Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sans turkey, sans ham

Thanksgiving in the deep south marks the beginning of autumn here. Leaves are finally turning gold and brown and beginning to litter lawns and woods. Some nights are chilly; some days are still balmy.

Amy and I spent the holiday with the Mostels near Madison. We looked for mushrooms, lit a bonfire, spied a nearly full moon. Toby mixed Pimm's Cups and made a fabulous seafood, vegetable, and rice dish with a side of spicy aioli. I baked some bread and contributed a zinfandel from my uncle's vineyard (Rosenblum, Richard Sauret vineyard) and we enjoyed the meal with the Mostels and their guests from the northeast, including their charming niece Holly, her beau (another mushroom aficianado), Toby's witty friend, Mark S., and Clay, a local young transplant to Long Island. Albert (Toby's Parrot) prattled and the pigeons pigeoned. It was a warm afternoon and we didn't miss the turkey or stuffing or ham or mashed potatoes or cranberry sauce or gravy or football or discussing the post-Thanksgiving ardors of Christmas shopping. We enjoyed the time with our friends, thought of family, conversed about all manner of things familial, political, and poetical. I left with the gift of a wonderful poem by Aileen's dear friend Heather McHugh and inspired by Aileen's dream. This is my thanks to them for a fine and memorable Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Birthday Wine

Amy and I spent my birthday yesterday quietly, highlighted by a trip to Grand Bay to enjoy the beautiful weather surrounded by the mossy loveliness of the swamp, and Amy gifted me most delightfully with a t-shirt featuring the artwork of our friend, Tobias Mostel. Then a nice dinner of grilled pork tenderloins and mashed potatoes and salad, and later still the continuation of a ritual I've begun with Amy, opening a cellar classic to see how wine can age gracefully. I hope drinking good aged wine will at least carry over into the living spirit, if not the flesh.

Three years ago I opened a 1982 Chateau Latour, still dense and full and alive and complex, with aromas of rich red fruit remaining vibrant behind the cedar and a lingering spiciness laced with smoke. Then next year, joined by wonderful visiting poet Robert Wrigley and dear friend Jessica Fellows two years ago, we opened a chest-thumping 1982 Mouton Rothschild. It wanted out and needed air and it visited us all evening with its hints of mineral and earth over the fruit. Last year it was a very fine 1985 Caymus Special Selection, complex, even opulent, in the nose, but slightly thin on the finish, perhaps opened two or three years past its prime. Still, it opened up toward the end into berries and a touch of the Caymus smoke I love.

Last night I ventured away from cabernet, opened a 1982 Guigal Cote Rotie La Landonne, a single vineyard Rhone syrah I bought before Guigal's fame launched the single vineyard prices into the stratosphere. It's color surprised me first, bright ruby barely fading to berry-brick at the edges. Its aroma was fruity and complex, but didn't quite deliver the bacon smoke I like in great Rhones. Still, the wine branded my tongue with a laser of fruit that went on and on, underscored by a healthy acidity that suggested I could have left it alone for another ten years or so. I have a few good bottles left, so, with luck, I'll see you next year here (old wines don't travel well), and we'll drink what's left. Cheers.

Correction. In an earlier version, I erred when I said, "Last year it was Margaux, an '86, and it was very fine, improving into an excellent wine with some airing, but its famous violet bouquet was understated beneath the complex fruit." I didn't err about the wine, but it wasn't for my birthday. I opened it for an old friend, T. R. Hummer, and a new one, John Holman, when they were here for a conference last fall.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Poetry Reading: Get Your Brain On

Thursday Night, 7:30, Odum Library Auditorium


East Window, Moon

It shadows the bed with a lattice of light,
this moon whose ridge pole sinks beneath its own weight,

rising slowly, laboriously, late.

I'm in a new house, unfamiliar to my feet,
strange to fingers that touch the walls uncertainly

as I walk through the dark of it at night.
Outside, different trees, different stones on the path.

Closer to death I want to know great faith and great doubt.

What no one taught me, that's what I want to remember,
immersed like Blake, his inner eye

a storehouse for the infinite
flashings the fontanel let in, before it knit the bone door shut.

I have always been alone, and I have never been alone.

What I used to call the self is a windowing of light
in the flood plain of the boundless.

Originally Published in Blackbird vol. 5, no. 1.

Margaret Gibson, five-time nominee for the Pulitzer Prize, is the author of nine books of poems. Among these, Long Walks in the Afternoon was the Lamont Selection of the Academy of American Poets in 1982, Memories of the Future: The Daybooks of Tina Modotti was co-winner of the Melville Cane Award of the Poetry Society of America in 1986-87, and The Vigil: A Poem in Four Voices was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1993. She will be reading from these, as well as from her most recent collection, One Body, published this year by Louisiana State University Press. Gibson has also been honored with a National Endowment for the Arts Grant and two Pushcart Prizes. She is now professor emeritus at the University of
Connecticut, and a new book, a memoir titled The Prodigal Daughter, is forthcoming from the University of Missouri Press.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Coincidence and Photography: Lost and Found

I took some pictures of a large caterpillar that has cocooned itself over our doorway, a kind of threshold over a threshold, silk above wood and aluminum. I can't find the disk with the photos to post, so instead of blogging about autumn yesterday, I decided to get some work done gathering publication information for the acknowledgments page of my forthcoming chapbook, Other Medicines, coming out in January from Redbone press.

Two of the poems were commissioned (thanks to the efforts of Patsy Hicks) by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art for photographic exhibitions, so I had to look up titles and dates. One of the poems was for an exhibit titled An Eclectic Focus: Photographs from the Vernon Collection. Leonard Vernon and his (then) recently late wife Marjorie had collected thousands of photographs from 1840 to the contemporary era, and Leonard attended the reading on August 28, 1999, to listen to poems written in response to his collection. David Oliveira, Barry Spacks, Chryss Yost, and I read our poetic responses as visitors walked around and viewed the photographs, some with our poems beside them. Leonard Vernon was wonderful at this event, and it was clear how much for him the exhibit and our poems in response connected him with Marjorie. He smiled and spoke so fondly of her and of their collecting. I had the feeling that for him this exhibition was not about the pride of owning rare, often very famous work. The exhibition was about their love, and about their time together finding beauty. She lives on through this collection. They live on.

I was saddened to learn yesterday that Leonard Vernon had died the previous day, October 30th, his threshold to cross, I hope, back to Marjorie.

For me it also brought back warm memories of dear friends, of our poems and our work together, of an event that showed how art makes living possible.

Wall Shadow

—after a photograph by Josef Sudek (from the Vernon Collection)

A sign above the avenue is blank.
A window pulls the dark across its pane.
A single figure leans beneath the sign.
Everyone who should be here is gone.
The cobbles bear our shadows down the lane.
The grey walls grind the coruscating moon.
Something else was written on the sign:
“Everyone who should be here is gone.”
Moonlight pools beneath the figure’s robes.
The avenue keeps busy with its cracks.
The pipes bear out the effluent of hope.
Everyone who should be here is gone.
A window pulls the dark across its pane.
The cobbles bear these shadows down the lane.