The Snowy Fields, More Silent Now

I am deeply sad to learn of the death of Robert Bly. He was the last of those late 20th century poets whose poems I loved in my college days. There were Bly, Stafford, Roethke, Kinnell, Wright, Jeffers, Strand and others. All gone now. T.S. Elliot and Ezra Pound were already long gone, even then. And Robert Frost died when I was two years old. I have loved these people, tangentially; the way you love a cool pond on a hot summer day and driving past it, wish you had time to stop and swim. 

I have little experience of snowbanks. It hasn’t snowed here since 1937 and I’ve heard I didn’t really stick. Far too little of anything has stuck to me. I’m a cozy warm in the house with a cup of coffee kind of guy. Far too often, I’m more adrift in Netflix than in the snowy fields of literature. Quel dommage!

“Those great sweeps of snow that stop suddenly six
feet from the house …
Thoughts that go so far.”

You can find the influence of Bly’s poems all throughout my own. Like this:

“And the sea lifts and falls all night, the moon goes on
through the unattached heavens alone.”

Just last month I was thinking about Robert Bly very particularly and googled to see that he was still with us. That day, I wrote a poem that borrows from him, using the title of one of his books, “The Man in the Black Coat Turns.” My poem (below) is called “The Man in a Black Coat.” That’s not just influence, it’s outright allusion; you can see how much I appreciated his poetry. And here’s il miglio fabbro – the better craftsman:

Poetry Breaks: Robert Bly Reads “Snowbanks North of the House”

About 30 years ago a friend of mine was about to go to one of Bly’s retreat/workshops for men. I gave him a few of my poems and a copy of one of Bly’s books and asked him to take them along. He read the poems to Robert Bly and others, said Bly was complimentary, and returned with the book signed for me. Bly had drawn a figure which he said was meant to be “the shadow chasing Kyle.” 

So much gratitude from my shadow and me. 

Mary Oliver

Two Mary Oliver quotes from my notebooks, on the day of her passing.  It is sad because her vision of the natural world was extraordinary and powerful, and there will be no more poems from her, and in this spiritually caustic and destitute time we need our elder poets more than ever. They know what is holy and speak its truth.


To live in this world,

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it
go, to let it go.


“It was merely a moment.
The sun, angling out from the bunched clouds,
cast one could easily imagine tenderly
over the landscape its extraordinary light.”


Why Write Poetry?

I’ve just read, and herewith recommend, this interview by McSweeny’s of the poet Rebecca Lindenberg. Asked, “why write poetry?” she answers:

I think there is a general misconception that you write poems because you “have something to say.” I think, actually, that you write poems because you have something echoing around in the bone-dome of your skull that you cannot say. Poetry allows us to hold many related tangential notions in very close orbit around each other at the same time. The “unsayable” thing at the center of the poem becomes visible to the poet and reader in the same way that dark matter becomes visible to the astrophysicist. You can’t see it, but by measure of its effect on the visible, it can become so precise a silhouette you can almost know it.


nailed it


Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us. We need hours of aimless wandering or spates of time sitting on park benches, observing the mysterious world of ants and the canopy of treetops.
~Maya Angelou~

Don’t Do It

Here is Charles Bukowski’s poem, So You Want to Be a Writer.

His advice: don’t do it. Well, that’s not quite true. He qualifies that almost completely. And he’s honest; I have admired his honesty. But to be honest myself, I haven’t admired much more than that about his poetry.

Was he a poet? Sure. A good one? OK, maybe. But I’ve almost always found in poetry a generosity of thought and spirit. Poetry explores Being and attempts to say the unsayable, name the unknown and unknowable. One might hope for occasional feints toward metaphysics.

Read some Bukowski poems and see if you find that in his work. I could be wrong – it’s been quite a while – but what I found named the human condition in terms all too well known, and in ways that I’d call existential but not particularly concerned with gaining altitude.

I just meant to share an interesting poem, and here I am speaking ill of the dead. Mea culpa. I imagine even Mozart had detractors. Bukowski published more than 40 books, which is …um … more than me. He must’ve been getting some wood on the ball. So ignore my rant and see what you think of the poem. 

Should I Revisit Bukowsky?

Yesterday’s poem from The Writer’s Almanac was No. 6 by Charles Bukowsky. His work is not what I think of when I think of delicacy or sensitivity of observation. But he shows some of that in this piece.

Maybe I’ve misjudged him, based on the only book I’ve read cover to cover, Love Is A Dog From Hell. It troubled and disturbed, as I recall; I wanted somebody to drag his ass to an AA meeting, then maybe to Disneyland. The man needed an attitude adjustment, was my opinion.

What do I know? Anyway, here’s No. 6 by Charles Bukowski.

What Must Be Returned

So yesterday I went to a reading by my friend Joseph Gallo, who read his fine poems and played his contemplative cedar flute for us. It was a beautiful day in Santa Barbara, in which the spring sunlight was lying passive as a cat. Joseph’s material and presentation were compassionate and generous. So I declare it was an excellent reason to emerge from my lair.

I enjoyed all of Joseph’s poems and some really jumped out at me. So much so that I had to fumble in my pockets for a pen and paper and scribble a note.

One poem that struck me is called Summer Sends You Sun, and you can read it on his blog.

…I will never see

the tender suffering at your window for I will have returned

my eyes to the stars. I shall instead lay my light upon the hand
of your youthful skin as the night visits in its way.

Thanks, Joseph! 

first, movement

I want to lead your attention to this post on November Hill Press blog, whence my friend Billie will lead it onward to an excellent interview with the writer Jim Harrison. She’ll simply do that leading best.

There, as you sip your tea, as I do now, or your kool-aid, or Thunderbird, or Stolichnaya, maybe you’ll find a clue to why I’ve titled this post as I have. That depends on the quality and quantity of your quaffing, I suppose.