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Month: July 2012

The Hound of Ulster

The Hound of Ulster

Red Branch. A Novel, by Morgan Llywelyn. 1989
Red Branch. A Novel, by Morgan Llywelyn. 1989

 Am nearly finished with a wonderful novel, Morgan Llywelyn’s Red Branch. It tells the tale of Cuchulain, the great Irish hero of the Ulster Cycle. Ms. Llywelyn paints an earthy, rugged and raw portrait of Ireland in ancient times, and imagines a passionate life for Cuchulain, along with his wife Emer, Deirdre of the Sorrows, King Conor Mac Nessa, Fergus Mac Roy and Maeve, queen of Connaught.

She does a remarkable job of staying very close to the original source material, though she deviates slightly at times for dramatic effect. And she is very good setting up and foreshadowing pivotal moments in the story. If one already knows the myths, this enriches the telling, because you see new strings in place, new binding chains of fate. I’ve read Lady Gregory and Randy Lee Eikhoff’s versions of the ancient Irish tales, and Ms. Llywelyn holds her own. She has a gift … Click to continue . . .

The River

The River

The Shenandoah
The Shenandoah


The river is real and metaphorical at the same time. Or, perhaps, a shade or two off the instant. It is real only before and after the photograph. When I look through the lens, I’m already behind the times and separate from my river. When I look at the photograph, I am further removed in time and space — there and not there. Being as if. Not being as one.

Such musings are more or less obvious. But what is not so obvious is that the river terrorizes me and makes me laugh with joy and fate as well. Or, perhaps, a shade or two this side of terror and omen. I laugh thinking about all the other people through time who have looked at rivers and seen things like that. Metaphors and such. Poetic phrases both profound and banal.

Isn’t it curious that people would spend even one second thinking about anything but the … Click to continue . . .

Patterns Emerge

Patterns Emerge

Sharps and Flats
Sharps and Flats

 I was walking the other night and fell in love with shadows. The play of shadows on the street, in the lamplight. Thinking, as I walked, what it might look like in a photo, I framed a scene here and there. I abstracted part of reality and placed it inside a box, a rectangle, removing it from its natural place in the scheme of things.

This was wrong, in a nagging, somewhat ambiguous way, and it was perfectly, naturally right all the same. Wrong because it meant I was isolating things and removing them from their relationships to one another, discriminating, splitting up what is whole. Right because this is quite nearly the only way to make art . . .

Though my Zen studies have been put on hold for the last few months, I still think about what I’ve learned so far and what I need to learn, and this followed me as I walked … Click to continue . . .

Form is Emptiness. Emptiness is Form

Form is Emptiness. Emptiness is Form

Spinozablue welcomes the poetry of Virginie Colline, Hilary Sideris, Changming Yuan, Kenneth Pobo, Joan McNerney, and the fiction of Shanna Perplies.


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A tip of the hat goes to nnyhav for the link to Tim Parks’ excellent article in the New York Review of Books, The Chattering Mind. While most of the article is about modern literature, there is a section on the Buddhist quest to still the mind which I found brilliantly concise and relevant to past and future discussions here. The entire article being relevant, of course . . . .


Sitting for ten days on a cushion, eyes closed, cross-legged, seeking to empty your mind of words, it’s all too evident how obsessively the mind seeks to construct self-narrative, how ready it is to take interest in its own pain, to congratulate itself on the fertility of its reflection. That chattersome voice will even be pleased with its progressively

Click to continue . . .
Changming Yuan: Chan Poems

Changming Yuan: Chan Poems


Natural Confrontations   


1/ Ant

Stretching its hair-like limbs
As far as it can
The ant embracing
The tallest Douglas tree
In the forest
Attempts to shake off
All its leaves
Branches, and even
To uproot it

2/ Corn


With a small body
Of teeth, you have bitten off
Every golden minute
From the warm day
Hoping to collect and store
All the sunlight
Of the passing season  


3/ Vortex

Turning, twirling
In ever smaller circles
A vortex in the stream
Seems to be sucking in
All the waters on earth
Like the black hole
Trying to swallow
The whole universe



Mind Mudra: A Chan Poem


Legs crossed
Sitting straight
Still in chan meditation
Upon a lotus flower
Newly blossoming on my inner pond
I perceive myself transforming
Slowly but steadily
From a monstrous yellow-skinned frog
Into an ever bigger, brighter Buddha
Until my whole being inside out
Bursts into trillions of individual cells… Click to continue . . .

Shanna Perplies: La Vie en Violet

Shanna Perplies: La Vie en Violet

La Vie En Violet


I slipped off my robe, trying to appear casual, as if it wasn’t my first time. I had assured him I’d done this many times before. I tried to look anywhere but his face, because he must know by now I had been lying, the red blush staining my skin and revealing my inexperience and self-consciousness. I looked up at the window, high, forbidding, and remote, then down at my feet on the splintered and peeling wooden boards and lastly, the closed and bolted door. The silence of the room echoed around me broken only by the uneven pattern of my loudly beating heart. I hoped I was the only one who could hear it. I wished I had come more mentally prepared. I told myself not to be nervous about anyone looking at me naked, or whether or not I’d be good at this, or if it would be painful. I was just doing Click to continue . . .

Virginie Colline: Haiku la Nuit

Virginie Colline: Haiku la Nuit

Night Haiku

Full Moon at Magome by Hasui Kawase


black row of dumpsters

an errant dog laps the moon
in a cold puddle

he points at the sky
a hint of eternity
in this diamond night
time evaporates
behind the doors of shadow
moonlit Tsumago


— by Virginie Colline


Copyright © by Virginie Colline. All Rights Reserved.


Virginie Colline is a French translator living in Paris. She has recently been published in Fri Haiku, Literary Juice, Indian Review and Prick of the Spindle.



Hilary Sideris: The Keith Poems

Hilary Sideris: The Keith Poems



The best thing that happened
to me (after they dumped me

from Boys’ Choir when my
voice broke) was being a scout,

learning to tie those knots—
the bowline, the sheepshank.

I read all Baden-Powell’s manuals:
how to pluck a fowl, gut a squirrel,

ignite a fire with dry twigs
& a magnifier. It gave a boy

a chance to swagger, badges
on his sash, knife in his belt.
I got promoted to squad leader
& I say this in earnest: I kept

my men together & on task.
Years later in our Saint Petersburg

suite, I watched the hundredth
anniversary on tv. The Stones

owe plenty to the Scouts. I stood
& gave the three-fingered salute:

“Beaver Patrol Leader Richards,
Seventh Dartford, Sir!”  




Flash sons of bitches
in bow ties, that’s what they

tried to turn us into: go forth
& advertise. At Sidcup I was

“Ricky.” No uniforms, no war
to … Click to continue . . .