Monday, June 20, 2022

word of the day: meed

word of the day: meed

This passage in Hawthorne’s Blithedale Romance has narrator Miles Coverdale congratulating himself on his skills as an observer, a passionate, yet disinterested observer. 

context: “Of all possible observers, methought a woman like Zenobia and a man like Hollingsworth should have selected me. And, now, when the event has long been past, I retain the same opinion of my fitness for the office. True, I might have condemned them. Had I been judge, as well as witness, my sentence might have been stern as that of destiny itself. But, still, no trait of original nobility of character, no struggle against temptation, — no iron necessity of will, on the one hand, nor extenuating circumstance to be derived from passion and despair, on the other, — no remorse that might coexist with error, even if powerless to prevent it, — no proud repentance that should claim retribution as a meed, — would go unappreciated. True, again, I might give my full assent to the punishment which was sure to follow. But it would be given mournfully , and with undiminished love. And, after all was finished, I would come, as if to gather up the white ashes of those who had perished at the stake, and to tell the world — the wrong being now atoned for — how much had perished there which it had never yet known how to praise.”

definition (Collins): a merited recompense or reward

Quite a performance, that passage. Perhaps, in a sense, it is an apology. I did your story justice, he seems to be telling his protagonists, even if you didn’t come out looking very good. 


The Blithedale Romance

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

1852. 1960, Dell Publishing, New York

Saturday, June 18, 2022

word of the day: sillabub

word of the day: sillabub

Miles Coverdale, the poet narrator of Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance, has moved away from Blithedale, a utopian rural community of which Coverdale was a founder. He was only taking a break, he thought, to check out civilization again. Once back in town, though, he feels more in tune with it than he ever was with the farm. 

context: “I had never before experienced a mood that so robbed the actual world of its solidity. It nevertheless involved a charm, on which — a devoted epicure of my own emotion — I resolved to pause, and enjoy the moral sillabub until quite dissolved away. Whatever had been my taste for solitude and natural scenery, yet the thick, foggy, stifled element of cities, the entangled life of many men together, sordid as it was, and empty of the beautiful, took quite as strenuous a hold upon my mind. I felt as if there could never be enough of it.”

definition ( 1. a drink of milk or cream sweetened, flavored, and mixed with wine or cider. 2. a dessert of beaten cream that is thickened with gelatin, sweetened, and flavored with wine or liquor. [also spelled syllabub]


The Blithedale Romance

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

1852. 1960, Dell Publishing, New York

Friday, June 17, 2022

word of the day: ebullition

word of the day: ebullition

Hawthorne’s first person narrator in The Blithedale Romance is Miles Coverdale, a poet. He never shares a line of poetry with us. In this passage Coverdale reveals a hint of insight into the situation of women, a proto-feminism as it were. His (soon-to-be-former) friend, the pontificating Hollingsworth, has just declared that the role of women is to be subservient to men. 

“I looked at Zenobia, however, fully expecting her to resent — as I felt, by the indignant ebullition of my own blood, that she ought — this outrageous affirmation of what struck me as the intensity of masculine egotism. It centred everything in itself, and deprived woman of her very soul, her inexpressible and unfathomable all, to make it a mere incident in the great sum of man.”

defintion (Merriam-Webster): the act, process, or state of boiling or bubbling up

Zenobia is an assertive and intelligent woman. Wouldn’t she readily challenge Hollingsworth’s pronouncements? Coverdale is disgusted when, instead, Zenobia acquiesces. He grumbles to himself about this surrender. “‘Is it in their [women’s] nature? Or is it, at last, the result of ages of compelled degradation?’”


The Blithedale Romance

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

1852. 1960, Dell Publishing, New York

Wednesday, March 23, 2022


It’s the early 90s in Los Angeles. Jeremy Atherton Lin is just coming out, trying to figure out himself and what “gay” is, what kind of community he might be finding himself in. The following description is of a powerful type, one I recognize, more or less. Lin seems attracted and repelled.

The guys at the table seemed so confident — jaded already. They sat with impudent elbows and ankles. I’d heard it said that gays were perpetually adolescent, but I was convinced this particular sampling had never been boys in the first place. They assessed instead of greeted. They laughed like they’d already been butt-fucked. They looked down long noses with the pride of a man with an ass made only for fucking, as if there never was shit. They used phrases like fresh meat as they recrossed their legs. They spoke as if words were handed to them to disgrace. They were swishy — not mincing, but like a sword slicing air. They were satisfied with cliche. They dismissed whole populations with one sting. Bottoms and tops were fixed positions. To have a clear racial preference was a highly amusing character trait. If someone liked black men, for instance, He goes to Catch One was all that needed to be said.

Lin’s memoir/history of gay bars has some poetry in it. 


Gay Bar: why we went out

by Jeremy Atherton Lin

2021. Little, Brown and Co., New York

Sunday, January 23, 2022

pile of reading

As I described in my last pile of reading post, I have piles going in different places. 

Windowseat pile:

How to Kill a City: gentrification, inequality, and the fight for the neighborhood

by Peter Moskowitz

2017. Nation Books, New York

I’ve heard much angst over gentrification, which seems to be the transformation of funky city neighborhoods into YUPPY-favored high-rent zones. Long-time residents bemoan the destruction of community, being priced out, and the disappearance of what made the neighborhood livable. The blame for gentrification tends to fall on gays (who renovate historic houses) and artists (who favor warehouse work/live spaces) and speculators (who flip properties for profit). Peter Moskowitz sees the real culprits as big money interests (developers, mainly) and government policies (which subsidize the big money interests). Yes, socialism works — for the people who don’t need it. I’m not far enough into the book to have a full sense of Moskowitz’s argument, but it certainly rings true that government caters to the powerful and prefers to ignore (or chase away) the poor. 

The Blithedale Romance

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

1852/1960. Dell Publishing, New York

I read Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter in grade school. And was surprised that I liked it. Is it a little weird that they teach a novel about adultery to kids? Since I liked Scarlet Letter I’ve always had Hawthorne on my radar. But this is the first time I’ve tackled one of his other novels. Blithedale seems to be a utopian community, and the narrator one of its founders — a poet, too, so no doubt impractical and a dreamer. We’ll see. Hawthorne likes long and complex sentences, so you have to be ready to give the reading your full attention. Says our narrator: “let us acknowledge it wiser, if not more sagacious, to follow out one’s day-dream to its natural consummation, although, if the vision have been worth the having, it is certain never to be consummated otherwise than by a failure. And what of that?”


by Britta Austin

2009. Watchword Press, Berkeley, California

This handsome paperback was published by a Berkeley-based press. I bought issues of their Watchword magazine; if I recall aright I invited one of the contributors to read as part of the Poetry & Pizza series. I don’t remember whether I ever sent anything to Watchword or if I’ve just banished the memory of rejection. Artifacts is a collection of flash fiction; stories or fragments often no longer than a paragraph, occasionally as long as two pages. This genre requires constant inventiveness — and it helps to have a unique style. “People are hard,” goes #67 (the pieces are numbered, not titled). “People are odd and beautiful and strange and people touch each other & kiss each other & pinch each other & give each other gifts …”

Harper’s Magazine

August 2020, v. 341, whole no. 2043

This issue has been sitting on the windowseat for more than a year. Yes, I was always reading something else. But once I got started it was easy to keep going. I’m in the midst of a poet’s covid diary. “I beg her not to go out; she says she’s protected — mask, gloves, hat, glasses. But no one else at the laundromat or grocery store does the same. They cough, and don’t care who inhales it."

Bedside pile:

The Ticket That Exploded: the restored text

by William S. Burroughs; edited and with an introduction by Oliver Harris

1962/2014. Grove Press, New York

Burroughs has obsessions that I don’t relate to. But reading him is actually rather fun — gross, often, but surprisingly absurd.

Usagi Yojimbo, v.28: Red Scorpion

by Stan Sakai

2014. Dark Horse, Milwaukie, Oregon

I am working my way through collections of Usagi Yojimbo, the ronin rabbit. I last did an Usagi binge almost twenty years ago. I have always enjoyed Stan Sakai’s art, but the stories get repetitive. It’s been long enough that the stories seem fresher — and, like I said, the art’s great. 

Modern Poetry of Pakistan

edited by Iftikhar Arif; translations edited by Waqas Khwaja

2010. Dalkey Archive Press, Champaign, Illinois

I briefly had input into what the Berkeley Public Library bought for its poetry collection. This was one that looked good to me. I’m finally reading it. Waqas Khwaja has stringent notions of what constitutes acceptable translation, according to his introduction. I don’t know whether that improved the poetry for me. Middle Eastern poetry tends not to be to my taste, yet this is quite readable. 

Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time: my life doing dumb stuff with animals

by Richard Conniff

2009. W. W. Norton & Co., New York

I like reading about animals. This book is a collection of essays mostly written for magazines. They are breezy and fun on the whole (you’d get that idea from the title), with the caveat that, as with all naturalist writings these days, doom is hovering — climate change, exploitation, pollution, indifference, war.

Sky Island: a Trot & Cap’n Bill adventure

by Amy Chu and Janet K. Lee

2020. Viking/Penguin/Random House, New York

Sky Island is a sequel to Chu & Lee’s Sea Sirens. Both are graphic novels and loose adaptations of L. Frank Baum novels. I was charmed by Sea Sirens. This one’s fun, too. Love the art.

Pile at work:

Mississippi in Africa: the saga of the slaves of Prospect Hill Plantation and their legacy in Liberia today

by Alan Huffman

2005. Gotham, New York

I read this one on breaks. It’s a bit of a muddle. I get that historical resources for telling the story of the “return” to Africa of freed American slaves are difficult to find — so much has been destroyed, or not recorded in the first place, both in America and in Liberia — but the story would have been helped by a clearer chronological through-line. A lot of the text describes Huffman’s troubles with the research. I’m fine with that, except I would be happier if Huffman himself were more colorful. Still, the story of the (reverse?) colonizing of Africa by African Americans is a story rarely told, and it’s certainly a fascinating chapter of history. 

Sunday, January 02, 2022

Best Poems of 2021

Maw Shein Win …. Water Space (one)

Owl Woman …. How shall I begin my song?

Roberta Hill …. Dream of Rebirth

Richard Littlebear …. We Are the Spirits of These Bones

Natalie Diaz …. When My Brother Was an Aztec

James Cagney …. my dr says

Dan O. …. Half Moon

Robert Hass …. John Muir, a Dream, a Waterfall …

Bruce Bond …. Bells


Only nine poems. That is fewer than usual. Yesterday I posted the titles of books and magazines I read in 2021, so you can scan down it if you want to get an idea of where I encountered the poems. I do read poems online, but none ended up in my personal anthology. 

Saturday, January 01, 2022

Titles read in 2021



by Sterling North

This Is Not About What You Think

by Jim Murdoch

Every Ravening Thing

by Marsha de la O

Next Stop: Troubletown

by Lloyd Dangle

Open Borders: the science and ethics of immigration

by Bryan Caplan and Zach Weinersmith

Elegiac Feelings American

by Gregory Corso

The Activist

by Renee Gladman

Little Stranger

by Edie Fake

Bernard the Brave

by Margery Sharp

The Belly of Paris

by Emile Zola; translated by Brian Nelson

Three Plays by Mae West: Sex; The Drag; The Pleasure Man

edited by Lillian Schlissel

bottle rockets, #44, v.22:2; Feb 2021

Stanford M. Forrester, editor


by Mike Curato


Bernard into Battle

by Margery Sharp

Door Is A Jar, #17; Winter 2020

contains “in which the book has a dream or three”

a chapter from Autobiography of a Book

On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: selected prose, 1966-1978

by Adrienne Rich

Then It Fell Apart

by Moby

Dr. Bloodmoney

by Philip K. Dick

The Secret of the Unicorn 

by Herge

Paper Trail: essays

by Michael Dorris

The Tradition

by Jericho Brown


Red Rackham’s Treasure

by Herge

The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the birth of the people’s economy

by Stephanie Kelton

Be Gay, Do Comics: queer history, memoir, and satire from The Nib

edited by Matt Bors, Justin Eiseinger, Alonzo Simon, Zac Boone

The Book No One Ever Read

by Cornelia Funke

You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: crazy stories about racism

by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar

Rhino: the poetry forum, 2020

Ralph Hamilton, editor

How To Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead

by Ariel Gore

The Year of the Fox

by Steve Arntson

The Sun Unwound: original texts from occupied America

translations by Edward Dorn, Gordon Brotherston


by Joseph Massey

Doctor Dolittle’s Post Office

by Hugh Lofting


Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

98 Wounds

by Justin Chin

How to Make a Slave & other essays

by Jerald Walker

Best Evidence

Mark S. Osaki

The Future Is History: how totalitarianism reclaimed Russia

by Masha Gessen

Studying with Miss Bishop: memoirs from a young writer’s life

by Dana Gioia

Doom Patrol, book one (issues 19-34)

Grant Morrison, writer; Case, Nyberg, Braithwaite, et al, artists


Ellen Bass

Our Subway Baby

by Peter Murcurio; illos by Leo Espinosa

Doctor Dolittle’s Circus

by Hugh Lofting

Sex and Death to the Age 14

by Spalding Gray

The Avengers: Marvel Masterworks, vol.1; issues 1-10

Stan Lee, writer: Jack Kirby, artist


On the Belize trip I read some New Yorkers and a Scientific American

Amateur Mythology

by Dale Jensen


Three Simple Lines: a writer’s pilgrimage into the heart and homeland of haiku

by Natalie Goldberg

The House of Men

by Stewart Shaw

Heart Earth: a memoir

by Ivan Doig

Humble Pie, v.17; Spring 2020

includes “The Perfect Shape to Drop to the Earth”

a poem by Glenn Ingersoll

Outlaw Marriages

by Rodger Streitmatter

Manga Man

Barry Lyga, writer; Colleen Doran, artist

The Avengers, v.2, issues 11-20

Stan Lee, writer; Don Heck, artist

Marvel Masterworks series

t. kilgore splice: an interview with Richard Lopez

edited by Jonathan Hayes

Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins

by Rupert Everett


Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, v.36 n.1; 2021

Concrete Dreams: early works

Jennifer Joseph, editor

My Autobiography of Carson McCullers

by Jenn Shapland

On Paper: the everything of its two-thousand-year history

by Nicholas A. Basbanes

This Is the Story of His Life

by T. J. Beitelman

The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers, v.1: 1920-1928

edited by Tim Hunt

Trances of the Blast 

by Mary Ruefle

The Seven Crystal Balls

by Herge

Prisoners of the Sun

by Herge

Land of Black Gold

by Herge

Storage Unit for the Spirit House

by Maw Shein Win

Gingema’s Daughter

by Sergei Sukhinov; translated by Peter L. Blystone; illos by Mikhail Musano

Destination Moon

by Herge

Explorers on the Moon

by Herge


The Calculus Affair

by Herge

Black Rain

by Masuji Ibuse; translated by John Bester

The Complete Peanuts, 1963-1964

by Charles Schulz


by Brandon Brown

The Red Sea Sharks

by Herge

Transmissions: the explorations of Wilhelmina Grace

an art chapbook by David Lee Ingersoll

The Secret to Superhuman Strength

by Alison Bechdel

Love and Hate in Jamestown: John Smith, Pocahontas, and the heart of a new nation

by David A. Price

Doom Patrol, book two

Grant Morrison, writer; Richard Case, Mark McKenna, et al, artists

Tintin in Tibet

by Herge

Black Steel Magnolias in the Hour of Chaos Theory

by James Cagney

People of the Deer

by Farley Mowat

Life Without Envy: ego management for creative people

by Camille DeAngelis

Queer Intentions: a (personal) journey through LGBTQ+ culture

by Amelia Abraham


The Soul Is Here for Its Own Joy: sacred poems from many cultures

edited by Robert Bly

Zbigniew Herbert: selected poems

translations by Czeslaw Milosz & Peter Dale Scott

23rd Street Poets: Eileen Malone, Alice Rogoff, Sally Anne Frye, Tressa Berman, Cesar Love

When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: a Norton anthology of Native Nations poetry

edited by Joy Harjo, et al

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist

by Adrian Tomine

Open Clothes

by Steve Benson

Buffalo Gals & other animal presences

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Living Nations, Living Words: an anthology of first people’s poetry

edited by Joy Harjo

Different Coasts

by Dan O.

Best American Poetry 2018

Dana Gioia, guest editor; David Lehman, series ed

A Chorus Line: the book of the musical

by Michael Bennett, James Kirkwood, Nicholas Dante, Marvin Hamlisch, Edward Kleban

Usagi Yojimbo, book 19: Fathers and Sons

by Stan Sakai

The Book of Forks

by Rob Davis


The Tetris Effect: the game that hypnotized the world

by Dan Ackerman

Spiral Trace

by Jack Marshall

How Did I Get Here?: making peace with the road not taken

by Jesse Browner

When My Brother Was an Aztec

by Natalie Diaz

Circumference: poetry in translation, summer/autumn 2004, v.1 n.2

Usagi Yojimbo, v.20: Glimpses of Death

by Stan Sakai

… and the whole time I was quite happy

by Marc Pietrzykowski

The Best American Poetry 2019

Major Jackson, guest editor; David Lehman, series editor

What I Want from You: voices of East Bay Lesbian poets

edited by Linda Zeiser & Trena Machado

Usagi Yojimbo, v.21: The Mother of Mountains

by Stan Sakai

Beloit Poetry Journal, winter 2006-07, v.57 n.2

Because of Poetry I Have a Really Big House

by Kent Johnson

The Area of Sound Called the Subtone

by Noah Eli Gordon

Outerbridge Reach

by Robert Stone

Avengers: Marvel Epic Collection, v.2: Once an Avenger: 1965-1967, #21-40

Roy Thomas, writer; Don Heck, artist

Beloit Poetry Journal, Fall 2007, v.58 n.1

Photographs My Mother Wouldn’t Hang

by Robert Fischer


Usagi Yojimbo, v.22: Tomoe’s Story

by Stan Sakai

The Secret of Hoa Sen

by Nguyen Phan Que Mai; translated by the author and Bruce Weigl

Summer Snow

by Robert Hass

The Best American Poetry 2020

Paisley Rekdal, guest editor; David Lehman, series editor

Field, n.77, Fall 2007

Disasterama!: adventures in the queer underground, 1977-1997

by Alvin Orloff

Quarantine: stories

by Rahul Mehta

A Moon Made of Copper

by Chris Bose

Black Eagle Child: the Facepaint narratives

by Ray A. Young Bear

Temp Words

by Alison Hart

ABZ: a poetry magazine, #2, 2007

Usagi Yojimbo, v.23: Bridge of Tears

by Stan Sakai

Earthquake Storms: the fascinating history and volatile future of the San Andreas Fault

by John Dvorak

Poetry, v.213 n.3, December 2018

Coming Out Under Fire: the history of gay men and women in World War Two

by Allan Berube

Cathay Revisited & Dancing with the Dead

by Red Pine

Big Cabin

by Ron Padgett

The God of San Francisco

by James J. Siegel

Sight Map

by Brian Teare


Poetry, v.218 n.3, June 2021

Assaracus: a journal of gay poetry, issue #1. 2011

Bryan Borland, editor

Sea Sirens: a Trot and Cap’n Bill adventure

by Amy Chu & Janet K. Lee

Marly’s Ghost

by David Levithan

The Walls Come True

by Douglas Messerli

Usagi Yojimbo, v.24: Return of the Black Soul

by Stan Sakai

In the Pleasure Groove: love, death, and Duran Duran

by John Taylor

A Year in the Rain

a chapbook by Sarah Byam

Hotel Lautreamont: contemporary poetry from Uruguay

edited by Kent Johnson & Roberto Echavarren

Usagi Yojimbo, v.25: Fox Hunt

by Stan Sakai

A Fish in the Water: a memoir

by Mario Vargas Llosa, translated by Helen Lane

Contemporary Uruguayan Poetry

edited & translated by Ronald Haladyna


I do not include all magazines, nor do I list online reading.