Saturday, July 18, 2015

Of Poetics, Polemics, and Politics

In the last post on this site, I put up a clearly political poem, “Endorsement”, and stated in emails to some of my correspondents that I had done so in a “What Would Neruda Do”?  moment.   I did not mean to imply that my work was the equal of Neruda's, nor even to suggest that this poem was meant to emulate any of his -- I simply wished to remind readers and other writers that he was not afraid to take a political stand and to let his poetry reflect that position.  Too often, I fear, we are using our pens "just for pretty", as the old New England boatbuilders said of adornments to their craft.

No one responding to my emails took an opposing political view to mine, and many thought the poem a pretty good one.  From the standpoint of one judging purely on the merits of its poetics, it may not be.  A few didn’t care for it’s lack of metaphor and other good and wonderful devices which made Neruda’s work stand out during his time and ours.  Perhaps we mortals should be more careful in invoking the name of San Pablo.  But as a bit of possibly memorable political communication aimed at 21st century Americans, I think my piece may still have some merit.

I did get a few comments, though, suggesting that as poets we are only able to “preach to the choir”, so it may be pointless for us to even delve into the political and, worse, when we do, we too often engage in mere rants and screeds.  Of course, there’s truth in that.


If we, having developed our craft to whatever little level decide not to speak to whatever little audience about injustice as we see it, then I believe we are complicit in that injustice.  Yes, we must say our poems in the very best way we can, but we must say them.  And they must, occasionally, actually be about something that matters.

     ~ RM    

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Against the Wall


However fine are their qualities
and however fine ours may be,
if we empower as leaders
those bought and sold,
we, too, are bought and told
that this is the golden-
hued freedom we dumb
bastards fought for
and all the bleeding was for naught
and the dying fools.
We are buying that it’s cool
to sell the nation to the corporation,
build more jails, close more schools.
We can all just stay tuned
to the one station that broadcasts
the coronation, see the placement,
on that paid-for head,
of our crown of jewels.

~ Ralph Murre

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Chicken Shack, or The Coop

bookmark: murre, from basho's road

photo: sharon auberle

Some of you will remember Norbert Blei.  My friend, my mentor, my publisher.  One of the people most influential in my writing life.  Wrote a bunch of books, published a lot of other people's books, stayed in touch with the wide world of literature and literati,and raised as much hell as he could to save the environment and a disappearing way of life; all from a not-too-reconstructed chicken coop in the Wisconsin woods.
Since Norb's death, his property has been sold, but thanks to his children, The Coop has been donated to Write On! Door County, and relocated to those grounds where it will serve as sanctuary and inspiration to other writers, young and old.
I attended a fine dedication ceremony last Saturday along with about 150 other folks, many of whom paid tribute with their words, their art, their music, and at least one original dance, choreographed just for the day.  Here's the poem I wrote for the occasion:

The Cock o’ the Coop
(On the studio of Norbert Blei)

Beyond Ellison Bay, in may-apple May
and blue-sky July gone by,
or in the gray of dim December,
south windows searching for sun,
there would have been Leghorns
I suppose, utilitarian,
clucking and cackling
in this chicken house.
Good layers, Leghorns.
Might have been White Rocks and Barred Rocks,
brooding.  Rhode Island Reds.  Perhaps even
Sunday-dinner Wyandotte, Orpington, or Jersey Giant.

For certain --

one Bantam rooster, crowing
doing his damnedest
to wake the neighbors

~ Ralph Murre

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Observations on Earth Day

Starlings in America

The watchman stood alone on his blue hill
and watched, then, as he does now.
Saw them coming.

A few Vikings, some kook in a coracle.
He saw three ships come sailing in
from Spain.

They traded trinkets for coconuts and corn,
traded pox for potatoes.
A syphilitic wife will change your life.

The sun rises and the sun sets.
Their God was nailed to a tree
where they could keep an eye on him.

They brought original sin, brought a savior
and took silver, brought guns and took gold.
Brought alcohol, took tobacco.

They brought ponies and plunder,
were crazy for beaver
and a quick way to China.

In time, they brought steel and steam.
A steel knife will change your life, too.
The sun rises and the sun sets.

They brought bulldozers and drag-line buckets.
Tore the Earth.  Tore the Good Earth.
Put it on Mr. Peabody’s coal train.
Brought languages,
took languages away.
Brought starlings.

Brought Studebakers and Scotch Tape.
Duct tape and red tape.
They brought refrigerator magnets,

scotch and soda, the cotton gin, wrinkle –
free polyester.  Bourbon and Bud Lite and
a bomb that bloomed in the desert.

They taught children to hide under desks.
Atomic strife will change your life.
The sun rises and sets.

Edsels come and Edsels go.
The watchman stands alone on his blue hill.
Do not be hopeful,

he calls out at last,
but do not be without hope.
They brought Schubert.

~ Ralph Murre

Little Eagle's RE / VERSE: Fare thee well, Ellen Kort

photosource unknown

Please find a few words about the passing of our friend at:
Little Eagle's RE / VERSE: Fare thee well, Ellen Kort:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Funny Thing . . .

A funny thing happened on the way to the podium.  As the result of a process totally mysterious to me, I have been named poet laureate of Door County, Wisconsin.  While I was sure that this was some gross miscalculation or simply a hoax, apparently the county board didn't get the joke, and I was installed yesterday at the board meeting.  Another funny thing:  Flu.  I haven't been sick for years, but the night before my big moment, I was struck, hard, by some nastiness.  I could not attend.  Luckily for me, the out-going and outgoing laureate, Estella Lauter, said a few very kind words on my behalf and read the poem I had written for the occasion, an imperative piece which is as much a note to myself as to the assembled board.
In awe of the three who have held this post before me; Frances May, Barbara Larsen, and Estella Lauter, I humbly submit:

To the Duly Elected,

the newly elected, and those selected
to serve many times before –

I ask you to speak for the farmer as he tills,
for the builder as he builds.
Speak for the bagger of groceries
and speak, please, for the trees.

Speak loudly to save quiet places.
Speak, too, for the ferryman,
the fisherman, the schools of fishes.
Remember the one who taught you to read.

Remember the ones who wash dishes.
Be strong for the weak, the unhealthy.
Speak up for those in need.
Speak up for the artist and the scene she paints.

Speak, please, for the creek.
Be wary of saints and the wealthy.
Speak out against greed.
Speak for the nurses and nursery-men.

Represent those who scrub floors.
Represent those who pull weeds.
Speak for the firefighter, the all-nighter cop,
speak for the crop in the field.

Listen to the one who voted against you.
Listen to the wind in the night.
Listen to your heart when it says to stand fast,
listen close when it tells you to yield.

~ Ralph Murre

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Je suis, aussi

artwork: ralph murre

je suis ecrivain
je suis iconoclaste
je suis artiste
je suis chaque homme
je suis, aussi, charlie

~ ralph murre

Thursday, January 01, 2015

(Slow) Running Things

photo: ralph murre

How slowly the writing comes these days, as evidenced by the fact that I haven't posted to this site since May.  Have barely written anything else for anywhere else.  Forgive me re-running this 10-year old piece, still possibly appropriate for the day:

Running Things

Another year
Another chance to get it right
To do the things I shoulda done
Tear down that fence I built
Quit the party
Let running things run

Another wave rolls up the beach
Tumbles stones
Polishes what survives
Shorebirds – hungry – rush
Consume the dazzled on the sands
End the safe, crustacean lives

Another day
Another chance to see the light
To see the clouded, rising sun
Copper flame in pewter bowl
Embrace the certain, coming toll
Or be a running thing, and run

~ Ralph Murre

On a brighter note, and concerning two friends for whom the writing seems to be coming along very nicely, I want to refer you to two new blogs that brighten my days considerably.  The first, a self-titled site by Mary Wehner, can be found at and the second, called The Poet At Large, is by Al DeGenova, and is at  Beautiful.
Both sites are new enough that you can easily read them from their beginnings, an exercise quite definitely worth your while. Links to both will remain in my right-hand column under "Good Places".
Happy New Year to all.     ~ RM