Eleven is drawn with parallel lines. Parallel lives.
In one, my son survived. He is with us in England, in the rain; or we are still in California, in drought. He is like me at that age — obsessed with science and discovery; or like his mother, he is at the piano, practicing. He is like neither of us, in surprising ways. Ways we will never guess.
I inhabit life on the other rail instead. It is definitely England, definitely raining, and I have become a poet. Science and engineering failed to show me how to address the vast inner landscapes I felt pressing from an early age. Miłosz, Dostoevsky, and Mahler succeeded. Subjectivity is the enemy of science, but the lifeblood of poetry.
Objectively, our son is gone. Subjectively, he is everywhere.
I am not a monorail. I am the smoke drifting up from a neighbour’s chimney, and I am the chimney, and I am the air.
Only at the place where parallel lines intersect, only there, at the point of points, can this all make sense.
One day I will join you in the space between lines. Until then, of each day I will try to make some kind of poetry, and in it, a space for you to dwell.
Godspeed, James, my son.
I have again compiled my shortlist of poets who I think are worth watching from both sides of The Pond.
We lovers of poetry have this consolation at least: when times get tough, the poetry gets better. More poetry, more fiercely, please, to see us through.
Get your fix of poetry recs. right here.
I received my contributor’s copy of the anthology A Poetry of Elephants today. It is a project I’m proud to have been a part of — not only to be in the company of nearly forty excellent poets — but because all of the proceeds from the sale of the book go to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
It will make an excellent gift for the Elephant-lover in your life, and is now available to order online. You can also read my poem “Letter to the Last Megafauna” halfway down the homepage on the A Poetry of Elephants website.
Congratulations to publisher Valerie Morton, editor Rebecca Gethin, and all the poets featured. Here’s hoping it does much good for our big-hearted brethren.
St. Albans, our nearest market town here in the English countryside north of London, has been holding a week-long series of events focusing on sustainable living. As part of the proceedings they solicited poems from the local Ver Poets group on an environmental theme. They have been posting a new poem each day, and all are well worth reading.
Today, hot on the heels of America electing a climate-change denier to its highest office, you can read the short poem “What Will Survive Us“, my prognosis for unchecked human exploitation of the natural world.
Read the poem.
Ekphrastic poetry in response to big data? Yes, please.
HSBC collected 16,000 verbatim responses to complete the statement, “Expat Life Is…”. They then commissioned me to write a poem addressing the eight major themes that emerged.
The result is the poem sequence “Eightfold Expat“, which you can listen to and read on the HSBC Expat Explorer website.
Poet and screenwriter Aaron Kent had a wild idea: interview poets using poetry. Not only that — but ask them to respond to the poems-as-questions with poems-as-answers. It could have been weird, but it ended up being really cool.
The first of our exchanges is now up on the Poetic Interviews website. More will be posted over time.
[Update: all six question-poems and answer-poems are now available here.]