Nothing Personal [Poem]

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Nothing Personal

There is no more left to write about
since I fell away from the world
I don’t mean existentially — 
like a balloon, the globe escaped
and drifted into the star-pricked dark
or perhaps it was I, filled with
the good air of hopefulness,
tied tightly by a mother’s hand.
Among the satellites, I was alone
cosying up to space debris, cartons
of fast-food left by astronauts,
the Earth glowing gently beside me,
wrapped like an invalid in cotton wool.
I was told it would be dangerous
but the air had already been used up
in the ongoing political debate
and the chill I found refreshing
after the seas turned to bath water.
I wouldn’t say the vacuum abhorred me,
though I felt its persistent tug.
Something is to be said for drifting
after a lifetime spent believing in gravity.
Sometimes I miss the small-scale things
here with the Milky Way behind me,
but even if I wanted to now,
I could not pull it all back.

Poetry for Elephants

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.


Poem Online for Sustainable St. Albans Week

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.


Letting the Robin out of the Bag

Robin Concrete PoemI have had poems coerced into handmade paper via letterpress printing techniques, laser printed on broadsides sheets, and even hung like advertisements in shop windows. I am really excited, though, to have a poem on a tote bag.

Not just any tote bag — a concrete interpretation of my poem “Robin”, beautifully designed by Jane Commane, on a classy natural canvas bag. It comes free with a subscription to the Nine Arches Poetry Book Club — itself an excellent idea that gets you six fine single-author poetry collections hot off the press, discounts on other books, and special invitations. Gift wrap available. Really, I hope they made enough bags!

I also like the idea that using this tote instead of a plastic bag might help a scruffy robin survive the long winter of our global mass-consumption.

As they say in the UK: “Bagsy!” And in my native California: “Totes amazeballs!” You get the idea. I’m exited.

Bag in splendour next to fine poetry books
Bag your six books

Against Defending Poetry

"The Sack of Rome..." by Joseph-Noël Sylvestre

Along with poems entitled “Ars Poetica,” essays entitled, “In Defense of Poetry,” or some variation on that theme, have circulated for decades. It occurs to me that the idea that poetry needs defending is as much in error as the idea that the Earth needs saving. In truth, if we humans sully our revolving petri dish of a planet so as to make it uninhabitable, it is not the Earth that will pay the ultimate price. In a small matter of perhaps a few billion years, the planet is likely to recover from its unfortunate little human experiment. So, really, it is ourselves we save by taking care of our environment.

Likewise, I believe that poetry is the natural expression of a healthy society. So, it is not that we need to defend poetry to the society in which we find ourselves, but that we must strive to remember our society to poetry’s importance. And yet, as much as I know that poetry has, in fact, “saved” me in my life, I do not believe that it is poetry’s job to “save” the world in which I live.

I often wonder about the poets who lived in the end times of a civilization. Where are the Roman poets who wrote just before the empire’s corrupt system of taxation and conscription precipitated its demise? Or the Mayan priests who writ large the ancient lore while their intricate and untenable corn bureaucracies starved their people to death? These bards are conspicuously unremembered by history.

Yet, no doubt, they existed. And perhaps, in their way, they made equivalent efforts to bring their people back to an understanding of the beauty and power of using language to transcends language. Before the Visigoths incinerated their scrolls, or their stone inscriptions crumbled, they, too, may have found a kind of personal salvation in the way a well-made poem can embrace human contradiction. Though words alone may have been insufficient to defend them from hostilities within or without, I know poetry is at once an act of courage, and, as Keats said, “comes … as naturally as the leaves to a tree.”

It requires no justification, no explanation, no defense.