Poetry at the Post, Day 11: “Contempt” by Elfriede Jelinek

“Contempt” by Elfriede Jelinek, as translated by Michael Hoffman

Panoramic on the Alps Austria 3 July 2009 Photo courtesy of Friedrich Böhringer  under CC Share Alike 2.5 License
Panoramic on the Alps
3 July 2009
Photo courtesy of Friedrich Böhringer under CC Share Alike 2.5 License

my puppet-strings are the
sweet decaying lamps I flutter around.

Two of my besties from Spalding University will meet me in Budapest later this month. We’ll be traveling on to Vienna for a mini trip before we meet up with the rest of our program in Prague. In celebration of our upcoming trip—and out MFA graduation in Berlin, I decided to read an Austrian poet this morning. #lateantiquitystudiesbudapest2014 #threemfagradsonthetraintowien

Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2004, Jelinek is a controversial writer, mainly due to her political activism, strong feminist stance, & affiliation with the Communist Party—all of which are important to her work. As Jelinek suffers from agoraphobia, she did not attend the Nobel Prize award ceremony but instead sent this video.


I’m not sure yet what I think about this poem. My take away from this morning’s reading is this:

your stupid silence I will just
toss up in the air.

For me, these words are powerful. I think they suggest that we should have contempt for those who refuse to speak out against injustice and oppression. Im reminded of the importance of “voice” and standing up when the situation demands it. Not always easy.

I do wonder if I would be able to do so in a situation where my speaking out could lead to imprisonment,torture, or worse. I’m afraid I would not. Instead, I will try harder to chip away at any infractions of intolerance and discrimination that I encounter.

I never understood age discrimination until I got older—and, believe me, it is rampant. I refuse to allow age to define me and I speak up whenever I can.

“Contempt,”however, does make me curious to read more of Jelinek’s work. Here’s the full poem.


June 2, 2014
June 2, 2014

Poetry at the Post, Day 10: One-Act Play by Ferenc Molnar

A Matter of Husbands by Ferenc Molnar (1878-1952), as translated by Benjamin Glazer

FAMOUS ACTRESS: You wished to see me?
EARNEST YOUNG WOMAN: [She gulps emotionally] Yes.
FAMOUS ACTRESS: What can I do for you?
EARNEST YOUNG WOMAN: [Extends her arms in a beseeching gesture] Give me back my husband!
FAMOUS ACTRESS: Give you back your husband!

June 1, 2014
June 1, 2014

For June first day, I decided to mix it up and select a one-act play. I’ve been googling around looking up everything Hungarian in preparation for my upcoming trip to Budapest and discovered Ferenc Molnar. #lateantiquitystudiesbudapest2014

You can read the entire one-act play here: http://www.one-act-plays.com/comedies/matter_of_husbands.html

Ference Molnar photo courtesy of Carl Van Vechten
Ference Molnar
photo courtesy of Carl Van Vechten

Born in Budapest, Molnar emigrated to the United States during World War II. His most popular play is Liliom, which was letter adapted into the musical Carousel.

For some Sunday morning inspiration, here is “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel a la Celtic Woman.

I read the first part of A Matter of Husbands to the horse this morning. He seemed to like it.

Reading Molnar to my neighbor
Reading Molnar to my neighbor

Poetry at the Post, Day 8: A Trip to Argentina!

“Running Water” by Alfonsina Storni (1892-1938), as translated by Muna Lee

May 30, 2014
May 30, 2014

Yes, I move, I live, I wander astray—
Water moving running, intermingling, over the sands…

I am obsessed with water Yes, clean, abundant water. After three years living on and off in Oaxaca, Mexico, I have lots of water stories. Oaxaca,Oaxaca is a city of scarce water.

I seem to be attracted to dry places. Now I am in the desert of Far West Texas, It is June and we are waiting for the rains. If all goes well, the rains will begin soon. They have already begun in Oaxaca.

Alfonsina Storni
Alfonsina Storni

When I read Storni’s poem “Running Water,” I can see and feel the water running….But wait! There is something else, an obstruction: “What are you doing here…/You, the stone in the path…?”

We all find those stones in our way. Sometimes, they are more than stones. They are boulders. I prefer to read the ending of this poem as hopeful. The stone in the path offers a diversion, another possibility. You can read the full poem here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse/26/3#!/20575067

Sadly, for Alfonsina Storni, the boulders of breast cancer and solitude were just too big. At 1:00 am on October 25, 1938, she left her room and walked down to the sea.Legend has it she just kept walking into the sea until she drowned. Her body was discovered later that day.

Here is a link to “Alfonsina y el Mar,” a hauntingly lovely song in memory of Storni. Composed by Ariel Ramírez and Félix Luna, it is sung here by Mercedes Sosa.

I read “Running Water” to the deer this morning. With poetry, you have to find your audience wherever you can. They were not impressed. They ran away.

Poetry at the Post, Day 7: Here’s to the Tomato!

“Ode to Tomatoes” by Pablo Neruda, as translated by Margaret Sayers Peden

The street
filled with tomatoes,

“It’s time” or soon it will be time for tomato season in Texas. Neruda’s poem “Ode to Tomatoes” reminds me of how much I enjoy garden grown tomatoes. There is just no substitute. Greenhouse tomatoes fill the gap in a pinch but they are just not the same. In Chile, the season is December and the tomato “unabated/invades the kitchen.”

You can read the full poem here in both Spanish and English: http://www.soupsong.com/ftomato2.html

I first read this poem several years ago. What I learned about craft from this poem and the others in the collection Odas Elementales , or Odes to Common Things is that you can write a poem about anything: a tomato, an onion, a lemon, even a pair of socks. I wrote an “Ode to High Heels”, modeled on Neruda’s “Ode to Tomatoes,” because I have a fondness for heels. They make me feel majestic. The perfect heel, for me, is 2 3/4″—not always so easy to find.

So much has been written about Neruda that I have nothing new to add, except that I read today that Neruda chose his pen name after the Czech poet, Jan Neruda.

Jan Neruda's grave Vysehrad Cemetery, Prague  Photo courtesy of Miaow Miaow , October 2005
Jan Neruda’s grave Vysehrad Cemetery, Prague
Photo courtesy of Miaow Miaow , October 2005

Since no one has been joining me at the post each morning, I decided to read to a couple of my neighbors. They really liked this poem.

If you happen to be in the Austin, TX area and are looking for a full time seasonal job, Johnson’s Backyard Garden is hiring Tomato Packing Crew Members now.


Thanks to Julie Haines for her request for Neruda. It was so much fun to reread this poem.

Poetry at the Post, Day 5: Belly Dancer by Diane Wakoski

May 27, 2014
May 27, 2014

I had the pleasure of meeting Diane Wakoski a few years back in Tulum, Mexico. We were staying at the same small inn downtown. In Tulum for the program, US POETS IN MEXICO, Diane gave a reading one night in a palapa by the beach. I was mesmerized by the poems, her presence.

Belly dancers bedazzle me too. I almost signed up to take belly dance lessons one year in San Antonio, Texas. That was the year I tried lots of strange stuff. While reading “Belly Dancer” this morning at the post, I could still recall that desire to wear the long silk skirt, the beaded fringe.

Where does this thin green silk come from that covers my body?
Surely any woman wearing such fabrics
would move her body just to feel them touching every part of her.

You can read the entire poem here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/176001
And for more information on US POETS IN MEXICO, visit http://www.uspoetsinmexico.org. In 2014, the program will be held in Oaxaca, Mexico October 27-31.

Poetry at the Post, Day 4: Dante’s Inferno

May 26, 2014

May 26, 2014
May 26, 2014

This morning I picked up Mary Jo Bang’s contemporary version of Dante’s Inferno and took it to the post. I let the wind select the passage.

I ended up on page 74, deep in mud and in the 5th level of hell. This is place reserved for those who lived sullen or angry lives.

I was standing there staring
At a swamp of naked people covered in mud,
All of whom looked as if they were furious.

What I love about Dante is that he reels me into this fantastic journey down into the depths of hell but I end up in the innards of my own life—and how I live it. I must admit. I struggle with anger. Fortunately, there are ways put it aside. For me, it is with yoga.

So, today I give thanks for The Well and Prana Yoga. If you find yourself in Marfa, Texas or Oaxaca, Mexico, check them out. They are both very special places.



*We’ll be will be reading Dante’s Purgatorio in the virtual literary salon. Date: TBD. Visit the The Global Reading Group tab more more information. Anyone have a favorite translation?

Alice-Catherine Press Sets Up Shop in Far West Texas


supplies were located, unpacked and sorted
know what I have and need.
a few glitches—
like a mouse invasion (yikes!)—
production should begin soon
at Alice-Catherine Press-El Norte

Alice-Catherine Press is a kitchen-table publisher of hand-made books of poetry.
Casa 300
Off the road between Marfa & Fort Davis, Texas

Poetry at the Post, Day 3: “Ode” by Arthur O’Shaughnessy

Kensai Greem Cemetery, December 2005 Photo courtesy of Justin Cormack Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
Kensai Greem Cemetery, December 2005
Photo courtesy of Justin Cormack
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
“Ode” by Arthur O’Shaughnessy (1844-81)

We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,

A British poet of Irish descent, O’Shaughnessy earned his living as an herpetologist at the British Museum. His real love, however, was not the frogs and snakes but literature, especially poetry.

For me, this poem is special because it reminds me of the importance of beginning new dreams. Instead of focusing on the past—its successes and failures– and the passage of time and generations, I like to think of the dream that is being conceived. (And, Yes! My dream is coming true! #lateantiquitystudiesBudapest2014)

For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

Sadly, O’Shaughnessy died of a “Chill” at the age of 36. He is buried at Kensai Green Cemetery in London. For the full poem and a bit of fairy dust, visit http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/242554

May 25, 2014
May 25, 2014

Poetry at the Post Day 1: “Rain” by Edward Thomas

Rain, midnight rain, nothing but the wild rain


Yes, I thought. “Rain” would be the perfect poem for Day 1 of Poetry at the Post as I was celebrating last night’s rain, a welcome gift, upon my return to my home in Far West Texas. Rain in the desert is good but rain in May in the Chihuahuan desert is super!

I continued to read on. There was rain but there was something more. This was a poem about death and dying—and war. Here is a piece that grounds us in the oft forgotten realities of this Memorial Day Weekend.

Born in 1878 in London to Welsh parents, Edward Thomas graduated from Oxford and earned his living as literary reviewer. Although he thought highly of poetry, Thomas did not write his first poem until the age of 36—only after being urged on by his friend and neighbor, the American poet, Robert Frost. His poetry career was brief, a mere three years. In 1915, Thomas enlisted in the infantry and was killed in action in the Battle of Arras in 1917 shortly after arriving in France.

But here pray that none of whom once I loved
Is dying tonight or lying still awake
Solitary, listening to the rain…


photo by John M. Jennings
photo by John M. Jennings

While in residence, I’ll be reading poem a day at the post in Mano Prieto. If you are in the area, stop by for the reading. Times vary each morning so check in first before you make the drive. You’ll be able to see each day’s post under the tab, “Poetry at the Post.”