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As the poet-in-residence at EcoHealth Alliance, my verse finds inspiration these days in topics of ecology and public health. I am reappraising the sonnets of E. A. Robinson for my dissertation at LMU Munich, where I tutor composition and poetics. I also teach English at MVHS and lead the literary circle at Amerikahaus.


Der Tod des Dichters

von Rainer Maria Rilke

Er lag. Sein aufgestelltes Antlitz war
bleich und verweigernd in den steilen Kissen,
seitdem die Welt und diese von-ihr-Wissen,
von seinen Sinnen abgerissen,
zurückfiel an das teilnahmslose Jahr.

Die, so ihn leben sahen, wußten nicht,
wie sehr er Eines war mit allem diesen,
denn Dieses: diese Tiefen, diese Wiesen
und diese Wasser waren sein Gesicht.

O sein Gesicht war diese ganze Weite,
die jetzt noch zu ihm will und um ihn wirbt;
und seine Maske, die nun bang verstirbt,
ist zart und offen wie die Innenseite
von einer Frucht, die an der Luft verdirbt.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.



by W. S. Merwin

with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
standing by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
taking our feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
thank you we are saying and waving
dark though it is

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.


To Him that was Crucified

by Walt Whitman

My spirit to yours, dear brother;
Do not mind because many, sounding your name, do not understand you;
I do not sound your name, but I understand you, (there are others also;)
I specify you with joy, O my comrade, to salute you, and to salute those who are with you, before and since—and those to come also,
That we all labor together, transmitting the same charge and succession;         
We few, equals, indifferent of lands, indifferent of times;
We, enclosers of all continents, all castes—allowers of all theologies,
Compassionaters, perceivers, rapport of men,
We walk silent among disputes and assertions, but reject not the disputers, nor any thing that is asserted;
We hear the bawling and din—we are reach’d at by divisions, jealousies, recriminations on every side,
They close peremptorily upon us, to surround us, my comrade,
Yet we walk unheld, free, the whole earth over, journeying up and down, till we make our ineffaceable mark upon time and the diverse eras,
Till we saturate time and eras, that the men and women of races, ages to come, may prove brethren and lovers, as we are.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

#enough #weareorlando


Amerikahaus Literary Circle: 1 June 2016

Son of the Morning Star: 
General Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn 

by Evan S. Connell

1.  Did you enjoy the book?  What were its lasting impressions? 

2.  Evan S. Connell was more practiced at writing fiction and poetry than non-fiction; indeed, his history of the Battle of the Little Bighorn is not written chronologically.  How is the book organized?  What are the upsides (and downsides) of having a novelist pen a chronicle of such a famous event as this?

3.  Contrast the armies:  The U.S. Seventh Calvary had an extraordinarily high rate of desertion whereas the Plains Tribes had the ritual of the Sun Dance; the Indians were protecting their homes whereas the Americans were motivated extrinsically by thoughts of glory and gold.  What other contrasts struck you as noteworthy?

4.  Who among the many, many characters and which among their many, many anecdotes fascinated you?  (For example, the image of Sitting Bull signing autographs in Brooklyn's Coney Island, for me, is utterly surreal.)

5.  Connell underscores the point that Canadians, by and large, honored their treaties with Indians—thereby resulting in very little violence.  By contrast, the Americans broke treaties—as in the search for gold in the Black Hills—time and time again.  How does this inform our present-day notions of the U.S. government's trustworthiness?

6.  Look at the two paintings on the back of this page:  What do you see?

"The Battle of Little Bighorn" by Edgar Paxson, 1899

"The Battle of Little Bighorn" by Chief Kicking Bear, 1898

Upcoming Meetings & Titles

6 July 2016:  A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
5 October 2016:  The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger 
2 November 2016:  Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
14 December 2016:  The Moons of Jupiter by Alice Munro

Free and open to the public, the AHLC is a book club that (usually) meets on the first Wednesday of the month.  For more information, visit amerikahaus.de; to join the e-mail list, contact Mark Olival-Bartley at olivalbartley@gmail.com.

Mu Ch'i's Persimmons

by Gary Snyder

There is no remedy for satisfying hunger other than a painted rice cake.
Dōgen, November 1242

On a back wall down the hall
lit by a side glass door
is the scroll of Mu Ch'i's great
sumi painting, "persimmons"
The wind-weights hanging from the
axles hold it still.
The best in the world, I say,
of persimmons.
Perfect statement of emptiness
no other than form
the twig and the stalk still on,
the way they sell them in the
market even now.
The original's in Kyoto at a
lovely Rinzai temple where they
show it once a year
this one's a perfect copy from Benrido
I chose the mounting elements myself
with the advice of the mounter
I hang it every fall.
And now, to these over-ripe persimmons
from Mike and Barbara's orchard.
Napkin in hand,
I bend over the sink
suck the sweet orange goop
that's how I like it
gripping a little twig
those painted persimmons
sure cure hunger

"Six Persimmons," Muqi Fachang (牧溪法常), c. 1210-1269