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Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Vanishing Field

The Vanishing Field
   For John Merriman and Jay Winter

Movie cameras used during the war
Captured scenes from a single perspective.
Projected back home on theater screens
Bound by walls, curtains, a proscenium arch,
Set before plush rows of seats (a few
Empty, but most occupied by families),
They played out their narrow fields of view
Even as they panned, surveyed the land.

In the camera's silent record of battle,
Its focus fixed on some vanishing point,
Soldiers ran or fired, mud or sand blew up,
Then extra troops rushed into the frame,
Dead set upon crossing those enemy lines
As all around them men were vaporized.

-Mark F. Herron

Saturday, October 8, 2016

On The Day The Sun Stood Still

On The Day The Sun Stood Still

Thales of Miletus, one-seventh of wisest men
In his tinkering and short geometries, in his
Shadows and fluid proportions, stood riveted
For a long hot second under the midday sun.
And at that peak moment, as the sun stood
Over a pyramid, shaking, he cried and threw
Himself to ground - held on for dear life.
He begged the world: "Stop spinning! Good
Friends, moor my arms and legs!" And he
Implored that sun to: "Move once more! Not
The earth fly round it, with us unfastened
Passengers passing" as he then understood.

-Mark F. Herron
A study in attribution and understanding.  More on Thales here:

Monday, October 3, 2016

William The Conqueror

William The Conqueror (AKA: William The Bastard)
An English Story

Edward the Confessor was the last
Anglo-Saxon king of England. His
Mother was Norman and he spent
Many years in exile. William -
Was his first cousin, once removed.

Edward liked to dangle
The succession in front of nobles
To strengthen his uneasy alliances.
Harold Godwinson, rich Earl of Wessex
Was the most powerful man in England.

He was elected king by the Witenagemot
(Anglo-Saxon high council) and crowned
After Edward’s death in January 1066.
Others disagreed and Harold’s brother
Tostig, with Norway, invaded the north.

It was the end of summer
Supplies were running low and the peasants
Needed to bring in the fall harvest
When Harold led his army to Yorkshire
And left the south ripe for picking.

With a force of thousands of cavalry
Infantry, and archers, William landed
At Pevensey, went straight to Hastings
Began building a castle, and waited
There for Harold to return.

In the battle, rumors flew like arrows:
“William est mort!” (Dead.) The Norman
Troops broke, retreated, until William
Removed his helmet, alive for all to see
And Harold was pierced through the eye.

William was crowned king on Christmas Day
But ruled in absentia. He replaced English
Aristocracy and clergy with Normans but
Retained the justice system. His Latin
And French languages governed the land.

Over time, they intermarried
But the nobility never learned Saxon:
“Pigs,” “cows,” and “sheep” were names for
Livestock, but “pork,” “beef,” and “mutton”
Were served up on the platter.

-Mark F. Herron
A study in form and content.  Derived from an historical anecdote (950th anniversary of William’s landing on England) posted at The Writer’s Almanac:

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Triple Double

Triple Double

He did everything a poet could do:
Switching tacks at opportune moments
The way others might maneuver a single
Line; feinting one, then going another
And LeBron James, he manipulated

The larger patterns of the form. Using
Stanzas, he’d barrel his way toward a turn
But lest the reader be tracked to that,
He’d then spend a while enjambing
Savoring letters, sounds next to each othr.

He dwelt then executed - and in the finals
He played more, scored more, dished more,
Grabbed more, and blocked more than any
Other living poet enmeshed in his writing.
It was like he was playing basketball.

-Mark F. Herron
For LeBron James and Robert O'Connell.  Was reading about the win (after watching it too) and thinking of how it's been like poetry.  Truly amazing!  Then was taken by the idea of a triple double - how to do one in poetry?  The double could be an extended metaphor (poetry as basketball, a reversal or double-take) and the triple slowly worked into the overlays of the poem itself (writing - it performs), basketball and the basketball season, and then heroic roles today (LeBron as poet).  The form was also constrained by the title into three stanzas (triple) of the double-take, and five lines each (3+2).  

Launched from The Atlantic article, “The Return Of The King,” by Robert O’Connell (starting text came from the article - you may find some of it there). See:

Thursday, June 16, 2016

In The Center Of The Universe

In The Center Of The Universe

No fixed thing, an old globe stands
On its stand, in the middle of a room:
Once a plaything for our children,
Who held or ran their giant hands
Across whole continents, spanned
With their palms, all the seven seas;

They who looked down their noses
At the north pole, and with a spin
Like Orion, that bright constellation
Towering, laughing in the night sky,
They spun the earth upon its shaft
Examined then its bottom half.

With horns they played, strange
Continents that all came to a point
And read aloud the labeled passages
Where ships passed none-too-close
As to wreck upon their coasts, nor so
Far out in the expanse, as to get lost

To behold no longer, a known world;
Like a children’s globe upon a wooden
Stand in the middle of an empty room
Around which they once stood, those
Gods of the zodiac and ancient skies,
There in the center of the universe.

-Mark F. Herron
For Max and Annika.  Been reading of Wallace Stevens lately (his biography) and playing around with imaginary worlds (which then become metapoems too - calling attention to the fact that they're the fact calling attention)...   Reading a little Yeats too, so sentimentality crept in, but I think it (we) needs it. Very lifelike: it goes on a bit yet also ends too soon. ;-).

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Archaeology And Long-Exposure Photography In The Material World

Archaeology And Long-Exposure Photography In The Material World
"In their absence, the occupants are observable."

Archaeology is an encounter
Between a fixed past and a
Shifting present, often used
To warn against some future.
    Like long-exposure photography,
    We cease to exist once we move.

These objects carry more truth
Than words do, and the material
Shows what people actually did
Rather than what we say they did.
    Like long-exposure photography,
    We cease to exist once we move.

We bring to it our phantasies,
Prejudices, and predilections;
This year different from last year,
Next year different from this.
    Like long-exposure photography,
    We cease to exist once we move.

-Mark F. Herron
Something of an uncovered or found poem (most words by or quoted by Charlotte Higgins, but I massaged and rearranged it a bit (the outtakes - doing my own digging of a site here (it's a meta-poem)).  Great article Charlotte!  There were many, many poems and poetic moments in there (it's beautiful writing)) from The New Yorker:

"The excavation at Must Farm will come to an end this summer. The remaining timbers will be lifted from the mud, the artifacts underneath will be recorded and removed, and everything deemed unimportant will be discarded…Knight said, “we will backfill the whole site. We’ll take down the building, and here they will build a haulage road for the quarry.” The rip in time will be mended; the landscape will return to work. "

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Looking Forward and Reaching Out

Looking Forward and Reaching Out

Happy are the travelers who survey all faces
Not scowling mad, but full of good graces;
Proud of each other, wishing well, sharing praises
Not curses for others, laments at their stations.
    Those who look forward are those going places;
    In traveling miles, their smiles spread contagious
    Among people they meet with joy, graciousness.

Some lonely riders seek only lonely places,
Others aid others with opportunities, chances;
Amaze with their smiling :-) and their light traces
Of humor, wisdom, compassion, celebration.
    To those who reach out, fortune embraces
    And working together, we improve our chances
    For success, for us all, in all situations!

-Mark F. Herron
I did a poem with an emoji...  :-) !!!!

Talkabout A Walkabout And Actually Being There

Talkabout A Walkabout And Actually Being There

Let's not talk about talkabout
But talk about it instead. Maybe
Go for a walk to clear the head.
What is it to feel informed but not
Be informed; what's all that buzz?


At issue in this bee-loud glade
Seems to be what seems to be;
A wise man once said: you will
Always find what you're looking for.


And the foolish man will always
Find it but he'll never know it's only
What it appears; that he has found
Just what he was looking for.
And what are we looking for, where?


One might walkabout and see what's
Allabout instead - that off-line
Multi-faceted compound perspective
Of community not inside one's head.

-Mark F. Herron
"Know thyself and all things in moderation."

There's even a Yeats reference in there.

On The Flats Of France

On The Flats Of France

What strangeness to survive
A doom others have imbibed

To have
Drunk an elixir red as blood
Thin as smoke, thick as mud.

-Mark F. Herron
One of the modern, WWI works

As They Died

As They Died

They cried in verse and rhyme
Till even the deceased drummers
Stirred enough, to keep time

-Mark F. Herron
One of the modern, WWI works

Belgian Bridges

Belgian Bridges

There hangs in french prison, a Renoir
With power to calm the mind and open
Space into which some may escape
All the small confines of the mundane.

A similar painting hangs in The Hague
And on occasional days, a new citizen
Of Bruges emerges from its colorful haze;
Men so thankful, men so well-behaved

That they’re escorted from The Hague
And welcomed from that distant place
Depicted in that painted scene. Years
Perhaps, they say they’ve wandered

Somewhere vague, and there’s no record
Anywhere of their lives outside that frame.

-Mark F. Herron
An odd one (I woke up with it in my head).  I almost went back to sleep but thought, well, I should write that down...  Had been reading Stevens and examining alternates and the unexplained (plus self-reference) and interesting rhymes, almost-rhymes, and suggestions (it sure seems political too, doesn't it?  But isn't it?).  In his biography, I'm still in those modern art & armory days.

Shining And Inspired

Shining And Inspired

O Oberlin! You've always called for
A new leadership and filled our ears
And minds with cries for social justice
(That need opposed to injustice
And intolerant of any compromise
As a failure or unjust betrayal). This
Dangerous instability and hot protest
Is what you wanted, hired, have required.

But what are the other ancient teachings
Outside the academy and western canon?
Did China, Egypt, Inca, or Africa, etc.
Call for freedoms for all and justice?
Only Buddhism, I think, teaches no desire:
That path to bliss without demand, ire.

-Mark F Herron
A reflection on "What's going on at Oberlin."

The Role Of The Poet

The Role Of The Poet

Is an interesting one;
He stands beside (ecstatic)
And reflects, describes.

-Mark F. Herron
Re-flects.  De-scribes...

In Shaded Wood

In Shaded Wood
    For Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And there I simply stood, paralyzed
By indecision and the choice, knowing
How wrong I'd feel despite that good
That would come from either way
Chosen that day in the yellow wood.

Down one road in the yellow wood
I strode then stood, and looked
Back upon the join I'd left behind,
Retraced my steps as best I could
Along the slightly trammeled grass,
Til at crossroads once more I stood.

Then in a mood in the yellow wood
Instead that other branch I took
To try myself upon its way as well
Knowing full-well that not I should,
But stick instead to that equal path
Of now-known grass and other good.

Many times to that yellow wood
Have I returned and dwelt upon
Its join or point where ways divide,
To re-decide which could or should
Be my path from the shaded wood
As if I must decide, and would;
As if I must decide, and would.

-Mark F. Herron
A derivation of The Road Not Taken, but his is so much better; so smooth too. Maybe someday I'll find myself there.  I especially liked his line (9): “Though as for that the passing there.”  I was taken by it (that) and thought perhaps I should pass a little time there myself, maybe haunt the place. Hence, this.  I started thinking about yellow woods (Fall - perhaps Frost approaches... (also a reference to the modernists/imagists/Stevens/WCW, etc. - that simple/flat yet imbuing color)) and couldn't/wouldn't it maybe be a little musty (green grass not withstanding)?  Then I also used the Stopping By Woods trick to end it (even though I didn't need the extra line nor had a rhyme cascade to tie up.  ;-P ).  Some ModPo reference as well, for those in the know. See:

Also (from Google): trammel (verb):  deprive of freedom of action. -  "those less trammeled by convention than himself" 

Synonyms: restrict, restrain, constrain, hamper, confine, hinder, handicap, obstruct, impede, hold back, tie down, hamstring, shackle, fetter.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

In The Blab And Wave

In The Blab And Wave: Bright Shepherds Without Sheep
(The American Experiment)

Did we talk about this? They
Dickinsonian and Whitmanian
Were both self-made; they
Found their ways into poetry

Of non-domestic imagination
As free-tenants of the pave.
Beyond the brick and mortar
Those salons of church and state

(Sans condescending guides
Then required for entrance
To the dark scholarly circles
Of Oxford, of Harvard, of Yale)

They wandered rising paths
Freed from classical gates.

-Mark F. Herron
A reflection after ModPo 2015 (and a final thought).  Nicely done, Al.  (Democratic indeed - and it all ties back or into Via too, which I still find amazing!).

Sunday, May 29, 2016

To The Halls And Heroes Poets Once Sung

To The Halls And Heroes Poets Once Sung

They wrote for each other, college men
Raised, quoting the classics in Greek, Latin,
Honored prerequisites to admission

For each old boy entrant (they had to quote
And speak to what those passages meant,
Prove how life, leadership were best spent).

But when the guns of World War One
Chattered and spat as church bells rung,
Everywhere, everything came undone:

As Lieutenants leading the charge fell
As the Captains leading the field fell
As the Generals leading the armies fell

They called to each other, college men
Razed, quoting the classics in Greek, Latin,
Honored prerequisites for admission

-Mark F. Herron
A WWI poem on the eve of Memorial Day.  The poem (and final punctuation) inform the title.  And note how things get cut short at the end.  And it's not easy (a modern aspect) - it's also about how the technology (those machines) changed things (and it's somewhat in the spirit of Yeats) and how things have changed, plus more...

Enough To Clothe A Population

Enough To Clothe A Population

Much has been made of the making
As if each person had a handle to tug
And as each person had a will to tug
Then as each tug undid it, line by line,
The tugged green sweater unraveling
Became a green sweater tugged on.
Soon a whole class wore the green
Sweater, and then a whole generation
Assumed its mantle and the green
Sweater became huge, even as
Each person in the sweater tugged
Unraveling it, green line by line.

-Mark F. Herron
For David Millians and his class: exploring imaginations and creating worlds (us assuming them as well - there is a green movement, for instance).  In the spirit of Wallace Stevens (poesis as making) and about reading, analyzing poems too (it's a meta poem).

Thursday, May 19, 2016

That Life Of Imagination

That Life Of Imagination
-For Wallace Stevens and Paul Mariani

That life of imagination did provide
An oxygen he needed to survive;
Distant horizons for which to strive
As infinite worlds within the mind:

It began to color the world outside,
Illuminating with its green sunshine
A red man standing, a blue supine,
The bright kaleidoscope divine.

Prisms in the empty, snow and ice
Turned spectrum to his tuned-in eyes,
Beheld all that the white combined
As thought, with the silence, arrived:

No gray rooms, no uninspired,
No meaningless nor final quiet
In the union of out withal inside,
A whole harmonium, not divide.

-Mark F. Herron
A small poem for Wallace Stevens and also his biographer, Paul Mariani. The first couple lines are tweaked yet from page 12 of Paul's book "The Whole Harmonium, The Life of Wallace Stevens" given to me by my brother.  See:

Row On Row I Plant These Seeds

Row On Row I Plant These Seeds
-For Al Filreis

I turn again to fecund deed:
Casting kernels hard like beans.
I seek to drive in soil cleaved
Nugget bits of wisdom gleaned;
Row on row I plant these seeds.

I scatter hints like frozen peas,
Misplace statements willfully
Fertilize, words as I please
While others exposed - I leave;
Row on row I plant these seeds.

Curious - seems poetry
Plowed into the page, idea
That harvested upon a field
Brings different yield; different yield!
Row on row I plant these seeds.

And year on year, in year, on year
In planting seeds, pods, and ears
I've noticed not the rows come clear
But ideas - in turns like these;
Row on row I plant these seeds.

Row on row I plant these seeds.

-Mark F. Herron
Lyric, lighter verse.  Some gravity and levity.  About using form, meter, rhyme (and self-conscious about writing - very formal contrast in that sense), and also exploring the (ancient) metaphor of writing poetry or verse as planting and plowing furrows in the ground.  But with a look at the turn, not the row.  What (and where) is a turn?  The effects of enjambment.  I think that's where the metaphor falls short.  And with polysemy, reference, ambiguity, etc. - the seeds themselves may shift in yield (which is very unlike farming). They turn out differently.

Thursday, May 5, 2016


    For Søren Kierkegaard

I remember laughing with scorn,
Incredulity that chemistry could
Have been invented by a people
Who called hydrogen "water-stuff."

Ludicrous! How such simpletons
Could then visualize an abstract
Science (none of that modeling
Is natural) from just observing

The after-effects of those atomic
Reactions: gas to liquid to solid
Or that sublime leap of imagination:
Doubt to faith, was well beyond me.

I laughed at the concerted absurdity:
"Wasserstoff!" as if putting-it, by
Sticking words together, were enough
To engender a change of state.

-Mark F. Herron
Written on the birthday of Søren Kierkegaard.  I've been thinking-about, considering words, rivers and lakes, changes of state.  It's amazing what Anglo-Saxonry or putting ideas together can do (I found great irony in this real-life example too, when I later realized hydro and gen were Greek for water and being or a kind/stuff.  Sometimes I think the power of the German language (of any language) lies in its ability to throw things together and add things up). 

See also the second anecdote down, here: