Monday, February 29, 2016


The ironical attraction of writing formalist poetry is the liberating constriction constantly challenging the poet to hit a mark, leap a hurdle or do a loo-de-loop.

Free verse has no set boundaries to define it, to impose rigorous limitations that provoke invention and engender surprise.  It is not even verse in the literal sense of coming, line by line, to a fixed place to turn.

The formalist poet writes in constant contention with the parameters of a defined form, a sonnet, say: counting syllables, keeping the iambic beat, or subtly, euphoniously varying it, aiming for a ninth-line turn of thought and, if Shakespearean, wrapping up the venture with a resounding couplet.



                    It’s Leap Year and the twenty-ninth of Feb,
                    That extra day that comes but once in four,
                    The rookie misstep of a West Point pleb
                    That all uptight precisionists deplore.

                    But libertarians, more generously,
                    Applauding what is odd and whimsical,
                    Delight in such irregularity
                    That proves the cosmos less predictable.

                    Just so it is a sonnet should not be,
                    Despite conventional parameters,

                    A piece of metrical machinery
                    In which nothing untoward occurs,

                       For even in such strictly formal matters,

                       An extra beat won’t tear the verse to tatters.

(All right, I know: it's plebE, which doesn't rhyme.)

Sunday, February 28, 2016


                         What is advancement for humanity
                         If not a step toward greater sanity,
                         Which means discovering a higher health
                         Than mere accumulation of more wealth?

                         Both health and wealth imply a higher state:
                         A wholesome holiness we must create
                         If ever we shall fully realize
                         The lasting benefits of growing wise.


Saturday, February 27, 2016


                    Spring Break for me does not suggest the beach,
                    But rather just a week I will not teach
                    And have more time to ponder and to write,

                    An introvert's idea of delight.

                    My students have excursions long since planned,
                    Some even wafting to a foreign land,
                    But I would rather read and write and sit
                    Composing sonorous lines both meet and fit.

                    “I’ve travelled far in Concord,” Thoreau said
                    To Emerson who thought he should instead    
                    Be sailing out to far-off foreign lands,    
                    The way that one’s provincial mind expands.

                         Yet close inspection of a narrow plot
                         Can be revealing of an awesome lot.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

                    However has the universe brought us
                    To life and ever-questing consciousness
                    Who are derived from swirling cosmic dust?
                    I cannot know; at best, I can but guess.

                    It surely is no accident, but meant,
                    The upshot of a purpose and a plan
                    No randomness and chaos would prevent,
                    Resulting ultimately in life and man.

                    And who knows what elsewhere in outer space?
                    Good Orderly Direction is a fact,
                    Mysterious indeed, but yet the grace
                    By which the universe’s odds are stacked

                         And for this miracle, what attitude
                         Is apt for us to show?  Why, gratitude.


                  How eerie when at night the power’s out
                  And even all the street lights have gone black:
                  It fills you with an existential doubt
                  That maybe daylight never will come back:
                  That moon and stars will nevermore be seen
                  And soon the darkened Earth will start to freeze
                  As towards death all creatures will careen
                  Despite our desperate measures, prayers and pleas.
                  But then the power’s back, the lights come on
                  And everything resumes normality,
                  While in the eastern sky a glimpse of dawn
                   Assures us that another day will be.
                        Still, in the largest cosmic scheme of all,
                        The whole shebang is destined for a fall.


Sunday, February 21, 2016


                       Apollo astronauts, we how have learned,
                       While circling the far side of the Moon,
                       Within their helmets’ speakers all discerned
                       An eerie kind of “music” with no tune:
                       Perhaps old legend’s “Music of the Spheres,”
                       A mythic melody from outer space
                       With power to captivate the hearers’ ears,
                       A harmony purveyed by god-like grace.
                       But such interpretation will not stand
                       The clear-eared scrutiny of scientists
                       By whom the supernatural is banned,
                       For science on firm evidence insists.
                           One astronaut, Ed Mitchell, came to view,
                           Instead, the whole cosmic shebang anew.



                Measures are my poem’s medium
                Whose feet-full meters patter out to rhymes
                Invoking tones that ban the tedium
                Of free verse, curse of these declining times.

                What suited Chaucer, Shakespeare, Spenser, Donne—
                The royal road of metric poetry,
                The way most all our current poets shun—
                May soon be lost to our posterity.

               And yet I’ll join with those few formalists
               Who joyfully march on the metric way,
               Each one of whom courageously resists
               A poetry that does not sing but say,

                   For only when there’s music in its spine
                   Will poetry resemble the divine.


Saturday, February 20, 2016




                  While some remains lie in half-acre tombs,
                  Admired in their cemetery plots,
                  I shall abide in sonnets’ pretty rooms,
                  Admired only as my skill allots,

                  And so each day I build my heritage:
                  Each rhythmic word laid down is like a brick
                  In a large structure that in time will bridge
                  The awesome gap between the dead and quick.

                  But now our little pup, who wants her walk
                  And gives no thought to what is moribund,
                  Whose chief concern is squirrels she can stalk

                  And other pleasures in our daily fund,

                      Reminds me: “Carpe diem is the way;
                      Instead of morbid maundering—come and play!”


Friday, February 19, 2016


                      Let there be something left when I am gone
                      As evidence of my mentality,
                      Some luminosity that I have shone
                      That brightly lightens all posterity.

                     It isn’t fame and glory that I seek
                     But only to have fashioned something good
                    As evidence that though life can be bleak,
                    It’s glorious when rightly understood.

                   That life and mind and mystery should occur
                   Presenting us with challenges to face
                   Has led us throughout history to infer
                   That under all, there’s some amazing grace,

                        Some cosmic Mind, some grand progenitor,
                        An awesome source we surely must adore.


Thursday, February 18, 2016


                  Why verse should seek its liberty from beat,
                  Those meters we’ve for centuries enjoyed,
                  Then long, as well, from rhyming to retreat
                  As if by such sonorities we’re cloyed
                  I cannot comprehend, for what is left
                  Is tuneless and might just as well be prose
                  When of all rhyme and meter it’s bereft,
                  Devices to keep readers from a doze.
                  You know with formal verse you’re in a game
                  Perhaps like tennis with its lines and net
                  Where masters over centuries won acclaim
                  Impressing minds with verse they’ll not forget.
                       Why not, instead, enjoy the paradox
                       Of sonic pleasures that bound verse unlocks?


Wednesday, February 17, 2016


                 The dogs and I have our daily routines,
                 Which start with cuddling Tiggy, still in bed,
                 Though soon Gypsy, the bigger of our queens,
                 Conveys that it’s her petting time instead
                 And muscles in to get her share of strokes
                 Until it’s time for all of us to rise,
                 Which Gyppie indicates by giving pokes
                 With her blunt snout until I realize
                 It’s now our day begins and we go down
                 To the first floor and out to the back yard
                 And chase some raffish squirrels who taunt and clown
                 Around with both of them, though still on guard
                      Lest speedy Tiggy grab one by the tail,
                      Which she has tried—happily to no avail.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016


                    The sky is all aflame as the sun sinks
                    And, if you didn’t know, you’d think the Earth
                    Were cursed, the victim of some cosmic jinx
                    And destined now if not for death, then dearth.

                    But soon that frightful inflammation fades
Halleujahs  and fond accolades,
                    For every sailor knows, red skies at night
                    Betoken the next day their ship’s delight.


Monday, February 15, 2016


                    There’s something with which matter is infused,
                    Though not so much an entity as force,
                    By which all things are spiritually enthused
                    And set upon a purpose-ordered course.

                   How otherwise could we have come to be
                   Not only animate and conscious but
                   Invested with a will that’s partly free
                   And able to decide by brain and gut?

                   We’ve come to call this motivation “GOD,”
                   Good Orderly Direction’s acronym,
                   By which we’re elevated from mere sod,
                   A force we have personified as Him.

                       We’re better off the more we keep in touch
                       With what from nothing made so blessed much.


Sunday, February 14, 2016





                    Who was this Valentine whom we today
                    Will celebrate with posies and with sweets?
                    Earned he sainthood the hard or easy way?
                    I’ll do a Wiki check on all his feats . . .

                   That’s done, and I am sad now to report
                   He was a martyr of the cruelest kind,
                   Whose death was nasty, brutish, but not short,
                   From punishments maliciously designed.

                  How he became the patron of romance
                  Bedecked in February’s hothouse flowers
                  Is surely not apparent at first glance:
                  No smiling visage; rather one that lours.

                       Let’s choose some other saint, some other day
                       And be it in the merry month of May.


Saturday, February 13, 2016



Thursday, February 11, 2016


                    This little creature snuggled by my side
                    As I sit in my armchair set to write,
                    Seems, if I asked, that she might well confide
                    Some secrets only she could bring to light.

                    I wonder what this pup would have to say
                    So I might get the dog’s-eye view of things,
                    Although it’s more her nose that shows the way
                    With the olfactory pleasures that it brings.

                    There is more sense in scent for her than me,
                    A fourth dimension of experience
                    Since I lack her refined acuity,
                    Yet I observe those pleasures are intense.

                        To read and write is much of my delight;
                        Her smelling’s, though, a keener kind of sight.


Tuesday, February 9, 2016


                    The Prairie Home Companion’s changing hands,
                    Chris Thile standing in for Garrison,
                    Much to the consternation of old fans
                    Who see in him there’s no comparison.

                   Though Thile is a whiz on mandolin
                   And sings his tenor part with vim and vigor,
                   To Keillor’s baritone it sounds quite thin,
                   And Garrison in other ways is bigger.

                   Keillor is a presence who will haunt
                   This show that he has honed for forty years,
                   A hefty specter who makes Chris seem gaunt
                   By geniality that wins, endears.

                       No, Garrison, though you have earned a break,
                       To leave forever were a sad mistake.


Sunday, February 7, 2016



                    Since we’ve arrived, then others have as well:
                    It cannot be, in all this universe,
                   Though it’s too soon yet for our search to tell,
                   The Cosmos did not other life disburse.

                   We’ve long imagined so in fantasies
                   That myth and science fiction have devised,
                   But yet the distance between galaxies
                   Forbids discovering what we’ve surmised.

                  Our enterprises should be focused on
                  Not searching space and things celestial,
                  What we may merely speculate upon,
                  But on what’s palpable, terrestrial:

                      We need to do what lets this planet thrive,
                      A model world, should visitors arrive.


Saturday, February 6, 2016


                      Now Edgar Mitchell knows the truth at last,
                      Or not, revealed in his epiphany
                      While standing on the Moon, with all the vast-
                      Ness of the circled cosmos clear to see.

                     It might as well have been the mind of God
                     Made manifest and wheeling in his view
                     And he no more a merely mortal clod
                     Now capable of knowing what is True.

                     Then with this visionary insight he
                     Proceeded as a scientist would go
                     Investigating wide and carefully
                     The gnosis that had overwhelmed him so,

                          And out of this, Noetic Science came
                          To verify what mystics all proclaim.


Thursday, February 4, 2016


                       Copthorne Macdonald was a modest man,
                       Soft spoken and big hearted as men come,
                       Who in the course of his accomplished span
                       Of life grew wise: of life the very sum.

                      And better yet, he left a legacy
                      So others might pursue him on that course
                      Toward wisdom, often thought a mystery
                      And yet of happiness the truest source.

                      A matter of the highest consequence,
                      Pursuing wisdom offers something far
                      Beyond wealth, power, fame and eminence;
                      In all the heavens, it is our brightest star.

                           Though it will take awhile to realize,
                           No time is better spent than growing wise.