Saturday, November 19, 2011


It's time for a change of pace. I never mean to post more than twice in a row on a political topic, but this past week was too compelling to ignore (also when I post mostly links, it's because I'm tired or not as sharp and typing my thoughts clearly becomes more of a challenge).

I've been getting a lot of great books in the mail lately. Too many to keep up with here. So tonight I thought I'd mention a book I received unexpectedly recently and didn't know about but found it the perfect antidote to the news these days.

VARIATIONS is a collection of mostly short, or very short, poems that riff off of famous and obscure poets and their poetry (from Basho to William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens to Gary Snyder) yet the poet makes it all his own by whatever the opposite of grandstanding is.

Bill Deemer's poems in VARIATIONS seem to humbly nod to the greatness of other poems and poets and admit openly they're not out to compete with them but to offer a more accessible, more direct (mostly) and simpler take on the same or a similar subject and poetic approach.

And they work so well, it's a book I'll keep on my shelves and return to when I need to read something simple and direct and that'll put a smile on my face and even possibly, in fact most likely, peace in my heart and mind.

Here, for instance, are a couple of his "Epigrams:"

Pray to Saint Quixote
for the courage to be ridiculed.

Pray to Saint Sancho
for the strength to live in doubt.

Or this short poem called "FAME & FORTUNE:"

the cows stop eating
to watch me pass.

more blackberries
than I will ever pick.

Reading these short poems, each on a single page surrounded by white, some of them resonate deeply, like a private mantra discovered by accident that calms down the day and opens the heart to the eternal now. And some seem too casually obvious to need much attention at all.

But when I first read through this book, a few pages at a time each night, I always put it down with a little smile on my face, or at least in my heart. It's sincerity matched by its simplicity but based on eternal truths or at least eternal insights, were just what I seemed to need and didn't know it until I began reading, at first skeptical, critical, even judgmental, until I found myself surrendered and open to their easy charm.

I'll end with this little one from "HOMAGE TO ISSA:"

Issa's Lesson:
speaking in the same voice
to humans, insects, plants.


Robert G. Zuckerman said...

One of my favorites by Issa:

Borrowing my house
from insects
i slept

TC said...

Lovely, Mike.

Bill Deemer, an old friend from another life.

Lally said...

Robert, lessons from the "masters"—and TC, thank god for each and every "old friend from another life."

TC said...


What is it about these Deemer boys?

They're gaining on us!

4 a.m.: Charles Deemer.