometimes say "the power of observation". One poem she read titled That M.C. Escher Drawing puts her and another in the familar Escher imagined space of doors and stairways. "Its me, he says on voicemail/confident in your automatic reply."

Creature of expectation, you call back
right away, lead with the full name
your mother used to yell from the bottom of the stairs.

I liked the new unpublished poems she started her reading with and hopefully she'll stay in touch and sharing her work with us at Rootdrinker. Then I read next. I guess I did O.K. Some people said they really liked my reading and poems. These were the same people who thought the weather was "perfect".

My own FootHills Published book Thirty Poems was released on this day. The title is not an attempt at concrete obviousness like naming your dog, "Dog". There is a literary tradition surrounding the title and I intend writing about that tradition as I introduce the book to others. If you want to do your own research, mine is not the first book titled Thirty Poems. The poem I finished my reading with I DREAMED LAST NIGHT OF THE CIRCLING OF STARS had been mentioned by many poet friends and this day Michael Czarnecki pointed out that the outdoors was the right setting for reading the poem. My own field of vision expanded as the poem asks us to see:

Horizon is not a line.
Horizon is also a circle, turn around,
circle as the stars circle, look in all directions,
each shows horizon
the boundaries of a great circle
as well as the sky.

The day before my wife Jennifer Pearce and I had gotten lost on some of the back roads as we tried to drive from Seneca Lake to Hammondsville on Lake Keuka. Many smaller country roads did not have route markers. Even intersections were unmarked. We were approaching the crest of a long straight uphill stretch. Ahead you could see lighter sky and the deep downhill road beginning right behind the crest. "There's the lake right ahead," she said and I agreed. We came over the rise to see straight ahead a landscape of pastures in a series of brilliant green swelling hills. No lake but I immediately said, "Look at the lake today, the water is so green and the size of those swells-- must be a heavy wind out there on the surface to cause the waves to be so huge and rise that high."
On Wheeler Hill you can see out over many acre sized hills. The landscape of the Finger Lakes Region has large hills that fill horizons with summits that themselves cover areas big enough for homesteads, clusters of farms and hay fields of 50 acres or more. A city on the hill could be built here pretty easily. There is no city here now. My expectation of a tent city and acres of R.V.'s all parked for the upcoming poetry readings was alittle unrealistic. There was a gathering of friends. One of my suggestions to local poets of the northeast woodlands is to develop a calendar of events and I'd like to add the Wheeler Hill readings to just such a calendar. Totally informal at this point. The evolution of territory is the evolution of the brain.


Mother Turtle and Grandfather Carp
were together at the beginning.
They named Lobo, they named Trout
Bear came upon them
"Let us have Bear help us create this world"
said Grandfather Carp
"Fine" said Mother Turtle
"Bear, What is the name of that green frog?"
"That is Green Frog."
"What of the black bird with red on the wings?"
"That is Red-Winged Blackbird."
They all thought this so funny,
they laughed till their bellies hurt.
'Oh Bear," said Mother Turtle
"You are very good at the naming of things."
"Yes" said Bear, "but I have to go. Before I do
I shall name my kindred"
"No." said Grandfather Carp still laughing.
"That is Brown Bear and that is Black Bear"
"Delightful," said Bear, "Exactly as I would."

Note: As Stephen Lewandowski might point out carp are not native to the Finger Lakes Region, however Grandfather Carp was present and involved in the naming of things back at the time of creation. He did not stay around and returned to Asia by swimming through the mysterious sprenklen, also known as "the doorway to infinity" found at the bottom of a deep hole in the water of Canadice Lake ( Which had a different name at the time)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

BERNADETTE MAYER'S 10th Annual Poetry BBQ & Poetry Reading on July 4, 2009

click on images to enlarge

Bernadette Mayer on July 4, 2009

Bernadette Mayer and Philip Good's place near where Tsatsawassa Creek joins the Kinderhook in East Nassua, New York has hosted great July 4th get togethers and I was fortunate enough to be invited to this year's 10th annual. I really caught the spirit of the event about half way through and by the end I was handing out invitations for poets to do Benevolent Bird broadsides like a month had a hundred days and looking to extend new friendships and opportunity to learn from worthy poets all and even more. O.K., I missed way more than I saw but I did sit through the entire poetry reading and enjoyed some long but easy conversations with folks. I brought a box of free poetry broadsides, my Buffalo drum, wine, and a large strawberry & apple crisp. There were less broadsides in the box when I left. I enjoyed drumming my way to creekside and back to blue sky and cumulus accompaniment (and I wasn't on anything, although I did notice some of the wanderers had a peculiar smile and look in their eyes).
Susan Deer Cloud and I talked about her publishing plans and the Blue Cloud Quarterly and then Dave Brinks joined us and Susan discovered that Dave is part Cherokee.
I didn't get to eat any of the strawberry & apple crisp but I'm told by those who did it was tasty. I did get to chow on a bowl of the Alligator Crawfish Jambalaya and really enjoyed the flavors and satisfaction which came from the dish.
I got to meet Karen Skelton and Phil Johnson from the Berkshires region. He was interested and we started talking about small press publishing philosophies and Karen is starting a press with the understanding her artist gifts are foremost to any shaping the endeavor undergoes. She is looking towards the more commercial publish-by-demand with printing and binding done elsewhere. I like doing it all, assembling the books by myself, by hand. Time is the cost there but I get some satisfaction from the work. I went out to my car and came back with three different types of books.

Karen Skelton and Phil Johnson

Paulette Swartzfager

The poetry reading began in mid-afternoon with those presenting showing restrain and respect by selecting a few works and then delivering the goods. I didn’t take any notes and so some notable poets will be unreported upon. There was some sort of velvet hamburger to be presented to the best poet or poem? I don’t know who won it but you can see it in some of the photos sitting on the desk. I came to the picnic with Vincent F.A. Golphin, John Roche, Paulette Swartzfager and Susan Deer Cloud and it was nice to see them up behind the microphone and to hear their work. John Roche read Joe the Poet from out of the Big Powwow issue of Rootdrinker. The poem reminds me of The Smokey Bear Sutra and this reading of it also got me thinking there was in it a comment on the New Troubadours we had discussed in regards to local poetics. Dave Brinks came out of the attic and delivered two poems of the moment. The poet from Nigeria wanted to know why poets in America choose the 4th of July for their gatherings of celebration. “Because it is a holiday and everyone has a day off” was Bernadette’s reply although I also see a connection with Philip Good’s comment “Independence Day” which he asked me to insert into the record. I liked Philip's poem. I think he got “watershed” in there. Really, I wish I knew the names of so many of the poets who were all at least interesting (which is my highest praise). I noticed our technological modalities at occasional dissonance. Someone joked the microphone looked like the type used during Senate investigations and the speaker phone cackling was like the radio phone in some mine cave-in disaster movie and when the Blackberries paused the poor poets themselves got froze like a stopped DVD on pause button. But what do I know, my batteries ran out on my digital camera and I still haven’t figured out how to take photos in low light situations although I’m sure it is just a button. However here I can interject, when the nice young lady poet offered me a wild berry from the handful she had picked and was passing out, I was able to tell her she had picked blackcaps, which are near but not the same things as wild blackberries.

Well no more carping about technology, Bill Berkson, Andrei Coidrescu and Simon Pettet came to the reading via dial-up speakerphone. And Tom Gizzi was Tom Gizza and not ORPHEUS. I thought Hector was ORPHEUS but insider knowledge passed me by completely maybe if I had come the other nine years of these parties I’d know. I mean I WOULD KNOW. It has something to do with the pseudo German Indians damming the creek. Someone even wrote a book about mills on the Tsatsawassa but it is out of print and no one can find it. Bernadette asked me about the water quality and I said it was good there was no industry up stream but it comes down to ‘Cup of Water”. Tsatawassa is “Cup of Water” People kept telling me that so I know it is important.

John Roche and Bernadette Mayer

The day reached perfection as I got to have a long conversation with Bernadette Mayer as evening turned to night and a near full moon rose. I wanted to talk about the NYC poetry and culture past and present, which we did some but surprisingly we talked more of the local bio-region. She has explored the area well and it was cool to share memories of places like Pittsfield State Forest, Cherry Plain State Park, Tsatawassa & Nassau Lake and Kinderhook Creek. The challenge she put out to those of us in the conversation around a picnic table to find a nearly famous but not truly famous poet who we all knew. Finding someone “nearly famous” turned out to be tough and when we came up with a name we could not go the next step to find someone such we all knew. Conclusion: 1) There are no nearly famous poets in America; 2) Scary thought , We are the nearly famous poets in America; 3) Since most names were known by half to three-quarters of us, half to three-quarters of the entire poetic consciousness was represented by attendees at BERNADETTE MAYER’S 10th Annual Poetry BBQ & Poetry Reading with poets from NYC, New Orleans, Florida, Rochester, Nigeria, Vermont and other places near and far.

Philip Good was asked as the fantastic day at his home crumbled to an end what his summarily astute pronouncement on the experience might be.
“Tears and cheers” he said

Monday, June 15, 2009

buddha needs a bath

water of vision
your dreams for later
today I fill my cup
to quench my thirst

rain earlier left wooden bridge soaked
clouds darken again
still I savor
the extinguishing of my desire

wind carries tiny flowers
their pattern spots my world
on paper, shoe top, float in spring,
drop like stones, rotted stump,
ferns, exposed wash root

June 9, 2009
Springs Hollow















Friday, June 12, 2009


Edward Sanders At Caffe Lena

Hey Click On the Image and It Will Enlarge
A while back, a now dead poet named Ron Newsome did a review of Ed Sanders book Investigative Poetry for ROOTDRINKER during the Journal of the St. Lawrence Border Country days. I saw Ed Sanders when he featured at the Caffe Lena Poetry Festival on April 11, 2009, I asked him if he remembered the review. "Remember the review," he said, "It was the only review." I was shocked at that possibility, but not totally knocked into the land of disbelief because I get the reality that even readers are rare as cricket-frog's playing violin when the swamp is frozen and a review, well that is not put out there that often. I don't call this a review, just some comments on his latest, POEMS FOR NEW ORLEANS, sent in the spirit of friendship and communication.

Ed Sanders wanted to write this book. He has lots of projects he is working on and thus he didn't have to make time and space for this one. Actually, there is a bit of a story. Michael Minzer offered to fly Sanders and his wife Miriam anywhere in the world where he would write poetry for a CD for Minzer's Paris Records. They eventually picked New Orleans where the recording began during Mardi Gras '07. In his introduction he says "I decided to create a sequence of works steeped in the history of the City, past and present. The poems seemed to pour out, many more than could fit on a 70-minute CD, so a book came to life!" I have the CD also but I'm a fan of paper & ink: the black crows of ink, as Sanders himself once said.

History, why it has to be here? You know the old saying that history is written by the victors. There is official school text book history and even books about what they left out of the tale (ugly things which as a historian myself I could tell you a few). Ed Sanders creative force able to be a synthesizer of particulars. New Orleans as Sanders evokes (conjures) and invokes through memories, words left & made, poetics backpacked in... Why New Orleans found here is the only place worth studying, although of course you come out the other side? Through-out this book when he says polis its like a little chime that rings "Olson" "Olson" Katrina then hovered above the Polis/as if waiting for an e-mail. Anger at "Unearned Suffering" and "Secret Poverty" and "Bead Greed" as he writes of Truckers hauling FEMA trailers/at hyperinflated rates! Ed Sanders poet on the ground reporting from The City of New Orleans. Bush, Chertoff, Brown, Blanco but other devils were dancing too.

Here's a phenomenon I try to avoid. You meet someone new, discover they have liberal to radical politics and then you emotionally charge through a litany of anecdotal and factual items with them discussing the ills of the world only to run out of juice and both sink into depression. I doubt that would happen with Ed Sanders. I'm sure he gets tired and discouraged like the rest of us but his mind, his art, his language leap beyond and fundamentally jubilate human universe with his humor and love of life. When I crack an Ed Sanders book I'm already anticipating creative language, often making me smile at the hipster rag he ragas.

The control of testosterone
& the patterns of anger in the genome

came about through generous waving of the Bible
plus structures of fun and politeness
--from poem Teeming Docks—New Orleans 1820-1860

Maybe it is the beatific sense but the only others are Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg where I do find such spontaneous verve. When Ron Newsome reviewed Investigative Poetry he said Poetry must address ourselves to the actual problems of Polis-Bios-Cosmos Relationships not solved by the powers-that-be as well as point out thoses failures and dismantle the war machine. Ed Sanders is a poet easily covering that scope. As much an instruction as any of his earlier work, the poems On the Way (She was afraid of bees/ and wore an expensive veiled cap from the internet); Unearned Suffering (The River of Malice/ is one strong force/ to block); Echoes of Heraclitius (O my God!/one of my neighbors was floating with/ her hair entangled in a tree limb)and My Darling Magnolia tree (The secret mind no longer/whispered through the axions of wonder.) All instruction for the City of New Orleans on the Mind. Make the revolution a tall tale, Some FEMA Trailers in Hope --- I don't believe it could of happened compared to Ed Sanders who writes it down. Actually, I lied-- I do believe this story poem entirely, including the humor of its telling incredulous action and lean back off a barstool accounting by Jonathan Abner Tobias Pissoff and with other guys involved Tony the Beatnik and Marnie, Jimmy Joe the Hillbilly Boy's cousin. Seems there was 10,000 FEMA trailers sitting unused in a lot in Hope, Arkanas that sure could be used in New Orleans where people had no place to live. Story goes they did six runs and the last just barely past a police stakeout with the idea to leave the last FEMA trailer by Marie Laveau's crypt in in St. Louis Cemetery. Man we were happy, poem says, Mark Twain could have put our little caper/in one of his books. I feel better just for the humor released. Definitely an Ed Sanders trait but for me a release cause I'll write a humorous poem and think well this has to go over here away from my serious work and it be good to be reminded truth and fun go together.

Beyond the human dimension self-centered me first polis there was "a heartless act of wild nature." On the stage at Caffe Lena and in his conversation back at his table Ed wanted to share his poetic touch on the mythology (a mythological present also a trait in his body of work) he had kenned from the gumbo of his New Orleans experiences - that Poseidon (who's not very bright as the gods go) was the hand that flooded the city. He adapts from Euripides, TROJAN WOMEN lines 48-97 how Athena (protectress of ancient cities) enlists Poseidon to destroy the Achaeans even through she just helped them to capture the City of Troy for Ajak raped Cassandra in my Shrine Athena tells Poseidon bragged to the Greeks, and goes unpunished. Ed Sanders asks 3,289 years after What crime does Athena descry? Is there any? He lets Ajax loose in New Orleans in the poem Rape with MOM (motive opportunity means) for scions of Ajax to depredate. Tells of Grace Lebage who wrote a song about her personal horror she preformed in San Francisco to raise money to rebuild a couple of cottages. In the poem To Poseidon he addresses the god as he stands after the flood:

Maybe you were just trying to build some wetlands?
But we are not crayfish

we are, for better or worse,
sacks of sentient water
about to leave Gaia

for the Pontchartrains of the Beyond

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


The Daoist folk deity's known as t'u-ti (literally land, soil, territory) are the little local gods of a particular place. For the third year a gathering has taken place on June 1st on a tall bank above the creek that tumbles through a series of waterfalls at the Christman Preserve. The Preserve is located in the Town of Duanesburg in New York State. A Tribute to local farmer and nature poet William Weaver Christman (1865-1937) the gathering of poets and their friends was joined this year by Anne Christman, his granddaughter, and by two neighbors representing families that have known each other for well over a hundred years. Here at the gathering spot there might be a t'u-ti belonging to the location. Any who visit the overlooking bank remark on the special serenity, the unclouded feeling present.

The t'u-ti sent out an invitation for the ceremony. The Fisherman of the Susquehanna watershed, the poets of the sacred Finger Lakes, the Normanskill poets of the number one hundred and twenty, the thirty-two officials of environmental conservation, the Great Spirits in charge of wind, rain, thunder, and lightning, the three ghosts of bards of local history, the five benevolents of small press publishing, the eight Immortals of poesy, the ten open mic readers of the Hells -- all were present on the appointed day.

These t'u-ti seem to be like numen, little gods of oak grove and sacred spring. I've been thinking about the mechanics of it all ever since I first learned of them a few months ago. One thing that is different from the western tradition is that some t'u-ti are celebrated persons, community servants who when living gave to others. Not like ghosts haunting or spirits being unable to pass on, these t'u-ti are new entities. The souls of a community's good servants still enter heaven but somehow something of the them is left as guardian spirit to protect and preserve what they accomplished in their lives. (I'm just making up this metaphysics as I go along.) It may not be measurable but at each touch (physical, emotional & spiritual) lets say a little tiny unmeasurable but there piece of the person touching moves to the touched. Someone's favorite hat; tools like a carving knife or loom; a room a person spent much enjoyable time in -- Did you ever get the feeling that something of the person lingered? We have identity, walls between us and the world, maybe for those giving of themselves to their works, to the needs of others, the walls allow a tiny bit of the person's essense to move from their essense to the world. I can think of a few people, Will Christman among them, who still evoke influence on others many years after their deaths.

Words are another thing. Writers, poets, singers and others in the expressive arts know about the energy transfer from sender to receiver. With sixteen people and twelve poets reading poems, Will Christman's words, thoughts, and poetic art were broadcast among those gathered in celebration of his life and legacy. Mike Burke added to the event by reading poetry of Will Christman's son Lansing and paired his his own poem with a similarly themed Will Christman poem In a Neglected Graveyard. Michael Czarnecki read a poem he had written minutes before and then marveled both his poem and Christman's broke into song. "A glee sparrow waking/Trills an old love dream:/Here in the shadow of lintel and eaves/I too am singing," Christman wrote. In general having so many readers made for a rich environment because, as each read at least one of Will Christman's poems, there was a nice variety of language and delivery. Walt Franklin had the most interesting tale having written and had published a tribute poem to Will Christman. In its original envelope he shared a letter Lansing Christman wrote him thanking him for the poem and including a cancelled check with W.W. Christman's signature on it for an autograph to keep.

Anne Christman was gratious enough to discuss her grandfather with the gathered. The whole question of a visit to the land by Robert Frost and the arguments he and Will had while touring the property couldn't be verified by Anne. There were strong opinions, with some having certainty that the visits happened and others still holding out for hard evidence. When I explored the Christman family papers at the New York Historical Association archive in Cooperstown, New York, I couldn't find any documentation. I asked her what Will would have thought of we poets going to the tavern for some drink, food, poetry and conversation after we were finished at the creek side today. She said "He would have been right with you. He liked people to enjoy life and did himself"

As everyone left for the parking area and on to Smitty's Tavern in Voorheesville, people separated and took different trails. I made a quick dash to creek side with Michael, Tim Lake, and Obeedude coming along. We then hurried back to the parking area only to be put in wait mode as the others meandered along. When Susan got there she realized she had dropped her green velvet blouse and went back to look for it. With other people waiting , I set off to cover the drive to Smitty's Tavern in as little time as possible. A nice crowd of poets were waiting and Tom Corrado had provided and set up his a mic. We got going "only" about 20 minutes late. What the impractical M.C.(me) thought might be three times around the circle of poets turned out to be only once around. The poets from "far" or "the west" were well received and excellent of course. Local poets were not too shabby either. Here's the line-up: Dennis Sullivan, Therese Broderick, Michael Czarnecki, Tom Corrado, Alan Casline, John Roche, Mimi Moriarty, Susan Deer Cloud, Tim Lake, Paulette Swartzfager, Mike Burke, Walt Franklin, Obeedude, Alan Siegle, Philomena Moriarty, Barbara Vink, Tim Verhaegan, Ron Pavoldi, and John Abbuhl. I wish I made good on my threat to continue the reading in the tavern's parking lot but as chairs went up on the tables and I gathered my papers, posters, and drum, I got to the front of the tavern and saw the poets had just moved to there and the conversations were whirling. I distinctly heard Mike Burke tell Michael Czarnecki he was going to pursue a shared interest in Chinese poetry. The poets from the Finger Lakes wanted to know more about the "Normanskill" poet Ron Pavoldi and damm if Ron had not earned the honorific by poetically documenting playing in the creek beds. It is not how many poems you have published but how often you've gotten your feet wet. John Abbuhl, I expect, learned more about poets today ( if not poetry itself) then all the other days of his life. I guess it is payback for the poets who toured his Pine Hollow Arboretum earlier in the afternoon and learned more about evergreens then they had any day of their lives. John now goes by the name "John of the Arboretum" within certain poetry circles of watershed intelligensia. Arriving back at my house, noted patroness of the arts and my wife Jennifer Pearce took (well to be fair it was two looks not one) and then went up to bed. She said she went from irritated to jealous because we were making so much noice and laughing so much. Very good and interesting conversations kept us going till early in the morning. After breakfast everyone went on their ways. What a warm and enjoyable time. We'll have to do it again next year.


On Tuesday I went out to the Christman Preserve to start tracing the small waterway that flowed past the Memorial Stone and had the small bridge built across it at the begining of the woods part of the trail. I didn't go far before I saw a fair-sized beaver pond. I turned around there, giving up my search for the source spring. Next time I'll have to be prepared to circle this little pond. I walked around looking, elusive sighting of deer near our spot and a large winged waterbird from the stream. I saw white and silver feathers on ascending wings through the trees. I'd say it sounded like a heron, but really my ears aren't that trained.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Had enough interest in Ralph Maud's biography CHARLES OLSON AT THE HARBOR to read it in three days. I knew most of the particulars of Olson's life and was aware that Maud's book was a counterview to another biography of Olson by Tom Clark CHARLES OLSON: THE ALLEGORY OF A POET"S LIFE. It wasn't till I got about two chapters in that I realized this was no telling but a critique and opposition based on Maud's scholarship and personal experience of Olson. He tries at points to give Clark his due but at a ratio of about 10 to 1 points out "mistake" after "mistake". Chapter, verse, particle, page number, letter, nuance, pharmaceutical, the words right after the words or the words right before the words. I know people really care about this detail, I'm not being snide. Maud's larger point that Tom Clark has a strong prejudice is adequately demonstrated. I wish that he had delivered a counter biography with little or no mention of the earlier work. Again, I understand there has been some taking sides and Maud is playing to his strength. He sees his literary forebearer as James Boswell with Charles Olson as Samuel Johnson with an important job to be, as he quotes Boswell, the hope to present a true and fair delineation. I couldn't even begin to enter this quandry. There are not enough biographies yet.
The Berkeley Reading that Charles Olson gave July 23, 1965 is a event of divided opinion. The audience and later interpreters find lots of room for different experiences. If we ever achieve the trick of time travel, I expect Olson's reading to be a favorite destination of poets and literary historians. I've read parts of the transcripts and don't find them any more difficult than other Olson transcripts. Context and environment of course effect the doors of perception. Call it crowd mentality, gestalt, collective group consciousness -- whatever the reason, Olson didn't connect with the people in his audience that night. Many luminaries, admirers, associates were numbered among the casual designates in attendance. Olson arrived drunk and drinking according to Robert Duncan. Olson had been given two dexamils "in some stupid sympathy" in the attempt "to lift him out of his actual depresset pre-reading temper." This I do notice from the transcripts I've read, Olson's language shows signs of speed freaked racing with thoughts at time struggling to connect trains of cognitions that had long left the station. What you might expect from the mix (how the evening might have differed without the dexamil?) Tom Clark considered Olson's performance "intermittently coherent". Ralph Maud wasn't at the event but undertook the task of recreating it "accurately on paper for myself and others." The Muthologos version appeared in print, I think that's the one I read from. Here in the current book he writes Olson gave "a brilliant talk/reading: fragmented, disturbed, and chaotic on one level, but completely lucid on another."
Albert Glover told me that upon returning to Buffalo after his Berkeley reading Olson appeared to have experienced something momentous. Both liberation and despair over what he took to be the irreparable loss of friends who had not supported his new outpourings. CHARLES OLSON AT THE HARBOR ends sparsely saying little about Olson's return to 28 Fort Square and the late period of his writing. Applying the ruler that measures human behavior, I see Olson as a great enough poet and thinker to be called a major literary figure. He is a vast enough ocean of complexity that we can swim in his expression and set our personal narratives on different paths in his story. If he is epic, his words will inform and teach us, generations onward... His personal habits apply to us now in time because we share his context (some more than others). Later readers will have the luxury of less context and more focus on the poems. Glover calls for our understanding of Charles Olson to be developmental in his biological and emotional chronology. Of course his many friends and associates each want "their" Olson to be "the" Olson. I'm not opposed to that. The unqualified dimensional picture can only be clarified by observing multiple points in the cosmic grid. Writers, describers, editors, scholars all may add to the show. I'd have to get philosophical to say anything more and poetic to say anything beyond.
I do think the most interesting Charles Olson to the local poets I talk with is the life's end Olson of Gloucester, Massachusetts. Early bio-regional poet Charles Olson.... (not really, but see how easy it is to go there)
The landscape (the landscape!) again: Gloucester,
the shore one of me is (duplicates), and from which
(from offshore, I, Maximus am removed, observe.
from poem by Charles Olson THE LIBRARIAN

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Back by popular demand! That classic chart topper: THERE IS A SOURCE FOR EACH RIVER by Alan Casline!!!

The ultimate Trailer for the untimate collection of poems!
See the previously posted post below:

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Viet Nam Grandfather Carp

A poem by Nguyen Quoc Chanh presented in translation by the Viet Nam Literature Project includes Grandfather Carp, dragons, and a bit more of the folklore of the relationship between humans and these transformed beings.

from Relationships


In the legends of dry springs, there are the pebbles’ intonations.
In the forest’s recollections, there is the waterfalls’ fable.
In resin singing, there is my mother’s shade.

A carp’s negative doesn’t know to speak.
A relic left over from dry ponds.

Where armies and generals of the lotus and water lily dispute their beauty.
Where swords and sabers of ponds and swamps yearly fight each other.
Where aquatic corpses lie, ghosts possessed with visions of lotus and water lily.

Their beauty becomes miasma, tired and spoiled.
It is the nourishment in soil’s unconsciousness.

They blossom into flowers white and yellow.
They blossom without hands or feet.
They are spices lacking in my mother’s kitchen corner everyday.

She carefully puts them away, they are strong and have the smell of mud.
From tender mud, a spongy bull frog just escaped the drought.
It croaks announcing that the grandfather carp is still alive.

The old man is a Dragon.

From a reptile transformed, to the urgent moment in flight, the Dragon lets drop a whisker.

A carp opens its mouth yawning sleepily, comes upon it, stores in stomach.
When becoming a Dragon, grandfather carp wakes up, daydreams in the reptile’s venom.
A copperhead crawls onto the roof, where the Dragon resides, dancing circles a medium, ashamed for lack of whiskers.
The Dragon is deliberate, emotionless, without headache or high blood pressure.
My mother drinks ancient and Western medicine, still cannot shake off the stomachache caused by the Dragon’s whisker’s damage.

Whiskers on a dragon, definitely the Eastern (Chinese version.) Thinking of drawings I've seen where , yes! there are whiskers on the dragons, never saw it before, but carp whiskers are mentioned in at least one folk tale, held on to by a little boy who needs to escape a phantasmic kingdom to get back to his real life. The boy uses the painful tug to direct the carp to take him home. Reptile's venom, aquatic corpses, ghosts possessed, beauty becomes miasma (an influence or atmosphere that tends to deplete or corrupt) this poem by Nguyen Quoc Chanh brings all to a mire. I would point to the river metaphor in my north american dragon journey found in Grandfather Carp poems. Here is a version where a swamp dries and a landscape dies. Does grandfather carp even survive? Grandmother attempts ancient and modern medicines but the whisker has fallen off and is impossible to stomach. Is the whisker also a hand hold on some creature getting out?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Grandfather Carp by Alan Casline

Now Available from bRAINdROP bOOKbENDERS a new book of poetry by the writer of this blog (among other things). Price is $5.00 plus $2.00 Shipping & Handling. Send check or money order to bRAINdROP bOOKbENDERS, P.O. Box 216, Voorheesville, New York 121186. The publisher is Mark O'Brien, who after hearing a number of my poems about a river carp making a long journey up a river said "Come on finish it will you and I'll publish it." Poets like to be published, as I always say when any publishing opportunity comes by, so it was a good way of getting me to focus on the few remaining parts of the tale. I am prone to say "Life is a spiritual journey" and in these poems I carry Grandfather Carp through youth and experience to trust and transformation. The last poem only became apparent when everything else was finished. Mark and I worked together on the book design.
A sample poem

mandate of the sun
runs from beginning to end
apollo nuancing blazing horses?
rabbit's burned off tail?
Grandfather Carp looks up
at a floating peach petal
wondering, now where did that come from?
color of the spirit
numinous water

August 5, 2008
Elsmere, New York

Just as I’ve written poems and stories about the Normanskill watershed’s folk hero Perious Frink, here we find Grandfather Carp as another example of how a few words can ignite imagination and artistic possibility. The first draft a long poem written in September 1997. This volume has pieces of the first long poem along with factual bits and collected materials from Chinese, Japanese, Native American folklore and mythology and the poet’s imagination. In The Flight of the Wild Gander (Viking Press, 1969) Joseph Campbell writes myth is a picture language but the language has to be studied to be read:

In the first place, this language is the native speech of dream. But in the
second place, it has been studied, clarified, and enriched by the poets,
prophets, and visionaries of untold millenniums.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Gary Lawless

It was a too quick visit with Gary Lawless at Gulf of Maine Bookstore in Brunswick, Maine yesterday. As usual I left him a stack of Benevolent Bird publications to give to friends and some for sale. Bought some books too. Of note Ralph Maud's biography Charles Olson At The Harbor ( a book I have Albert Glover's review of. A review I'm holding on to until it is first published in some mag in Australia) and Jonathan Skinner's new poetry With Naked Foot out of little scratch pad press, Buffalo, NY. Jonathan Skinner, I know from Gary and some communication between us. Skinner has interest in ecopoetics and holds a professorship at Bates College. Gary was in the back eating and was soon to be off to visit his 92 year-old mother.
He and Beth Leonard were leaving for France in a few days with trip focus on getting close to animal paintings on cave walls. He was looking forward to his art exploration and I expect something to be written of what he can glean of the motivation behind those who crawled deep inside rock to leave images of the hoofed and clawed painted by light from flickering flame. It is all spectulation as to why? he reminded me a couple of times. Franz Boas in Primative Art writes of both symbolic representation and representation by means of perspective. In North American northwest coast art the whole animal form is presented as an assembly of disconnected symbols. A beaver is adequately represented by a large head with two pairs of large incisors and a squamous tail. It is in the painting of later paleolithic found in the caves of southern France and of Spain that Boas finds perspective realism "fully developed" Interestingly, Boas does not find perspective of groups in these paintings but rather of the single figure. Much has been analyzed and discovered since Boas wrote in 1927 and so I bet many more cave painting images are available for study. Perhaps Gary can let us know if he sees the herd and pack represented in the cave art he sees and also if he thinks the artist is actually creating a picture of a specific animal and not a symbolic representation of the animal kind?

I got to talk about the reactions of some poets to his poem Lynx Liberation Communique. Art Willis had told me he had seen a mountain lion near his property close to here in the Normanskill watershed. That got us talking about different wild cats and I mentioned Gary's poem which I then sent to Art and a handful of others. A few of the comments were interesting and I thought worth running by Gary. Starting with Albany poet Dan Wilcox who commented "Nobody votes, they just eat each other" Gary thought that was a good comment. He said he wasn't trying to imply anything having to do with democracy or even the standard political process which wasn't working for the benefit of the lynx at all. Two Republican Senators and a Democratic Governor had not resisted Federal actions during the years of George W. Bush that offered no protection for the lynx forest habitat in the entire, every square mile of the State of Maine. It was the political power of the land developers (former lumber companies) that put the lynx in a bad situation. At least Gary was able to tell me that the Obama administration had changed course and that now a sizeable territory of the northern Maine forest was protected. For the lynx and other animals, Gary said it was presumptuous to think you could take their side and speak for them and yet by undertaking that poetic voice you could gain consciousness and something of a different species view on important matters. I shared my response to Dan Wilcox:

Democrary in the Wild

2 legs + 2 hands = 1 vote
4 paws =1 vote
2 wings + 2 claws = 1 vote
I never did like snakes

"No backbone no franchise to vote", Gary said. And also on the whole democracy question "They vote by their diet."

The other comment on on Gary's Lynx Liberation Communique was from fellow bioregional poet Stephen Lewandowski, who wrote "wishful thinking." I wrote back to Stephen "Gary Lawless has that quality. Chanting the words. I'm sure not naivete but in the face. Hey "wishful thinking" you already said that." Gary went though almost the same circle of thought to arrive back at Yes, wishful thinking. He agreed that his poetry is wishful thinking, magic words. He originates his poetry in traditional shaman song and storyteller form. The realized imagination shared with all gathered. Speaking from a world that has been lost but not destroyed or disappeared. Check out another poem of his in Big Powwow, I still talk to the animals.

That was another time when
We knew there were other worlds

My too short trip to Maine ended with some time at the Atlantic. Looking up and down these posts, I see I am becoming quite the nature photographer but I guess you can't post from Maine without some water spray.

NOTE: illustrations from Primitive Art by Franz Boas. Top: beaver from Haida and from Tlingti cultures. Bottom: Paleolithic bison painting CLICK ON IMAGE FOR FULL SIZE


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Shiffendecker Farms Preserve, Town of Bethlehem

photo: trout lilly NOTE: Click on any photo for enlarged version

An area that can be seen when driving on Route 32 (The Delmar By-Pass) is interesting at all times of the year. When driving towards the east and the connect to 9-W you can look down into an inviting small valley with stream, shaped by mounds of steep-hilled terrain. During hunting season, I'll see trucks parked off the highway and I expect the deer walk a little more wary on their paths in and out of the brush. I've often thought I'd like to venture into those hollows to perhaps find an unknown spring or wildlife inhabitation in a sanctuary area created by geology more than by man. I wasn't sure where Shiffendecker Farms Preserve was exactly but I was hoping the property was within the Normanskill watershed. Those hunters (if they were such) will have to find others fields because, yes, the land I had looked at for so many years (thinking that land should be a park or something) is actually now Shiffendecker Farm Preserve held by the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy.

I went on a hike on those lands today led by Dan Driscoll of the Conservancy. "Wear boots" and be ready for rugged terrain was the advise given to those who had an interest in getting out into the fresh air.

photo: mushroom colors

photo: hike leader Dan Driscoll

photo: thick and hilly terrain

photo: beaver craved totem

photo: bottom land

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Here is a first. I set my camera at video when I was at Christman Preserve.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Reading for

Will Christman

June 1, 2009 at 8 pm
At Smitty’s Tavern

Hosted by

Willbe Roundtable
with poets

from Near and Far

Reading in honor of famous local poet
William Weaver Christman (1865– 1937)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Visited Christman Preserve last night. Got there at twilight's start with the sun just setting on the horizon. No orange light show just a little pink glow on a puff of a cloud floating opposite the sunset. My purpose was really to time the drive from Smitty's Tavern in Voorheesville to the Preserve (it is 35 min.) because the June 1, 2009 William Weaver Christman Tribute has grown to include a public poetry reading at Smitty's staring at 8 pm. When I got there the open field on the walk in was still brightly lit and I spent some time photographing the volunteer pine trees with an eye for any WILD PASTURE PINE. It was already darkened within the pine forest that leads down to the stream. I traveled upstream along a stairway of waterfalls. I learned recently that the Bozen Kill has other folk names including Drunkard's Creek because of the up & down and side to side water flow a reminder of the drunk's walk home. Wanting to practice my slow down meditation skills I sat down on a rock and stayed to listen the the deepening sounds in fading light. I'll wait till I see the first star I thought but when a bat flew along the watercourse and into the pine forest I decided it was time to walk back to the car. Looking straight up from the gully I was in, I thought I saw one faint star straight up but the when I moved my head I couldn't find any. I had written John Roche one of the poet's coming on June first that I enjoyed walking in the woods without a flashlight. It was not pitch dark but my walk had naturally slowed with my strides feeling smoother and the firm contact with the trail almost a pleasure to my foot. I stopped a few times looking for stars which of course I saw just as I was leaving the wood.The evening star like a crystal jewel unlocked from greed.

I think the dark moonless path
is one with no flashlight
or cell phone but mine
is one I've walked
in sun light enough
for memory to take a few strides
enough unbalanced sense
to control a stumble
the longer you look into the dark
the more light you find to see
never wait to see