Friday, August 28, 2009

Invitation to Oblivion

In honor of my little brother's 21st birthday. I offer the following. It's an anonymous (which somehow seems very appropriate) ancient Greek poem from the Hellenistic period (c. 323-31 B.C.).

Invitation to Oblivion

Why was I born? Where did I come from?
How do I happen to be where I am?
Knowing nothing, how can I learn anything?

I was nothing, and yet I was born,
and before too long I'll be nothing again,
nothing at all, of no value whatever.

And such is the lot of everyone. I say,
therefore, brim the mixing bowls with wine,
for only in oblivion is oblivion braved.

From: Greek Lyric Poetry. Trans. Sherod Santos.


Friday, August 21, 2009

More Mary Oliver

A couple of years ago, at the request of my cousin, Jason, I started a yahoo group for my mom's family. She is one of ten children, so you can imagine keeping in touch is sometimes a challenge, especially once you move out to the next generation. So it's been a good tool; folks post little updates, links to photos, recipes, and the like. My uncle, Tom, often posts poems he likes, after which ensues a little impromptu poetry discussion. It's fun. Here is his latest choice, which I found interesting since Mary Oliver has been appearing on our blog regularly. I love the lightness with which she approaches the dark.

Walking to Oak-Head Pond, and Thinking of the Ponds I Will Visit in the Next
Days and Weeks

by Mary Oliver

What is so utterly invisible
as tomorrow?
Not love,
not the wind,

not the inside of stone.
Not anything.
And yet, how often I'm fooled-
I'm wading along

in the sunlight-
and I'm sure I can see the fields and the ponds shining
days ahead-
I can see the light spilling

like a shower of meteors
into next week's trees,
and I plan to be there soon-
and, so far, I am

just that lucky,
my legs splashing
over the edge of darkness,
my heart on fire.

I don't know where
such certainty comes from-
the brave flesh
or the theater of the mind-

but if I had to guess
I would say that only
what the soul is supposed to be
could send us forth

with such cheer
as even the leaf must wear
as it unfurls
its fragrant body, and shines

against the hard possibility of stoppage-
which, day after day,
before such brisk, corpuscular belief,
shudders, and gives way.

"Walking to Oak-Head Pond, and Thinking of the Ponds I Will Visit in the Next
Days and Weeks" by Mary Oliver, from What Do We Know. © Perseus Books Group,

Isn't it beautiful?

Like Matt, I will begin teaching next week. English 112: Exposition and Persuasion. It's an online section, so I never actually meet my students fact to face. Unless of course they show up at my house, which has happened. I'm looking forward to it.


Sunday, August 16, 2009


To balance out Jill's good news, I offer up my own latest rejection slip from the editors at Jelly Bucket, Eastern Kentucky University's MFA Journal:

Mr. Vetter,

Thank you for your recent submission to Jelly Bucket. Unfortunately, we cannot use any of the poems you have submitted at this time. We wish you the best of luck in publishing these poems elsewhere.

All the best,
Tasha Cotter
Poetry Editor/ Editor-in-Chief
Jelly Bucket

In other news, BACK TO SCHOOL. My five year old started Kindergarten last week and my wife and I are back at our M.A.s and G.A.s tomorrow for the second year. I'm teaching a 10:20 section of Eng 100 and looking forward to taking some classes.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Good News, At Last

I am happy to report that I recently heard that three of my poems-- "Eating the Tree," "Two Rooms," "Watching Cloudring"-- have been accepted for publication by Flowers & Vortexes, a literary magazine that is actually based right here near Madison, Indiana. Double excitement! For a town of 13,000, Madison never ceases to amaze.

In reading news, I finished Moby Dick, plus all the bonus critical essays at the end (from the 1950s). D. H. Lawrence's was by far my favorite. No women critically essaying back then. At least none that were deemed fit for the Bantam Classics volume.

I'll be starting Ender's Game next. My brother Harlan recommended it to me a while back, and I'm on a mission to get teenage boys reading more, so I've got to delve into that genre (books boys might like, that is). Jon Scieszka (author of the Time Warp Trio and The Stinky Cheese Man) has started a non-profit for the same purpose called Guys Read. It's cool. Shocking statistics about boys lagging behind girls. Guess we've seen a reversal since the 50s.

That's all for now.

Enjoy the week,

(Art by Sonny Koren, Age 4)