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Giveaway on Goodreads Ends Soon

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Paley front coverJust a reminder that I am giving away two copies of my book, Made and Remade on Goodreads.  This pre-launch giveaway closes on July 20.

Of course, if you don’t win, you can buy a copy from me by using the contact page.

Here’s a sample from the book.  I’ve organized the poems in six sections, responding to different statements by William Paley.  One is this:

I know no better method of introducing so large a subject, than that of comparing a single thing with a single thing; an eye, for example, with a telescope. As far as the examination of the instrument goes, there is precisely the same proof that the eye was made for vision, as there is that the telescope was made for assisting it.
Natural Theology, 16

And one of my responses to that text is:

Analogies

Treasured image: curved back
of a worker bent in concentration,
watchmaker with tiny tools,

magnifying eyepiece,
or potter with clay-covered hands:
e
ach has a skill prized in its time.

When human minds are
compared to computers, no one calls
God a computer nerd, and though

bodies are treated like machines,
repaired, regulated, no one says,
We are watches.”

We break, are mended
like serviceable jars, more kin to
vulnerable clay than clipped metal.

Paul wrote “earthen
vessels” and it stuck.

Goodreads Giveaway for Made and Remade

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Paley front coverI am offering two copies of my book Made and Remade in a pre-launch giveaway on Goodreads.  Go to https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22163304-made-and-remade if you’d like to sign up.

The proper launch for the book will be in September, with readings in Las Cruces.  If you’d like to invite me to come to your area and share a reading with someone, I can do that too!  I’ll be lining things up soon.

If you don’t win the giveaway, which ends July 20, use the contact page if you’d like to get a book.

 

This is the opening poem in the collection:

Obsession

for Polly

I’m fixed on this book
like a three-year-old on trucks,
a five-year-old on dinosaurs.  You could
make it my motif, were I young
enough for birthday parties.

Language to sift and savor
artfully, skillfully portrays
a world of fixed order, art
and skilled contrivance.
This balance
wavers as I wonder
at that world’s collapse in
swings, cycles, evolving
life, shifting earth.

Mechanistic views dissolve in
reality’s wash and rub.  I
turn and read again for fragments,
museum quality gems of evidence
for a long dead argument, a fresh fix
of fine writing, proceeding
from a fine mind.

 

Thinking About Line Breaks

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Poets talk a lot about line breaks.  There is even a site called linebreak.org, as if that were a synonym for poem.  We need synonyms for “poem” because there is so much debate about what counts as a poem.

James Longenbach takes a different view.  Lines don’t break, he insists.  They just end.  It is the sentence structure that may or may not be broken by the end of the line.

Some lines are end-stopped, when a sentence ends where the line ends.  Where the line ends with the end of a phrase, Longenbach calls it “parsing.”  Where the meaning goes right past the end of the line and into the next in order to make sense, Longenbach calls it “annotating” – a term from a Milton scholar.  Milton did a lot of this.  Often in these lines the sense appears to end but doesn’t – the meaning is changed by what comes in the next line.

This play with terminology is a good reminder not to get stuck in habitual patterns, whether in writing poems or talking about them.  Labels are a hindrance to thinking new thoughts and seeing things in new ways.

“The music of the poem,” Longenbach reminds us, “”depends on what the syntax is doing when the line ends.”  There is no better or worse in the ways the syntax can be broken – or not.  Variety is what makes the poem effective.

Going to the other extreme, in Made and Remade I included two poems which have no line breaks: where the line as you see it ends is merely a function of where the margin is.  Here is one of them:

Perspectives

Walking in this desert I can picture you at work in your study because I have also walked on cobbled streets by Independence Hall, seen portrayed the men who met there, your contemporaries.  Your manse in a northern town at a river’s mouth calls to mind rocky shores I’ve walked on, their ten foot tides; I can see you there.  Yet, walking on sand I too easily picture your heath as always yellow, forget your concrete details do not become sidewalks, driveways alongside asphalt roads.  You have no need to bind with cement, build on your discrete images; all point in the same direction, while my direction shifts with desert winds.

Check out http://www.linebreak.org.  They publish a poem every week, written by one poet and read by another.

James Longenbach’s book is The Art of the Poetic Line (Graywolf Press, 2008).  It is a very small book rich with examples of good poems.

See the Books page for Made and Remade and use the Contact page if you’d like to get a copy directly from me.

My Book is Out!

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Paley front coverAnd it is in my hands.  Due to a miscommunication with the publisher, the books had to chase me across the country, but I now have a batch to offer.  You can buy the book on the WordTech website, http://www.wordtechweb.com/order.htm

or you can contact me for a signed copy at a slight discount ($15 instead of $18, and mailing is included, as a special hot-off-the-press offer).

The poems in Made and Remade respond to William Paley’s book, Natural Theology, published in 1802.  Famous for his analogy, “suppose I had found a watch upon the ground . . . the inference we think is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker . . . .,” the book presents Paley’s case for creation by design.  As cracks developed in a once coherent world view, we have been left with patches and pieces – the material of poetry – with which to make meaning.  The poems move in many directions, reflecting on how much has changed in 200 years.

Clocks and Time

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The Bridge Outside Paley's Door

The Bridge Outside Paley’s Door

 

 

 

 

In honor of the clock change, here is one of my poems about time and clocks from Made and Remade.

 

The Potentate of Time

As CEO, I cannot allow loss
of minutes dropped by badly
calibrated clocks, seconds

split by timers racing after
ever faster miles, or precious
nanoseconds sliced, spit out

by precision machines: all
the clumsy human attempts
to alter time.

I dispatch work crews to
sweep corners and gutters, sift
bits from curbs and drains,

bring their gathered goods into
my laboratory where skilled
artisans sort, stitch, splice.  My

expanding universe requires
recovery, repair, reuse
of every particle.

The title comes from a line in a hymn “Crown him the Lord of years, the potentate of time.”  It’s a phrase I’ve been fond of for a long time.  In spite of the source I picture this powerful figure as female.  I don’t know if this is because this cleaning up is a kind of woman’s work, or if it is a form of identification between poet and persona.  I intentionally hid my perspective by putting the poem in the first person.  How do you imagine this figure?

Drive carefully on Monday morning.  It’s a high accident time because so many people are thrown off and sleep deprived by the time change

Progress on “Made and Remade”

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The Bridge Outside Paley's Door

The Bridge Outside Paley’s Door

The manuscript for my collection of poems about William Paley and his 200 year old text Natural Theology has gone to the publisher.  Made and Remade should be out in the middle of 2014

To celebrate I offer this poem, which opens the book and describes my enthusiasm for the project.  It also points to all that has changed since Paley wrote, and the world of change we live in now.

            Obsession

for Polly

I’m fixed on this book
like a three-year-old on trucks,
a five-year-old on dinosaurs.  You could
make it my motif, were I young
enough for birthday parties.

Language to sift and savor
artfully, skillfully portrays
a world of fixed order, art
and skilled contrivance.
This balance
wavers as I wonder
at that world’s collapse in
swings, cycles, evolving
life, shifting earth.

Mechanistic views dissolve in
reality’s wash and rub.  I
turn and read again for fragments,
museum quality gems of evidence
for a long dead argument, a fresh fix
of fine writing, proceeding
from a fine mind.

This poem was included in Ascents: Five Southwestern Women Poets.

More About William Paley and his Bridge

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Photo: Sunderland Public Libraries / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo: Sunderland Public Libraries / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

The bridge which William Paley admired at Wearmouth (see my post of July 26) tells us two important things about the time when Paley wrote his book, Natural Theology.  First, the smoke from the smokestack tells us that the industrial age has arrived.  Second, the sails on the ships tell us that engines which can move ships (or trains for that matter) have not yet been invented.  This is a world of commerce, but it is not our world.

William Paley came to live in Wearmouth in 1795.  He was then 52 years old; his most successful years were behind him.  Paley was educated at Cambridge and became a teacher there.  He was ordained in 1766 as an Anglican priest, and was appointed to various positions in the church.  He wrote three important books before Natural Theology, one on moral philosophy and two defending the historical accuracy of the New Testament.

In all his writing Paley emphasized reason, and wrote clear, logical arguments.  That clarity, and his use of language in general, makes Natural Theology a pleasure to read, in spite of the fact that, as the picture demonstrates, his world is very different from our present circumstances.

My collection of poems, Made and Remade, responding to William Paley’s writing, is to be published by WordTech Editions in 2014.

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