The following is an announcement about the release of my new book, Constellations and Fireflies, with a few of its poems interspersed…
Turning down the covers for bed,
on my pillow, the shimmery fragment
of a moth’s wing —
O, what dreams may come!
Constellations and Fireflies is now available on Amazon. The book has been enjoyable to write and produce in part because having written two other books, one of which is rather long, I found this time around that I had developed a pleasing facility with the technology for self-publication that I didn’t have before. This allowed me to enjoy the making of the book and to savor its content during that process. So, the act of producing the book was a pleasure.
Sipping tea, cup tipped to my lips,
I turned to the dancing trees
and lost myself in reflection.
In my writing, over the years, I’ve found inspiration in a number of authors of poetry and prose whose influences are likely manifested, hidden or not, in Constellations and Fireflies. Many of the authors I enjoy I have had to read in translation, but these authors projected such beauty and power in their works that much seems to come through. I speak of such poets as Rumi, Hafez, Li Bai, Kobayashi Issa, Sappho, and many others. As to English speaking poets, I find particular inspiration in Shakespeare. Whenever I read something of his, it stirs my inner poet to breathe alive the fires and forge something new. In fact, that’s kind of my own test for a poet because insofar as when that kind of inspiration happens, I know there is something magical, at least for me, in that poet’s work. Many of D. H. Lawrence‘s poems provide that kind of inspiration for me, because they are often wild and impassioned with thick, chewy imagery and luscious sounds. It also happens when I read Charles Bukowski or Leonard Cohen, and sometimes with the works of Robert Bly. I find some wonderful passages in many of the poems and writings of James Joyce, such as Ulysses or finnegans wake. He was such an incredible technician, gifted and revolutionary. But, he was also a man of heart, even though in some sense, he appeared to me to be engaged in a rather violent struggle between head and heart. To me, in my own humble view, that’s what finnegans wake really is: a war, and sometimes a dance, between head and heart; between feeling and intellect; between the masculine and the feminine; between wakefulness and sleep. Both poles are essential, these dichotomies each are required for life, but to cool the war between them it appears necessary to recognize they are two faces of a single whole. This is a theme that flows like a clear stream through the pages of my new book.
Old loves, old lives, old times…
Where does it all go? —
My face is warmed by an evening sun
falling like slow fire over the corn.
The authors I mention, and others, all have inspired me in my own work. There are, I believe, commonalities that have emerged from their good influence naturally as time has flowed on. As I mentioned above, I think the reader will find in Constellations and Fireflies some fragrances of many of those authors and to some degree an honoring of the example they uphold. As well as, I dare say, something new. In Constellations and Fireflies, there is a thorough attention to those technical aspects of writing: sounds, shapes, and rhythm, the sometimes grueling effort to get “just the right word,” and that intangible sense that every author must have for putting him- or herself in the place of the reader. What will enable another person to see what I’m seeing here? What will touch that person’s heart or appeal to their own life’s subtle tides? Why should anyone care about what I’m saying in this poem? And there is something of the poet rebel or adventurer who pushes the limits of ink and page to express what comes forth of its own, with its own nature and its own intent, its own sound and rhythm, even if it means crafting new or spontaneous forms. Sometimes a line or phrase insists that you write it down. Sometimes just the sound of the thing is a music you can’t deny to print.
The ant ascends
the long stem of grass —
pausing where two leaves diverge
I think many new authors are surprised when they learn that one’s own experiences, while unique in essence to oneself, usually have quite a lot in common with the experiences of others. And that such a thing doesn’t diminish one’s individuality. We have our desires, our dreams, our challenging uncertainties… and no one is immune to those forces of fate that come in and carelessly knock over those towers one’s spent long spans of time and copious tears to build. However common are life’s experiences, each of us also has his or her unique viewpoint and inner states of feeling and aspiration that imbue the timber of one’s words and deeds.
Awaiting the Storm
Pregnant with the fruition of days of sweltering heat and humidity,
the sky sags low with dark burgeoning clouds.
Birds sing only idly, their eyes turning constantly upward.
The cats complain of nothing tangible.
Fitful motorists strain on the freeway, unable to travel
swiftly enough towards as yet unrevealed destination.
It’s one of life’s most stubborn, thorny, and yet beneficial truths that the world challenges every aspiration. The rewards of any pursuit are just as grand as the dream and the effort to realize it. In the book, I mention a quote from Thoreau… at least, I think it’s Thoreau; and while I’ve not been able to verify that, it is still, I believe, worthy of repeating. “Anything good is as difficult to attain as it is rare.”
As the sun climbs,
points of light appear within
the green veils of the forest —
constellations and fireflies.
Constellations and Fireflies is a collection of poetry based upon the surprising wonders of daily life, from Indiana, to the Pacific Northwest, to California, to the territory beyond all the maps. On this journey we savor the closeness of lovers, companions, the “good nemesis,” and the dearest of Friends. The book’s heart is the will to live… and to live big, even when the world appears small.
I’ll close with one more poem from Constellations and Fireflies — One of the experiences that provides for me an always surprising depth of perception and appreciation is the fascinating and imaginatively stimulating contemplation of small things, little items of one’s life that we find along the way, perhaps while hiking along the ocean shore; maybe something we discover in the garage while we’re looking for something else. Sometimes you find in the library a book you didn’t know you needed: it just somehow falls into your hand. There is magic in little, apparently innocuous things that lay awaiting not merely the act of laying one’s eyes upon them, but also the journey in imagination and open attention that leads to a real blossoming of surprising insight. Sometimes there is just the mysterious pleasure of a private moment with an object that has a history that’s somehow, for example, sensed in the patina of its metal; those small scratches of a pot’s clay surface, and the way designs and glazing are naturally rubbed away by the invisible fingers of time, thus creating unexpected and evocative patterns; the unique way in which a shirt’s fabric is altered by a body’s movements and the passing of time. While wondering around in the woods I’m endlessly bemused by the patterns on small sticks, either the bark itself, the scribblings of insects, or the intriguing wabi-sabi of natural weathering. Such hieroglyphic calligraphy seems rich with sympathetic resonances from beyond the immediately visible.
The Worth of Beautiful Useless Things
A green-rusted gear crusted with red clay
found by the old well-head.
A cracked-face gold watch, stopped and still.
The unknowing and unlearned smile
of a babe not yet hardened to fate.
A large drop-forged hammer found
in a creaking drawer,
hefted in hand, heavy and true.
A river-softened stone of light matter
sculpted over untold years into
the flowing shape of a robed figure.
A peach colored flower of no use
even to a hummingbird dangles
in a warped wooden pot.
By a languid forest stream
an ancient bulldozer nearly rusted solid.
Lizard-scale flakes of yellow paint cling to its flanks.
In its shadow, oxalis nod and waft
in faint billows blown from the passing stream.
Look for Constellations and Fireflies on Amazon. And in the next month or so I will be putting up more content from the book, here on Flowerwatch. Thank you for reading this introduction to my book, and please consider purchasing it. I think you will find pleasure in its pages.