Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A poem about stillness

I've read the brief poem below many times in the past two days. It seems perfect to me. In their biography of the author, Marie Howe, the Academy of American Poets includes this quote:

"This might be the most difficult task for us in postmodern life: not to look away from what is actually happening. To put down the iPod and the e-mail and the phone. To look long enough so that we can look through it—like a window."

By that standard, Marie Howe has 20/20 vision.

The Moment

by Marie Howe

Oh, the coming-out-of-nowhere moment

when,   nothing


no what-have-I-to-do-today-list

maybe   half a moment 

the rush of traffic stops. 

The whir of I should be, I should be, I should be

slows to silence,

the white cotton curtains hanging still.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Here Comes the English Sunrise

It's been hard to find time to write something new lately, so I thought I'd re-post something old. This was first published in December 2009.

"He who binds to himself a joy  
Does the winged life destroy; 
But he who kisses the joy as it flies 
Lives in eternity's sunrise."
~ William Blake

There was a time, from the late 1700s through the Victorian era, when it was often said that Britain was the "empire on which the sun never set." Similar things have been said of other empires, including Persia and Spain, but Britain's dominion is the most recent.

Is that the reason why the English are so fond of sunrises? It's hard to say, but their penchant for the orb and its arching rays has led to images of considerable beauty, both humble and grand.

This is the cover of one of my favorite books, The English Sunrise, by Brian Rice and Tony Evans, published in 1972 and now out of print. Although yellowed with age, my copy remains a jewel of a thing — an 8" x 8" paperback filled with seventy-six lovingly positioned images, plus those on the front and back covers, each one an English sunrise. To me this is sufficient argument for why printed books can never be completely replaced by e-books. The English Sunrise can still be found second-hand; I encourage you to do yourself a favor and seek out a copy. You'll see sunrise-bedecked houses and pottery, furniture, radios, tea cozies, signage and even a slot machine. Here are just a handful of examples — not necessarily my favorites, simply chosen at random.

A gate in Shaftesbury.

A handbag.

A leaded glass window.

The entrance to a pub.

The leather door panel of a 1933-36 Jaguar SS1 saloon car.

A bird cage.

A shopfront in Birmingham.

"The grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls."
 ~ John Muir