Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Plantwatching vs. Birdwatching and Jane Hirschfield's "After"

I'm sitting here after a day of my brother-in-law's birdwatching while I plantwatched. He saw a Hutton's Vireo today. I saw Thrift and Blue-eyed Grass. In our parallel pursuits I praised him for his level of difficulty. Birds move but plant's don't. Richard has to wait on birds but plants wait on me.

I have often thought I may like plants better than animals or humans. (I suppose man's inplantimity to man has spurred me to it.) And animals you can groom, but you just can't prune. You can have a bigger impact on a plant's life than anything else I know. Feed it, prune it, shape it, make a topiary of it, hybridize, create a new cultivar with your name on a subspecies's tag--I mean, it would take much longer for me to breed a "Craig's Hound" than graft a fruting branch on a rootstock. And thinking of my doctoring years, I can't tell you how much easier plants are than patients. Plants can't disobey your orders.

I've been reading through Jane Hirschfield's After, a lovely book in which her diction becomes simpler with no loss of substance. I highly recommend it. Her "Assays" poems are particularly good, like "Envy: An Assay," "Termites: An Assay," and especially "Ah: An Assay."

Ah: An Assay

When the Greek gods would dip into the clothing and bodies of humans, it was not always as it appeared--not always, that is, for seduction, nor to test the warmth of welcome given to strangers. The sex--like the sudden unveiling and recognition--was not without pleasure. But later, they would remember: "The barley soup offered one night in the village of _____, its wild marjoram, scent of scorched iron, and carrots." "Ah!, and the ones who turned away from us, how their eyes would narrow and wrinkle the tops of their noses." "The barnyard odors." "And afterward, sleep in that salt-scent, close by their manure hoards and feathers." "Sleep itself!" "Ah!"

For this soft "ah!", immortals entered the world of bodies.

Such a great idea, walking in the shoes of gods. I'm not a fan of prose poems but I'm slowly being won over--about two decades after they became permanently accepted as a genre.

For those of you who think I'm just spinning my wheels, I presently have twenty poetry submissions pending to magazines that pay something. Some are big names (beyond my wildest dreams) but hey, just mail the stuff. Persistence is more important than talent. No one will discover you if you don't promote yourself. The world is not a merit system; it's connections, promotion, persistence, and a little talent that counts--not a lot. Just think Robert Creeley and Britney Spears. (I can't decide who of the two is less talented.)

I'm happy the NBA playoffs have begun, especially watching our local Warriors beat the number one team, Dallas, in their first game. For Christmas I got a subscription to NBA TV, so I don't have to miss anything. Tonight its the Lakers vs. the Suns and the Warriors vs. the Mavs. And don't miss Charles Barkley on TNT, truly the funniest Hall-of-Famer in the history of basketball, a gifted clown who can laugh at himself as much as he criticizes others. A national treasure (despite his ascending the stands in his playing days to spit on a fan, or his numerous bar brawls which he invariably won). He has displaced Ted Turner as "The Mouth of the South."

I will leave you here. Do stay in touch.

Thine in Truth and Art,




  1. I discovered Jane Hirshfield only last year and really like her stuff.

    I hope talent has at least something to do with getting somewhere in artistic fields. I know some get to the top with very little e.g. Britney, but others take years of cult status before becoming huge e.g. REM, U2. And some who become quickly popular and commercial actually do have genuine talent e.g. ABBA, Christina Aguilera.

    But I agree persistance is vital and talent will lock itself in a drawer without it. You do have the talent, CE, so keep going.

  2. After is such a brilliant work. Can't read it enough. Thanks for the post, CE.

  3. Thanks, guys. You rule.

    I may have an opportunity to meet Jane soon.

    And Rob, I hear Mark Knopfler is going to play at some Welsh arts festival. If he does, I envy the hell out of you if you make it.

  4. The moon is gone.

    She fled as dawn approached.

    Dawn as a slowly opening eye.

    White sea birds skimming over the water,

    looking for an early morning snack.

    The mirror brightens.

    From a blood moon at dawn to a mirror

    reflecting waking life...


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