Recording of My Poem “Mayflies”

“Mayflies” is included in my chapbook, From Every Moment a Second, forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. FLP is taking prepublication orders here. It was also the inspiration for the artwork gracing the cover. I am in debt to Stephanie L. Harper for providing such a vivid and appropriate piece of art for the book.

Please note:  prepublication sales determine the print run, which means this stage is crucial in terms of how many copies will be printed and the number of copies I’ll receive as payment. So if you feel inclined to help, and are able, please purchase your copy before August 11. Thank you!

The Garden

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The Garden

But what of this notion
of the romantic?

It rained last night.
I could smell it

before it fell,
each drop a perfect

sphere until the final
moment. This

is fact, impractical but
lovely for its truth.

* * *

Initially posted in January of 2014, so few saw it that I thought it deserved another airing. The poem was published many years ago as a poetry postcard offered by the literary journal Amelia. I admit to being wrong about the shape of raindrops. But hey, they start out spherical…

Review: Robert Okaji’s “From Every Moment A Second”.

The first review!

Dr. Daniel Schnee

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FROM EVERY MOMENT A SECOND
Robert Okaji
Finishing Line Press
2017

★★★★★

From Every Moment A Second, the latest chapbook by American poet Robert Okaji, is yet another meticulously crafted collection of observations, private austerities and hesitancies spelt out in verse. A small collection of twenty poems, each feels “warm”, like a cozy winter Sunday on your living room couch – to paraphrase Junichiro Tanizaki – lost in contemplation of flavours to come.

What makes it a five star collection is each poem is clear in its vision, each unambiguously a part of the greater gist of the book. Each line shows where lesser works ‘tell’, and thus this collection feels like a series of tiny one act plays. Part of this is how each line and stanza feels like it has been put exactly in its proper place, that any further edits would remove a character or…

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Flowers

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Flowers

How they share our
desires, shape
our days.

Passion to hope,
fingertips to
lips. Some bud

easily, others
struggle. A little
water, light, a kind

voice. Sometimes so
little achieves
so much. Yesterday’s

sunflower droops on
the sill. Today’s promise
arrives with rain.

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“Flowers” last appeared on the blog in September 2015.

FIVE CREATIVE USES FOR MY BOOK, FROM EVERY MOMENT A SECOND

More than just poetry!

So you don’t read poetry? No worries. This book is a multi-tasker’s dream. Buy it and let your practical nature take over. No reading necessary!

1) Scorpion swatter – let the aggressive, pain-inducing arachnid know the full weight of poetry! SLAM! No more second moments for you, scorpion!

2) Coaster – a half-dozen copies of the book will keep you out of the doghouse, if you, like certain unnamed poets, occasionally, and without malice, set sweating pint glasses of frothy ale directly on antique cherry end-tables. Just place a copy of From Every Moment a Second on all tabletops and flat surfaces around the home, and never worry about marring the furniture. Put your beverage glass directly upon the colorful cover, and let the poetry perform its magic. Who knew that paper was so absorbent!

3) Body armor – well, maybe not. The pen is mightier than the sword, and all that, but Kevlar is a better bet when it comes to bullets. So scratch that idea, unless you’d like to print up Kevlar dust jackets. Hmm. Not a bad idea. Nyah, nyah! Your bullets can’t pierce my verse! Just saying…

4) Hot pad – need something on which to place a gurgling pot of “OMG This Stuff Burns, Really, Really Burns” chili? A short stack of From Every Moment a Second will do the trick. I recommend at least three copies to achieve maximum efficiency. For larger pots, six copies, in stacks of three, are considered the norm, but you may, for personal reasons, use more.

5) Furniture and appliance leveler – are you tired of your fried eggs running downhill and forming lazy crescent moons instead of perfectly centered suns? Simply stick a copy of From Every Moment a Second under the offending corner of the stove. Presto. Sunny side up? No problem. And this is a portable solution! How many times have you been to a trendy, hipster coffee shop and found your table, the only unoccupied one, of course, wobbling, and in danger of spilling precious drops of that costly triple-mocha-vodka latte? Carry copies of the book with you, and shove one (or more) under the responsible table leg. Done!

 

To order this scorpion-swatting, moisture-absorbing, heat-deflecting and furniture-leveling book, visit Finishing Line Press. And hey, you might even look at some of the words. It’s okay. Really.

Undecided? Read a review here. Alas, no mention of the five uses described above…

 

 

Poet’s Pantry

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In my sliver of the world, poetry and cooking share many qualities. When I step into the kitchen, I often have only a vaporous notion of what’s for dinner. A hankering for roasted poblano peppers, the need to use a protein languishing in the refrigerator, the memory of an herbal breeze wafting down a terraced hill near Lago d’Averno, Hell’s entrance, according to Virgil, or even a single intriguing word, may spark what comes next. But the success of what follows depends upon the ingredients at hand, on how we’ve stocked the pantry. Good products beget better results. Let’s take my desire for roasted poblanos. What to do with them? Poking around, I uncover an opened package of goat cheese, a bit of grated grana padano and some creme fraiche, and I immediately think pasta! Looking further I spot arugula, a lemon, a handful of pecans, some cherry tomatoes. Dinner: Pappardelle with a roasted poblano and goat cheese sauce, garnished with toasted pecans, served with an arugula and cherry tomato salad dressed with a lemon vinaigrette. Simple, when you’ve stocked a solid base of quality components.

My writing employs a similar process. Anything – a vague sense of uneasiness, a particular word, the sunlight slanting through the unfortunate dove’s imprint on my window, articles or books I’ve read or perused on a myriad of subjects – may launch a poem. But what truly makes the poem, what bolsters, fills and completes, what ignites and catapults it arcing into the firmament are, of course, the pantry’s ingredients.

Everyone’s needs differ, and I wouldn’t presume to inflict my peculiar sensibilities on anyone, but if you cracked open my burgeoning poetry pantry’s door, you’d certainly unearth dictionaries and a thesaurus, fallen stars, books on etymology and language, curiosity, a guitar or mandolin, at least one window (sometimes partially open), conversations floating in the ether, various empty frames, wind, dog biscuits and dirty socks, a walking stick, sunlight and shadows, more books on such subjects as ancient navigation, the history of numbers, the periodic table, alchemy and olives. You might also spy reams of paper, unspoken words, coffee cups, a scorpion or two, scrawled notes on index cards, wandering musical notes, a pipe wrench, wood ear mushrooms and salvaged fragments of writing, failed ideas moldering in clumps on the floor, a few craft beers and empty wine bottles, a chain saw, and most important of all, a bucketful of patience.

(I cannot over-emphasize the bucket’s contents…)

This is just to say (no, I didn’t eat the plums) that the best equipped poets stock their pantries with the world and all its questions, with logic, with faith, persistence, emotion, science, art, romance and yes, patience. Line your kit with every tool you can grasp or imagine. Keep adding to it. Read deeply. Listen. Breathe. Listen again. Converse. Look outward. Further, past the trees, around the bend and beyond the horizon’s curve, where the unknown lurks. Look again. Don’t stop. Continue.

And if after all this you’re wondering what basks in my kitchen pantry:

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This last appeared here in October 2015.

Recording of To the Light Entering the Shack One December Evening


To the Light Entering the Shack One December Evening

No prayers exit here, nothing
limits you. I never knew
before.

The pear tree’s ghost shudders.

Water pools in the depression of its absence.

For years I have wandered from shadow to
source, longing. Now, at rest,
you come to me and fear
evaporates. I would like to count
the smallest distraction.
I would like to disturb.

You are the name
I whisper
to clouds.

Will you leave if I open the door?

A carnival germinates in my body.

You are not death, but its closest friend.

Darkness parts, folds around you.

I close my eyes and observe.

* * *

“To the Light Entering the Shack One December Evening” first appeared in Shantih in December 2016, and is included in my chapbook, From Every Moment a Second available for pre-publication order through Finishing Line Press.

Letter from Austin

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Letter from Austin

Michael, when you say moons do you see
cold stone floating in the firmament
or phrases frayed in the mouth and spat on paper?
And does the Spanish moon simmer at a similar
pace to mine or yours? Which embers blush brighter?
But let’s turn to estuaries, to salt and clamor and gun-
running poets and interrupted words sold in stalls
between parenthetical gates, to incomparable cavas
and the deterioration of envy and intervening years.
Or perhaps mislaid passion – a friend claims love
is merely a bad rash, that we scratch and scratch
and inflame but never truly cure what ails us. Sounds like
politics to me. Or sports. And business. Or neighborhoods.
On my street people should cook and play music together,
laugh, raise chickens and read good books. They should
brew beer, swap tomatoes, recite each other’s poetry and sing
in tune. But we’re different here, preferring instead electronics
glowing in dimly lighted rooms. I reject this failure, as I also
reject the theory of centrifugal force spinning off the moon’s
body from the earth’s crust, preferring to imagine a giant
impact blasting matter into orbit around what morphed into the
earth, and somehow accreting the stuff into this orb we
sometimes worship. This, to me, is how good relationships
form: explosions of thought and emotion followed by periods
of accretion. But what I mean is I hope this finds you well
by the river of holy sacrament. Remember: brackish water
bisects our worlds. Turn. Filter. Embrace. Gotta run. Bob.

Originally published in Heron Clan 3, this first appeared on the blog in July 2015.

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In Case You’re Wondering, the Order Link for My New Chapbook is Still Up

From Every Moment a Second

The prepublication sales period for my new chapbook, From Every Moment a Second, runs through August 11, with a tentative release date of October 6. Please note:  prepublication sales determine the print run, which means this stage is crucial in terms of how many copies will be printed and the number of copies I’ll receive as payment. So if you feel inclined to help, and are able, please purchase your copy during this period. Order here.

Many thanks to the members of this blog community for supporting my writing. I sit alone in my shack to write, but you are there with me, just a keyboard away. I am truly grateful for your wisdom and humor and willingness to help me traverse the strange and wonderful worlds of poetry and publication.

The Utility of Poetry

Thomas Davis writes on the utility of poetry, using the recently published Indra’s Net as a launching point.

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an essay by Thomas Davis written after reading the poetry anthology, Indra’s Net

When I was a teenager, determined to become a poet and writer, Look Magazine, one of the United States’ most popular publications at the time, wrote an editorial that denigrated the utility of poetry. A lot of decades have passed since I read the editorial, but its assertion that poetry had no real use in a world filled with the marvels of science and technology still stirs me to a passion. As I thought back then, what an exercise in the hubris of trying to stir up controversy.

Look Magazine, of course, has been defunct for some time, and while I was in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin at the Breadloaf Bookstore doing a book signing, Indra’s Net, published by Bennison Books (who also published my epic poem, The Weirding Storm, A Dragon Epic) came…

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