POEM: I Surrender

i’m free —

because i know not of what i need to be freed.

Is it a god?

Is it a program?

Is it meaninglessness?

Is it a make-believe conception of self?



Alien overlords?


i don’t know what game i’m playing,

and thus feel no compunction to play it well.

So, i surrender to the god of my own ignorance,

making mystery my higher power.


i searched the earth for a source of perfect truth, and found none.

No perfect scripture.

No perfect science.

No perfection in personal experience.

No perfect teacher.


But i’ve known bliss in the act of floundering through this dance of darkness,

and so,

i’ve got no complaints.

BOOK REVIEW: In the Dark, Soft Earth by Frank Watson

In the Dark, Soft EarthIn the Dark, Soft Earth by Frank Watson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Watson’s collection seizes one’s senses. Much of the poetry takes an imagist approach, using free verse poems with spare language to generate vivid, concrete images in the mind. That said, there are a number of poetic styles that appear throughout, including: haiku, tanka, sonnets (in Book X), and various lyrical variations. While natural imagery features prominently, there’s also surrealist, ethereal visuals in play as well.

The poems are arranged into ten sections, and while each book has an overarching theme there are themes that seem to cut across books. The titular notion of something buried is one of these. Another such concept is the journey.

The second section generates an expansive feeling of space as well as time. Book III intrigued me as it focused on organization, assembly, and the creation of something out of pieces and parts – which created a unique feel. Books IV and V shifted focus to hearing rather than seeing, though it largely did so by invoking the action of music creation and dance.

The book presents paintings from the fifteenth century through to the present-day throughout the book. Many of these artworks begin various sections of the collection and give one a flash of insight into the theme that will play out through that section. However, there are numerous poems that are presented as homages to paintings – notably, the whole of book VIII is poems based on tarot card imagery and subject matter.

While the majority of the paintings referenced have Western origins, one also sees Eastern influences at various points in the collection – both in the poems and in some of the paintings. Asian influences are most explicitly experienced in Book IX, which features several poems of Chinese or Japanese inspiration. The last section presents a few sonnets amid free verse poems.

I enjoyed this collection and would highly recommend it for poetry readers or those who love the visual arts, particularly those curious to see how a poet creates another dimension of experience in the realm of visceral sensation.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Perfect Nine by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gikuyu and MumbiThe Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gikuyu and Mumbi by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazon.in page

Out: October 6, 2020


As Homer did for the Greeks, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o does for the Gĩkũyũ people, using epic poetry to convey morals by way of gripping stories that are rich in both action and symbolism. The story revolves around a slew of suitors who travel from near and far with interest in the gorgeous and talented daughters of Gĩkũyũ and Mũmbi – the daughters being the titular “perfect nine.” [Lest one take the allusion to Homer too far, the problem faced in this story is not how to be rid of the suitors, but how to find the best of them and have the daughters each have a husband she desires. Also, in the case of this myth, the answer to the question of how to deal with the suitors is not to murder them all — on the contrary, discouraging the use of violence as a problem-solving tool is among the major morals taught throughout this work.]

I’ve long been meaning to read works by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. I have a policy of reading literature from each country I visit, and when one looks into literature from Kenya his name stands above all others. He’s not merely one of the major figures in Kenyan literature, but of African and global literature as well. However, before I got around to reading one of his novels, I was lucky to have the opportunity to read his latest work, which is due out in the fall of 2020.

The story takes the Nine and their prospective suitors on a journey of adventure that will test their mettle as they carry out a mission, traveling through perilous territory that Gĩkũyũ and Mũmbi once traversed, themselves. As in Greek and Norse Mythology, the enemies are often supernatural, as is necessary given how capable the Nine are shown to be. Most of the suitors – certainly the ones that live through the early adventures — are no slouches themselves.

The morals that are conveyed through the story are non-violence (whenever possible), opposition to misogyny and patriarchal norms, a variety of virtuous attitudes and actions, and a kind of tribal attitude. By tribal attitude, I don’t mean tribalistic in the sense that that they suggest attacking or even denigrating those of other tribes, but Gĩkũyũ and Mũmbi insist that all the suitors and daughters live nearby — with none allowed to return to the homeland of the suitors. However, as this plays out in the latter part of the story in a way that I’ll leave to the reader to discover, there is an opportunity for learning that modifies the strong tribal norm. [It also leads to the teaching of another important virtue which is to avoid the “you’re dead to me” attitude that one often sees in stories when two parties are at loggerheads.]

I was fascinated by this work. Because — in the manner of mythology — it has some preliminaries to get through at the start, it felt a little slow out of the gates. [Though it was much quicker to delve into the adventure than were the early chapters of “The Odyssey” in which Telemachus goes out looking for his father.] So, don’t worry, the story gets into a taught journey of heroes in no time.

I highly recommend this book for readers of fiction and mythology.

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Haiku that Move

a little rain
on a little slope
races seaward


the world blurs,
my brain strains to track
its motion


in stillness
one loses the world’s
steady spin


i throw myself
to silly dance — joyous
that i can


the perched raven
still swivels its eye
in stone mode

POEM: Questions of The Night Watch

What creates more and bigger monsters…

fear or drink?
boredom or loneliness?
Hell or High Water?

And when the Captain points the way…

How does one know that one has put the monster to the fore?
What lurks in the shadowed archway, behind?

Who charges forward to the tune of,

“Lead onward, oh ye of the pointy stick!”



And why does yonder illuminated woman carry a chicken?

It’s a snack too raw for the Night Watch,
but too small to distract a monster.