October: Issue # 40 of Plume Poetry: and aren’t you relieved to discover no personal anecdote with which to contend in this issue’s Editor’s Note? No, only a rather incoherent attempt to connect — with the ill-conceived assistance of Chateaubriand, Follain, and the real if unattributed culprit, Barthes — my vague notions regarding the nature of this odd month to the commedia dell’arte troupes of Venice, by way of etymology and pumpkin spice lattes, to the work of Philip Larkin, specifically his magnificent “Church Going.”
Instead, let’s turn, with no more ado, now, to more thoughts on this strange month, with a quartet of poems from modern masters:
“All Hallows’ Eve”
In the great silence of my favorite month,
October (the red of maples, the bronze of oaks,
A clear-yellow leaf here and there on birches),
I celebrated the standstill of time.
The vast country of the dead had its beginning everywhere:
At the turn of a tree-lined alley, across park lawns.
But I did not have to enter, I was not called yet.
Motorboats pulled up on the river bank, paths in pine needles.
It was getting dark early, no lights on the other side.
I was going to attend the ball of ghosts and witches.
A delegation would appear there in masks and wigs,
And dance, unrecognized, in the chorus of the living.
(translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan)
The days grow shorter.
Cranes walk the fairway now
In careless order.
They step so gradually
Toward the distant green
They might be brushstrokes
Animating a screen.
The water hazard.
Nearby, the little flag lifts,
Brave but frazzled.
Under sad clouds
Two white-capped golfers
Stand looking off, dreamy and strange,
Like young girls in Balthus.
“End of October”
Leaves wait as the reversal of wind
comes to a stop. The stopped woods
are seized of quiet; waiting for rain
bird & bug conversations stutter to a
Between the road
and the car in the road and me in the car,
and the woods
and the forms standing tall and the broken
forms and the small forms that crawl there,
the rain begins to fall. Rain-strands,
thin slips of vertical rivers, roll
the shredded waters out of the cloud
and dump them puddling to the ground.
Like sticks half-drowned the trees
lean so my eyes snap some into
lightning shapes, bent & bent.
I leave the car to wee where, lower,
the leaves of the shrubs beaten goldleaf
huddle together. In some spaces
nothing but rain appears.
Whatever crosses over
through the wall of rain
changes; old leaves are
now gold. The wall is
continuous, doorless. True,
to get past this wall
there’s no need for a door
since it closes around me
as I go through.
“Late October Night”
The night’s cold, beautiful.
The groundskeeper’s torching
the cleared, dry cornfield.
And the flames slowly set out
for the Danube
as when you left
for the ball in your full-length, yellow dress.
There are no violins here, no drums, no clarinets.
Just some voice swishes, grates
above me in the night,
as if your heavy hair
that I’ve inherited
were now being dragged behind the clouds
by ethereal wild geese.
The deer, too, stop
to listen to the rustle.
And indeed, it is you
who marches across their dilated pupils.
You’re walking out of the hospital for good,
in disguise, leaving death
instead of yourself on the bed.
There’s no lake in front of you, no stone,
no storm, no frightening quince-apple hill
on the road winding toward the graveyard.
You can amble freely between the poplars,
while, between unlit candles,
the chicory-eyed, craze woman —
even as she approaches — is moving away.
The night’s cold, beautiful.
Late October night, crystalline, blue.
The eyes of the pheasants, frightened
by the cornstalk fires, gleam
yellow from the top of the hill.
Shivering, I retreat beneath
the remaining yellow-gleaming walnut leaves.
(translated by Len Roberts)
Invigorating, no? Wonderful. And not a little envy-inducing?
Still: business (some of which you might find in the Editor’s Note):
Next month, changes are coming to Plume. Layout, Navigation, Design…new staff members. I am not sure, myself, exactly or entirely what they will comprise, but I am excited. As I hope you will be. But, be assured, the… sparseness that has become our hallmark will remain: that almost perverse non-commerciality. No advertisements — god forbid — and no reviews or other extraneous matter: only the poems themselves, merely an alteration in their presentation: for the better, fingers x’ed.
The fall reading in Los Angeles was by all accounts a success: many thanks to Mark Irwin, Arthur Vogelsang, Ralph Angel, Mark Svenvold and Marci Vogel at Beyond Baroque, LA, 19 September, 8:00 p.m., expertly emceed by Richard Modiano.
Likewise the Brooklyn Book Festival — where a fair number of copies of the Plume Anthology of Poetry 2013 found buyers. Thanks to Jonathan Penton and Marc Vincenz.
And once again, Paris: Marilyn Hacker Molly Lou Freeman, Emmanuel Moses, Jeffrey Greene and — now assured — Claire Malroux. The American University of Paris. Grand Salon, Oct 30 at 6:30 p.m. I will be speaking with university students at AUP on the 29th, and reading with the group on the 30th. Again, copies of the Plume Anthology of Poetry 2013 will be available for purchase.
Many thanks to all of these PLUME contributors!
Look for my interview with Mary Mackey regarding the trials and rewards of putting together an anthology at marymackey.com .
The print Plume Anthology of Poetry 2014 is just now taking shape — nearly, oh, 4/5 full. Any poets who would like their work considered for inclusion, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org Seeking, too, a writer for the Prefaceâ€¦
(Again: on the off chance that you, poets, are interested in reading for PLUME or might want to organize a reading in your own neighborhood, please, again, email me at email@example.com — we’ll make every effort to accommodate you, I promise.)
Our cover art this month is from Plume contributor Dzvinia Orlowsky. Its title is “Famine: A Crop of People.” Dzvinia’s fifth poetry collection, Silvertone, was published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2013. Her and Jeff Friedman’s co-translation of Memorials by Polish Poet Mieczyslaw Jastrun was published by Dialogos in August, 2014.
For New Work Received this month, per usual see the Editor’s Note.
As always, I do hope you enjoy the issue!