On “Small”


Maybe you thought I dissolved into my horizontal tomorrow since Thursday? No, I grew a second body and drove to Baltimore, where I encountered too many fine people to list.

Carolyn and Don kissed & hugged me hello. Poetry host, Michael Ball, is as gracious as a willow in this past weekend’s breeze. Justin Sirois and Adam Good sang their hymns divinely. Todd and Laura Sandvik flew their car five hours from brilliant green southern pastures to massage our beating hearts. Marcus Slease’s hearty voice graced my ear on a telephone line. Life spoke something like Oh me oh my.

People came, people went. We ate we drank we laughed we smiled we talked we grew into a group of folks on a warmly-darkened porch of light and potential. The night rang freely all around us. We became a cradle for each other.

So in honor of fall, it’s time to fold-over a few ironed seams and peek at Gertrude Stein from my earlier years, even prior to donning those SUNY Buffalo winters. Stein in interview:

“What we want to know is how do you get so much publicity?” So I told them, “By having such a small audience. Being with a small audience. If that small audience really believes, they make a big noise, and a big audience does not make a noise at all.”

And two of the poems:

What Do I See.

A very little snail.
A medium sized turkey.
A small band of sheep.
A fair orange tree.
All nice wives are like that.
Listen to them from here.
You did not have an answer.

An instance

Tremble for small examples. I hope you received the three volumes safely.
Tremble for small examples.
It is not easy.
A third part is added to the top and bottom and the middle part is added in between.
Some examples simply
I tire more quickly than you do.
Some examples simply.
Small examples are preferable.
Small examples are preferred.

—from A Primer for the Gradual Understanding of Gertrude Stein (Black Sparrow Press: 1971)

Incidentally, that was printed the year I was born. It was also the first official book of poetry I purchased myself. Now for the first poem from Philip Jenk’s new book, My first painting will be “The Accuser,” because it fits the theme of small:


ligature and commence
ballast or last dance
my own, my little, hand
corrupts the air I walk in again.
even the head is imperfect
keeps “no time.” not the way
ice melts or jutting outward
the dim profile of you
are my horizon.


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