Rae Armantrout’s Money Shot

I pride myself on enjoying diverse poetic styles. Increasingly, though, I find myself drawn to imagist or concrete poetry, often in the form of Chinese or Zen poetry. Thus, when I first encountered some Rae Armantrout’s poems on the web that I liked, I decided I should buy her lastest book of poems Money Shot.

I did find a number of poems I liked, poems that had some of the characteristics I’ve come to look for in poetry, like


1 To come to
in the middle

of a vibrato —
an “is” —

that some soprano’s

to sustain.

To be awake
is to discriminate

among birdcalls,
fruits, seeds,

“to work one’s way,”
as they say,


Just now

into awareness
falling forward,

hurtling inland
in all innocence.

Needless to say, I’m especially fond of the lines “To be awake/ is to discriminate/ among birdcalls” because I’ve been trying desperately in the last few years to discriminate between birdcalls. Unfortunately, though I can impress non-birders with my ability to distinguish some birds by their calls, any real birder would soon realize just how inadequate my skills are. Still, it is the increasing “awareness” that most interests me, and recognizing birds by their songs is no more important that recognizing them by habitat or by flight patterns.

Long ago I was a Wordsworth fan, and I still am a Hopkins fan, so I was attracted to this poem with its “freshet” and “warbles:”



Wordsworth’s secret

First orgasm.

Hopkins’ holy

Wordsworth’s sudden

remain standing.

What burbles?
What warbles?

Sea to shining, shining

The angels are the old gods
with a new service

They’ve put aside
their hijinks
for the greater good,

for unimpeded

“Fear not,”
the wires sing.

I even enjoyed the way Rae tied together “angels” and “the old gods,” but I still am baffled by the connection between part 1 and part 2.

There were a total of eight poems I marked as interesting enough to reread several times. That’s really not very many, especially considering how short the poems tend to be. I longed for more concrete poems like these, but the majority of the poems seemed like intellectual puzzles that the reader is supposed to piece together, as show in the excerpt from “Answer:”

As part of the language lessons,
I have holes cut in my forehead.

I am to learn by feel
to insert the proper keys.

I play along, though,
I still have my doubts.

Turns out I prefer my Surrealism in art, not poetry, though I don’t think that was always true. I’m afraid that last line, “I play along, though, privately” I still have my doubts” summarizes my feeling about this book of poems quite



It must officially be Summer since, with the exception of year-round ducks and geese, recent birding has pretty much been limited to songbirds. Still haven’t gotten the great shots of Tree Swallows that I’ve become accustomed to in past summers, but I did manage to get awfully close to this male Thursday,

male Tree Swallow

probably because the wind was blowing so hard that it didn’t want to leave the treehouse it was clinging to desperately.

Earlier, in sunnier, calmer times I managed to get my first picture of the summer of an American Goldfinch, the Washington State Bird,

American Goldfinch

a sure sign around here that summer has officially returned, though my tomatoes and corn would certainly seem to indicate otherwise.

On Friday I managed to get a pretty good shot of a White-Crowned Sparrow,
and I’m always pleased when I can get a clear shot of these small birds because they’re generally too shy to capture in any kind of unobstructed pose.

White-Crowned Sparrow

Before you know it, the hummingbirds will return to my yard and I can focus on them for awhile.

Lael’s Photographs

Dawn asked us to watch Lael Thursday night while the rest of the family went to a soccer game, and I decided that since we’re both in training for an Olympic Backpack in July that we should walk Belfair Thursday night and Waughop Lake Friday morning.

Since I enjoy photographing while walking, I gave Lael a camera so she could take pictures, too, not realizing how many shots she would take and how many I would have to sort through to pick out the best ones.

Lael with Camera

One of her favorite parts of Theler Wetlands is the tunnel-effect from the trees that surround the trail.

Nana and Patah walking through a Tunnel of Trees

I’m generally so focused on birds that I forget to take scenic shots, but I thought Lael did a good job of doing that, showing both the sunny part of the hike here,

Creek in Sunshine

and the stormy, blustery part of the hike here:


Friday morning Lael and I headed out to Waughop Lake, hoping to see more birds than we’d seen the night before at Belfair. My favorite shot she took was this one of a female Wood Duck and three of her ducklings.

Wood Duck with Ducklings

I thought it was especially nice that after we looked at a sign that showed the birds that had been spotted here and Lael said she would most like to see a Cedar Waxwing that we did, in fact, spot one on the other side of the lake:

Waxwing with Berry

Despite my nagging cold, it was an invigorating and uplifting two days.