Song for Sisyphus: by anonymous 20th century poet

To listen to a reading of this poem, click on the player below:

To hear more poems by anonymous 20th century poet, click HERE.

Passions: by anonymous 20th century poet

The written version of this poem has disappeared from this blog. The original can be found HERE.

to hear a reading of this poem, click on the player below:

To read more work by anonymous 20th century poet, click HERE.

To find more of anonymous 20th century poet on this blog, click HERE.

In Vocation of the Muse: Page One

In Vocation of the Muse by B. McClellan

In Vocation of the Muse

poetry by Bonnie McClellan

Illustrations by Matthew Broussard

02smoking copyright Matthew Broussard

Invocation of the Reader

This song is written for an audience of one.
for your eyes and your mouth alone;
in hope that you may catch
the cadence of my breath
in rhythm of these words,
as I felt Dante’s breath, weighted
against my lips, chanting out
a novena of tercets, beginning:

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
che la diritta via era smarrita.

The straight path also lost to me,
I follow the sound of my voice
whispered across your lips.
Trembling at the gates of hell,
inside the silent center of this caesura
we inhale.

poems © Bonnie M. McClellan
images © Matthew Broussard


ALL OTHER POEMS FROM THE SERIES “In Vocation of the Muse” have been removed from this blog. If you would like to order a bound copy of the book complete with colour illustrations at a cost of 25.00 EURO ($35 USD) + postage and handling please contact me at:

Carrara: adventures in quarryland

Torano, Italy below the Quarries of the Alpi Apuani
Torano, Italy below the Quarries of the Alpi Apuani

Back story:

In May of 2007 our family moved to the town of Torano in Italy. Torano is a quarry town, the last one between Carrara and some of the oldest marble quarries in Italy. There were two bars, a bakery, and a small convenience store that sold milk, butter, and a few dusty bottles of wine. It was a town that was, for the most part, empty of all but retired people. A few younger couples lived down near the bus stop. The top of the hill was reserved for houses scrupulously tended by stoop-shouldered women and gardens planted and puttered over by silver-haired men.

For the first two months I was recovering from the birth of our daughter and so stayed in the house except for a few brief walks. Later I would push the baby in her stroller to make the loop of the town on the one road that circled through it. At the top of the hill on the sunniest spot there was a bench across from some houses where I would stop and look down the hill at our town and the others below. It was here that I first met Carlito. He was carrying a bag of leaves down from his garden to the dumpster by the side of the road and stopped on the way back to get a look at little Robin. Italians are crazy for babies and Tuscan people are in some sense the quintessential Italians, falling right between the extreme hospitality of people in the south and the blinkered, work-horse mentality of the north.

When I was talking to Carlito I was looking into the sun and noticed only that he had a deeply lined face and spoke haltingly…a Da Vinci drawing of a slightly grizzled old man. Several walks later I noticed that while others asked new questions, he always asked the same ones: “Is it a girl baby or a boy baby?”, “What’s her name?”, “You live in Torano?” After this brief exchange I would head of down the hill to the sound of the 4:30 p.m. detonation of explosives rumbling down from the quarries as regular as the church bells ringing vespers.

The fourth time I saw Carlito, Matthew was with me as we took the baby for her afternoon stroll. Matthew’s Italian is fluent and so he asked Carlito if he had worked in the quarries. Carlito told the story of how he got the dent in his head in a quarry accident when he was 25. Now I saw it, the concavity of the left side of his scull…I suppose that 40 years ago in a provincial Italian hospital there wouldn’t have been much they could do. There may not be much more that they can do now. How do doctors treat accidents that happen between men and 8 ton blocks of stone that make giant drag lines and front-end loaders look like bright yellow Tonka trucks?

Later, Matthew pointed out to me how dented and battered the men of the town were. One missing a leg, several limping, many wearing thick, smoke-tinted glasses to save their eyes damaged from squinting at the brilliant white stone for years on end…and above the town the quarries were stunning, beautiful. At sunset the flat white faces changed colours like a magic mirror: silver, blazing orange, downy pink as a baby’s cheek. Down from these mountains had come the marble from which some of the most famous monuments in Italy were made; The Colosseum, Michelangelo’s David. Now it goes to make, the tourist-trinket sculpture sold down in Carrara, floor tiles, and pedestal sinks; the gravel paves roads, the dust goes into toothpaste. What remains the same? Quarry men have been taking take their bite of the mountain for the last 3000 years; and the mountain…

To Carlito di Torano

‘Lizzatura’, impossibility of scale.
The slipping of the lizard ton, slow heave:
Skittering run of started stones, pale
As the knuckles above a dust-rimed sleeve.

What chemic system drives the reptilian mind
Of these men, of you, to scatter with wet
And laboured breath the dandelion seed
Of your life across this osteal range
Of unrelenting, unrepentant, white?
White, heavy enough to burn you blind;
Grind bone and work-hard skin to paste and lard.

As Atlas’ report rambles down the quarry hour;
You turn your head towards the hard, square place
That men dented, limping leave
At twenty-five to tend their flowers.

-Bonnie McClellan

To see the poem published in the “Blood Orange Review” click HERE.

Quarries in the Bacino di Torano as seen from our old house.
Quarries in the Bacino di Torano as seen from our old house.

Internet suite: Sappho’s Sandals

how are the toning shoes working?
(I keep seeing an add for those too,
over here to the side) but these are sneakers,
not sandals.

Should I join the “Performers Café”
as suggested…713 others like it
but it’s only for musicians.

Am I that?

Sappho would say yes,
Poetry is singing:

She would lift
her garlanded brow,
her ivory arms,
her silver voice:

“up with the roof!
Hymenaios –
lift it, carpenters!
Hymenaios –
the bridegroom is coming in
equal to Ares…”

Perhaps she knew
the “Secret Psycology”
they’re touting at:
Make Him Fall For You?
Or maybe her fall…
or maybe,
she just had
a good pair

of toning sandals?

Internet Suite: Duet

There was a rain storm yesterday and across the street
It rained rose petals from the climbers in the garden above.
The wet asphalt was drenched with these pink drops
licking the stern obscurity of letters not still white
S T O P.


I am immersed in a Japan that isn’t.
Google and FB know.

To the side has just appeared an ad for an opera singer
Whose voice “goes down like the smoothest of alcoholic beverages”
Which is not really how I like my opera.

Do they have a singer whose voice:
“scalds like strong, hot coffee first thing in the morning?”
“is as transcendent as a great orgasm?”
“who evokes an abyss of guilt and sadness comparable only to leaving your sobbing child as you walk away from the school?”

If yes, I’ll buy.

IPM 2MXI…Where have all the poems gone?

“We’re all trying: poets to give you, the reader, the gift of an image that cannot be offered in any better way, that cracks you a bit and frees something; you, readers, are giving us the gift of your searching, your curiosity, your attention…”

That’s what I wrote on the 31st. of January when I inaugurated International Poetry Month 2011 and now, on the 2nd of March I say, with joy, it happened…the exchange of gifts between poets and readers.

Now what?

International Poetry Month 2011 is closed. The marauding hordes have left the library ablaze, the flood has washed away the ashes, the caravan carrying the last copy of the precious poetry collection has vanished in the desert; at least that’s what it feels like to me as I hit the delete key and erase the written versions of the poems.

What remains is the oral tradition; I have made audio files of each poem available where the poem used to be posted.  Anyone who is on my e-mail list has a ‘fragment’ of each work. Perhaps, like the poems of Sappho, this is all that will remain.

I would like to extend my profound thanks to the following guest poets for their contributions:

Anonymous 2oth Cent. Poet

Cesare Bedognè

Gilles-Marie Chenot

Chris Fillebrown

Brad Frederiksen

Giacomo Gusmeroli

Michelle Lee Houghton

Christian Stokbro Karlsen

Tom McClellan

Angel Raiter

Adina Richman

Liliane Richman

Jere Schaefer

Octavio Solis

Edin Suljic

Some of these poets have blogs or websites where intriguing writing and images may be encountered. I encourage anyone suffering from poetry withdrawal to visit these sites by clicking on any of the names that appear in bold. Others are tantalizingly unavailable, if you want to see more of their work you’ll have to hope that they come back next year. Of course my work that is or has been posted throughout the rest of the year is still here.

Thanks as well to everyone who has stopped by to read and comment on the poems either here or at podbean*. It has been a real joy to present so much fine poetry again this year. Now I have to start thinking about next year and get back to writing.

A presto!

*podbean ate my audio! All mp3’s can now be found posted with the poem.

OFF THE CUFF: by Brad Frederiksen

This poem has disappeared from the site, if you’re wondering why, click HERE.

To listen to a reading of this poem, click the play arrow: 

To read more work by Brad Frederiksen, click HERE.

IPM 2MXI – Una Selva Oscura

Dante’s Divine Comedy took him thirteen years to write. I’m not a Dante scholar so I don’t know, but I think he probably revised, crossed things out, rewrote and re-composed over the course of those 13 years and the poem still sings, still makes me blush, and cracks my heart with fear. Dante’s work is, in part, my answer to Charles Bukowski’s so you want to be a writer as it was my answer to two young Latvian poets that I met while living in the hills outside of Florence who asked me: You’re a poet, tell us, it all has to come out in a burst of passion that burns onto the page, yes? Well looking at Dante, and Shakespeare, and William Carlos Williams…no, in part.

The other part of the answer is yes: this is how poetry is: blood and fire, especially when you’re a young poet. Some poets write like this for a lifetime. I am not such a poet, nor am I bound to become a titan of World Literature. I’m about 13 years younger than Dante was when he died, incidentally – just as he finished up Paradiso. I may yet have a Divine Comedy somewhere in me but I doubt it.

I can say that in my life, words have become dense and encrusted with associations over the years. Sometimes I need a poetic structure to bear their weight, to keep them from collapsing in on themselves so that the song of each word can be heard. Other times they do fly out suddenly, as light as startled birds and I have to stop in a parking lot or in the middle of cooking dinner and pen them down, sometimes I don’t and I lose them. Sometimes I write down a bustling crowd of dense images and a year later begin the process of picking the poems out, finding that what I thought was one poem turns out to be three. It is work; but what joyous, intense, full work.

So I write, other poets write, each with their own motives and methods. You read and the poem sings to you, or it doesn’t. We’re all trying: poets to give you, the reader, the gift of an image that cannot be offered in any better way, that cracks you a bit and frees something; you readers are giving us the gift of your searching, your curiosity, your attention. This month we have a proliferation of gifts to offer, I hope that you will find something in the next 28 days that sings to you.

Buona lettura e grazie,

Bonnie M. McClellan