ronald baatz | only for the old and the fragile | breakfast with the sheep

14 01 2008


Poetry Dispatch No. 104 | September 26, 2006

Feature Poet of the Week: Ronald Baatz

“Poetry Dispatch” will occasionally feature a particular poet more than once in the course of a week. Usually a very active poet (prolific writing /publication). Always a poet whose work speaks to the reader immediately, honestly, in a real way.

I’ve been reading Ronald Baatz since the early numbers of one of the best, liveliest little mag publications in the country, Marvin Malone’s WORMWOOD REVIEW. Which was also one of the first publications to feature the poetry of Charles Bukowski — before he became Bukowski, Buk, and Chinaski. (The WORMWOOD REVIEW ceased publication some years ago upon the death of Malone. There’s been nothing like it before –or since.)

Here are two poems by Ronald Baatz for today, the first of this offering. One old (WORMWOOD REVIEW, 1995) and one brand new, which he’s generously offered to “Poetry Dispatch:”

It’s difficult to get any bio out of Baatz. The quote below, about as close as he comes: Norbert Blei




I don’t know why i want to live to be an old man,
but i find that i do. It seems odd to me, when i
really think about it. There isn’t much that
i want to accomplish. No major goals have made
themselves known to me. I can’t see my lazy self
solving any of the serious problems facing this race
of humans i’ve somehow become part of.
That sounds condescending, and i am sorry.
I want to love another woman, create more of
these poems, and like some other poets i know
drink many more glasses of wine.
At the end of it all, dying a gracious death
might prove to be a worthwhile act.
And just once i would like to be able to
charm the birds out of the trees.
I’ve heard it said that certain people can do this,
and these people are spoken of with very
noticeable envy. It’d be nice to convince
a good number of birds to come down
and land on my shoulders. If i were an
old man i would be thin and light
and these birds could pick me up and
carry me away. They would also be kind
enough to pick my wife up also.
We would float comfortably about in
the air like people in a painting
by Chagall. This would be something
to live to be an old man for.
I have no desire to accumulate
wealth; fame is completely out
of the question.
Just to be held aloft
by the birds would be plenty.
Birds only do this
for the old
and the fragile.

from Wormwood Review, #140, 1995




On my way back from the supermarket, where i picked up
a coffee and hard roll, i drove up Cold Mountain Road, and
when i came to the Greek Orthodox community i stopped
the car to do some sheep gazing. It was obvious they were
newly shorn, in the cold morning air gathered tightly
around the one large tree that’s close to the barn. They
looked so skinny and as though they were shivering too.
But then i remembered it was only the cold of a June morning
and that just because i’d be shivering under that tree, if
i were standing there nude, it doesn’t mean a sheep would be.
Any sheep in decent health should be able to stay warm.
Maybe some old sheep would be shivering. But, what
do i know about sheep. Nothing. I can only stare at them
in wonderment. And they stare back at me, at least
the young ones do. Apparently the older ones can’t be bothered.
They took one look at me, saw me drinking coffee and
eating a hard roll, and they knew i was harmless. They know
i am alone, living alone, that i am lonely. They know
i am not one of those dumb poets who likes guns. They know
i’m one of those dumb poets who doesn’t like guns, who
played with them as a kid and then lost interest. Poets
are dumb like sheep. Why are we dumb like sheep?
Certainly not because we would go off to the slaughterhouse
as quietly and meekly as sheep. We would go kicking
and screaming like pigs. We want more time to remain alive,
to drink wine and muse about life, to write more poems, perhaps
that one poem bringing comfort and peace and a light to the world,
that one poem that is like a great undying prayer. And we
want to remain alive to experience more of the dumb silence of sheep.
Just to be dumb in silence and to look out the back door at night.
Look at the stars as though for the first time and experience the
profound dumbness they inspire. I like having breakfast with the sheep,
engine turned off as i sip and nibble, huddled against the steering wheel,
looking up at the sky when not at the sheep. Looking for that
omen bearing cloud telling me when i will have a woman again in my life.
The last woman. The one who will stand naked with me under the tree,
finally embracing one another in that dumb silence, each of us shivering
a little bit less.

for Poetry Dispatch # 1o4, first printing

imakito oku | a poem from broken water

14 01 2008


Poetry Dispatch No. 106 | October 9, 2006

he falls in love again
with the word pathétique

Imakitō Oku

from BROKEN WATER, Tokyo; Yamada, 1963

franz wright | p.s.

14 01 2008


Poetry Dispatch No. 137 | December 10, 2006

P.S. by Franz Wright

I close my eyes and see
a seagull in the desert
high, against unbearably blue sky.

There is hope in the past.

I’m writing to you
all the time, I am writing

with both hands,
day and night.


ralph murre | a few haiku in autumn

14 01 2008


Poetry Dispatch No. 110 | October 16, 2006

The Small Poem Re-visited Again (Forever!)

A Few Haiku in Autumn by Ralph Murre

voices on my walk
gold leaf veneer of this day
the bright-bloused women

among the birches
old men listen for music
peeing on dried leaves

which is you, heron?
white bird or white reflection –
the dark pond won’t tell

may swenson | analysis of baseball

14 01 2008


Poetry Dispatch No. 111 | October 17, 2006

In light of October…the bases, the bull pen, the dugout, the batting box, the baseline; pitchers and catchers, outfielders and infielders, balls and strikes, innings (top-half and bottom-half), umpires and coaches, batters and designated hitters; fair balls and foul balls, home runs and shut outs; in light of all the light in all the green fields of dreams at this time of year…Norbert Blei


Analysis of Baseball by May Swenson

It’s about
the ball,
the bat,
and the mitt.
Ball hits
bat, or it
hits mitt.
Bat doesn’t
hit ball, bat
meets it.
Ball bounces
off bat, flies
air, or thuds
ground (dud)
or it
fits mitt.

Bat waits
for ball
to mate.
Ball hates
to take bat’s
bait. Ball
flirts, bat’s
late, don’t
keep the date.
Ball goes in
(thwack) to mitt,
and goes out
(thwack) back
to mitt.

Ball fits
mitt, but
not all
the time.
ball gets hit
(pow) when bat
meets it,
and sails
to a place
where mitt
has to quit
in disgrace.
That’s about
the bases
about 40,000
fans exploded.

It’s about
the ball,
the bat,
the mitt,
the bases
and the fans.
It’s done
on a diamond,
and for fun.
It’s about
home, and it’s
about run.

from The Complete Poems to Solve


mayswenson.jpgMay Swenson (b. Anna Thilda May Swenson, May 28, 1913 in Logan, Utah – December 4, 1989 in Bethany Beach, Delaware) was an American poet and playwright.

The first child of Margaret and Dan Arthur Swenson, she grew up as the eldest of 10 children in a Mormon household where Swedish was spoken regularly and English was a second language. Much of her later poetry works were devoted to children, although she also translated the work of contemporary Swedish poets, including the collection Iconographs (1970) and the selected poems of Tomas Transtromer.

Swenson attended Utah State University in Logan in the class of 1939, where she received a bachelor’s degree. She taught poetry at several universities, including Bryn Mawr, the University of North Carolina, the University of California at Riverside, Purdue University and Utah State University. From 1959 to 1966 she worked as an editor at New Directions publishers. She also served as a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets from 1980 until her death in 1989.

Her poems were published in Antaeus, The Atlantic Monthly, Carleton Miscellany, The Nation, The New Yorker, Paris Review, The Saturday Review, Parnassus and Poetry.

She received much recognition for her work. Some of which include:

  • * American Introductions Prize in 1955;
  • * William Rose Benet Prize of the Poetry Society of America in 1959;
  • * Longview Foundation Award in 1959;
  • * National Institute of Arts and Letters Award in 1960;
  • * Brandeis University Creative Arts Award in 1967;
  • * Lucy Martin Donnelly Award of Bryn Mawr College in 1968;
  • * Shelley Poetry Award in 1968
  • * Guggenheim fellowship in 1959,
  • * Amy Lowell Travelling Scholarship in 1960,
  • * Ford Foundation grant in 1964
  • * Bollingen Prize for poetry in 1984,
  • * MacArthur Fellowship in 1987.

Swenson’s work shows strong use of imagery and use of eroticism. She continually questions existence and writes much on the topic of love. Her love poems concerned “human nature, the natural world, geography, and invention. They are poems of intense love between women, written at a time when that genre was rare in poetry” (Schulman.) A self proclaimed lesbian, much critique has been done on her heterosexual imagery. Although she did not go out of her way to make known her sexual identity, she also did not hide it. Perhaps she did promote her sexuality because of the times, religion, or maybe just personal preference not to. In her career she has turned down publication offers to use her poetry in a compilation of lesbian writing, yet she did agree in one case, which she explained as a tasteful collection she did not mind contributing to. Her biography The Love Poems of May Swenson focused mostly on poems in which sexual imagery is especially abundant. It is considered her book of strongest love poems. One example, the poem “In the Yard” reads:

You’re back,
barefoot, brought
some fruit. Split me
an apple. We’ll
get red, white
halves each, our
juice on the
Indian spread. (Nature 94)

Swenson’s style is described as rhythmic. Her creative style merges in her writing with her interest in plant and animal behaviour with works such as “The Cross Spider“. As well as natural themes, some of her work focuses on scientific research, for example the exploration of space. Fascinated by perception, much of Swenson’s work contains key themes of how this human perception can be found in landscapes and wider contexts. One source comments that her use of nature and sexuality are not used separately, but that nature is something we are all part of, and in that commonality we share energy derived from sexuality.

Working with the Literary Estate of May Swenson, Utah State University (USU) has created the “May Swenson Project“. Supported by students and teachers, it has publicized Swenson’s work at USU, as well as her influence across the nation. In her name, USU has dedicated a May Swenson room in the English Department and another in the USU Merrill-Cazier Library. Funds are being sought to establish an endowed chair in Swenson’s name.

The May Swenson Poetry Award, sponsored by Utah State University Press, is a competitive prize granted annually to an outstanding collection of poetry in English. Open to published and unpublished writers, with no limitation on subject, the competition honors May Swenson as one of America’s most vital and provocative poets of the twentieth century. Judges for the competition have included Mary Oliver, Maxine Kumin, John Hollander, Mark Doty, Alice Quinn, Harold Bloom, and others from the first tier of American letters.



  • * Another Animal (Scribner, 1954);
  • * A Cage of Spines (Rinehart, 1958);
  • * To Mix with Time: New and Selected Poems (Scribner, 1963);
  • * Poems to Solve (for children “14-up”) (Scribner, 1966);
  • * Half Sun Half Sleep (Scribner, 1967);
  • * More Poems to Solve (Scribner, 1968);
  • * Iconographs (Scribner, 1970);
  • * New & Selected Things Taking Place (Little, Brown, 1978);
  • * In Other Words (Knopf, 1987).


  • * The Contemporary Poet as Artist and Critic (1964)


  • * Iconographs (1970)
  • * Windows and Stones: Selected Poems of Tomas Tranströmer (1972)


rhina p. espaillat | undelivered mail

14 01 2008


Poetry Dispatch No. 112 | October 18, 2006

Undelivered Mail by Rhina P. Espaillat

Dear Daughter,
Your father and I wish to commend you
on the wisdom of your choices
and the flawless conduct of your life

Dear Poet!
Where is the full-length manuscript
you promised us? Your check is waiting
The presses are ready
and the bookstores are clamoring for delivery

This convention is tedious
beyond belief: the hotel is swarming
with disgustingly overexposed women
far too young to have dignity
or any minds at all

Dear Patient:
The results of your blood tests reveal
that your problem stems from
a diet dangerously low
in pizza and chocolate

Dear Mom,
You were right about everything
and I was an idiot not to listen

from Playing at Stillness. © Truman State University Press


Rhina P. Espaillat was born in the Dominican Republic, has lived in the U.S. since 1939, and writes in both English and Spanish, but primarily in English. Her poems have appeared in many magazines, including Poetry, Sparrow, Pivot and The Formalist, and in various anthologies, including A Formal Feeling Comes and The Muse Strikes Back, both from Story Line Press, and the current Heath Introduction to Poetry.

She has four poetry collections in print: Lapsing to Grace, published by Bennett & Kitchel in 1992; Where Horizons Go, which won the 1998 T. S. Eliot Prize and was published by New Odyssey Press; the winner of the Richard Wilbur Award, Rehearsing Absence, published in 2001 by the University of Evansville Press; and a bilingual chapbook titled Mundo y Palabra/The World and the Word, published in 2001 by Oyster River Press. In addition to writing, she runs a monthly workshop (The Powow River Poets), presents a monthly reading series, and coordinates a yearly poetry contest, both sponsored by the Newburyport Art Association. Also, Singular Speech Press has released an anthology with her work, Landscapes with Women: Four American Poets.