zerode – a sensibility


film, music, text, city, spectacle, pleasure

Event (NYC): An Ethics Occurs at the Edge / of What We Know

An Ethics Occurs at the Edge / of  What We Know

May 29, 2010

Author of Practical Water, among other poetry books, Brenda Hillman discusses poetry and activism, writing about the elements and ecopoetics, and the writing process in relation to political commitment and spiritual ideas.

Poets House
10 River Terrace, New York, NY 10282


via / outposts.

Filed under: Events, NYC, Poetry, ,

Poem: Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art”


The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

–Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.


There’s so much to love about this poem. The force of the end, the way that parenthetic interjection in the last line—”(Write it!)”—breaks the flow, the rhythm, which has already started disintegrating at the beginning of the stanza, breaks it utterly, and then drops you into the ending “like disaster.” A falling off that, of course, mirrors, enacts in rhythm, in breath, in the loss of breath, the loss that it describes.

The interruption of the rhythm in the last stanza, and the slant rhyme of “gesture” and “master” points to one of the other lovely aspects of this wonderful poem—its marriage of an antiquated form, the villanelle, with a very modern sensibility and diction. The poem’s use of a modern style within the decidedly unmodern form is announced in the first stanza, with the odd break between the second and third line, and the break from the iambic rhythm in the phrase within which that break occurs—”the intent / to be lost.” The awkwardness of that phrase, with the break, seems to enact, in a way which I couldn’t precisely specify, an “intent / to be lost,” a moment of loss. The return of the rhythm for the end of the stanza seems like a coming out of darkness, a rescue or return from the abyss of loss in that phrase, lack of rhythm and line break, “the intent / to be lost”.

In the second stanza you have the less odd, but still slightly odd, break between the first and second lines, that perhaps helps draw attention to that wonderful word, “fluster,” which again seems to come out of a sensibility foreign to, more modern and prosaic than that of the villanelle.

One could go on in this vein, playing off the modern versus the antiquated, showing how the poem works these two to great effect, but to do so seems to me a bit forest-trees. It is to lose sight of how special and fierce the poem is. It is fierce with loss.

Filed under: Poetry, ,

Bill Murray reads Emily Dickinson

Bill Murray reading poetry to construction workers finishing up the building of the new Poets House in Battery Park City, New York.

Poets House – About Us: Poets House is a national poetry library and literary center that invites poets and the public to step into the living tradition of poetry. Our poetry resources and literary events document the wealth and diversity of modern poetry, and stimulate public dialogue on issues of poetry in culture.

Founded in 1985 by poet Stanley Kunitz and arts administrator Elizabeth Kray, Poets House has created a home for all who read and write poetry. From 1990 to 2007 that home was located in an intimate loft at 72 Spring Street in Soho. As rent increases began to make Soho an impractical location, Poets House was fortunate to be designated by the Battery Park City Authority as a rent-free tenant in a new building on the banks of the Hudson River. In the summer of 2009, Poets House moved to its permanent home at 10 River Terrace in Battery Park City and opened to the public on September 25, 2009.

One of the poems that Murray reads of which I am particularly fond (thanks to another marvelous poet, Denise Lawson) is this, by Lorine Niedecker:

Poet’s work

advised me:
Learn a trade

I learned
to sit at desk
and condense

No layoff
from this

The poem is itself a wonderful example of the process of “this condensery” and of the tradecraft of poetry that is its subject. (Note that this is not a faithful reproduction of the poem; the lines should be indented in a particular way which adds to their force and effect.)

You can read more by and about Niedecker here:

(Thanks to Roger Ebert (ebertchicago) on Twitter for bringing the video to my attention.)

Filed under: Feel Good, , ,

Longing, we say

It would never have occurred to me to get a line from a poem like this as a tattoo – I  was leaning more towards a stylized turkey vulture – but this woman was not the only one who had the idea, at least according to the comments in flickr.

The poem from which this line comes, “Meditation at Lagunitas,” is by Robert Hass, a professor at UC Berkeley and former Poet Laureate of the United States. It originally appeared in Praise (1979) – which is my favorite book of poetry, not least because of this poem:

Meditation at Lagunitas

All the new thinking is about loss.
In this it resembles all the old thinking.
The idea, for example, that each particular erases
the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-
faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk
of that black birch is, by his presence,
some tragic falling off from a first world
of undivided light. Or the other notion that,
because there is in this world no one thing
to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,
a word is elegy to what it signifies.
We talked about it late last night and in the voice
of my friend, there was a thin wire of grief, a tone
almost querulous. After a while I understood that,
talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,
pine, hair, woman, you and I. There was a woman
I made love to and I remembered how, holding
her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,
I felt a violent wonder at her presence
like a thirst for salt, for my childhood river
with its island willows, silly music from the pleasure boat,
muddy places where we caught the little orange-silver fish
called pumpkinseed. It hardly had to do with her.
Longing, we say, because desire is full
of endless distances. I must have been the same to her.
But I remember so much, the way her hands dismantled bread,
the thing her father said that hurt her, what
she dreamed. There are moments when the body is as numinous
as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.
Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,
saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.

Filed under: Literature,

Dan Bellm – poetry at Moe’s

Thursday, April 15th:
Poetry Flash presents Barbara Ras & Dan Bellm
Moe’s Books, Berkeley

“Dan Bellm’s new book of poems is Practice. Alicia Ostriker says, “I am in awe of how Bellm’s poems perform a dance with and against Holy Scriptures. Practice is like a long prayer of wonder, gratitude, pain and loss and tenderness.” His two previous collections are One Hand on the Wheel and Buried Treasure, which won both the Cleveland State University Poetry Center Prize and the Alice Fay DiCastagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America.”

details at Readings & Events – Moes Books.

Dan’s an old friend from Squaw Valley and a wonderful poet – should be a good reading.

Filed under: Berkeley, Events,



Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 566 other followers

Blog Stats

  • 1,292,587 hits


Creative Commons License
zerode by nick chapman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Oh—and hello to Jason Isaacs.

Upcoming Bay Area Films of Interest

No upcoming events

The 400 Blows


is an over-caffeinated and under-employed grad school dropout, aspiring leftwing intellectual and cultural studies academic, cinéaste, and former poet. Raised in San Francisco on classic film, radical politics, burritos and soul music, then set loose upon the world. He spends his time in coffee shops with his laptop and headphones, caffeinating and trying to construct a post-whatever life.


What's in a name... The handle "zerode" is a contraction of Zéro de Conduite, the title of Jean Vigo's 1933 movie masterpiece about schoolboy rebellion.

tweeting my mind

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.



%d bloggers like this: