I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that I like Hollo’s later poems more than his earlier poems, which is not to say that I’d rank him up there with Roethke or even Robinson Jeffers.

Even when he’s serious, as he is here in


to arrive in front of large video screen,
in pleasantly air-conditioned home with big duck pond in back,
some nice soft drinks by elbow, some good american snacks as well.
at least four hundred grand in the bank, and that’s for checking
an undisclosed amount in investments, and a copacetic evening
watching the latest military techné
wipe out poverty everywhere in the world
in its most obvious form, the poor

he manages to do so without sounding too serious. The truth of his insights, though, can be seen when you notice this poem was published in 1983, and is not just a knee-jerk reaction to the Bush-Cheney cabal. Perhaps its humorous tone makes it all the more effective.

I’m also fond of an even lighter poem,


One day’s
big event was when

the cardboard
box I had set on

top of logs burning
in the grate toppled out

of the fireplace in a lively
state of combustion

perhaps because it reminds me of my own life in retirement where the biggest aggravation of the day is having to wait until 1:00 for UPS to deliver Photoshop CS3, and then being unable to install it without considerable angst.

Perhaps because I’ve been guilty of the same kind of foolishness and become flustered in trying to solve the problem.

Such is my life. Hopefully yours is more exciting, though I’ve had some visitors comment that they come here to get cheered up.

Anselm Hollo’s Notes on the Possibilities and Attractions of Existence

I’ve finished the first 100 pages of Anselm Hollo’s Notes on the Possibilities and Attractions of Existence, a collection of his poems written from 1965-2000. So far, I’m trying to remember exactly why I bought this collection. I guess it was because I like the selection of his poems found in Postmodern Poetry.

I looked back at what I wrote then, and I still liked the two poems that I wrote about, so I’m waiting for some subtle shifts in the poems as I get further along in the collection.

Probably the best, and the worst, thing about reading his poetry is that it has managed to drop my resting heart rate to a record low of 55, the slowest I’ve ever seen it, and that’s after two hours of rigorous exercise this morning.

It’s clear why he is sometimes associated with the Beat Poets. Even the poems I like best suggest some similarities to their work, like this one:


born in pa-hsi province
of szechwan
lived muchos años
at the court of the emperor

ming huang, but was banished
as a result of falling
in disfavor? with the empress
kao li-shih, & wandered about china thereafter

only occasionally attached to a patron
leading a “dissolute” life, addicted? to drink
writing the poems about the joys of that life

notably wine, & woman, & all the rest
& agitation of the sensational universe

came to his death by falling
out of a boat & drowning
in an attempt to have intimate intercourse
with the moon

one of those of
whom it is said:

“he took the charge well”

Despite the fact that I’ve never toked anything, Li Po was the first Chinese poet I ever read (in Pound’s rather poor translation, if you’re to believe
. That encounter led me to take a Chinese literature course in grad school, which, in turn, led in so many directions that I’m unable to trace them all, but remember nearly all of them fondly.

I’ve been more addicted to poems than other forms of intoxication, so it’s not hard for me to identify with the stanza

came to his death by falling
out of a boat & drowning
in an attempt to have intimate intercourse
with the moon

My love of poetry hasn’t caused my death, obviously, but, beginning with college, it certainly had a dramatic effect on my life, mostly in positive ways, but certainly at the cost of other possibilities that I never explored.