About Raymond Maxwell

Greensboro, NC. Navy mustanger (USS Hammerhead, SSN-663; USS Michigan, SSBN-727(B); USS Luce, DDG-38), US Foreign Service (Dept. of State). Florida A&M University (undergrad). University of London (SOAS)(MA). Catholic University of America (MSLIS).

Blog post after a long drought

News on the career transition scene. I am starting a new job next month. Shifting more towards archives and record-keeping and less towards traditional (and academic) librarianship, though I hope to keep a toe, if not a foot, in the library door.  More on that later…

Drove home to Greensboro, NC last weekend for a funeral.  My maternal grandfather had four daughters and one daughter-in-law and now they have all joined the ancestors. There is a certain celebration of their lives., especially on Mother’s Day. All strong and determined women. But a certain sadness remains. Missing them. Wishing to hear those voices again, in our ears and not just inside our heads.

“So live that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan that moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not. like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.”
Thanatopsis – William Cullen Bryant

We had our first experience with an AirBnB! It was a lot of fun and a definite enriching experience. We look forward to doing it again.

I wrote a poem each day in April, but May brought with it a bit of a drought. Check some of it out here.  Five years of participation in NaPoWriMo! Let’s hope for five more!


feeling a bit Whitmanian, or maybe a bit Iqbalian today






Closing out the year on winter solstice


Midwinter Day – Part Six (b): ends with a sonnet

…interesting rhyming scheme at the very end: aabbcc, deed.  Is this a herald of a return to formalism in poetry that the modernists so soundly rejected? Or could there be a message in the “deed”?  
Or more to the formalism point, could it be that the whole thing ends in a sonnet?  The rhyming scheme actually starts much earlier:
Well, I have to close them
This paid incandescent light
Is like the vigil of a virgin
Last to tell before my eyes I’ll end.
From dreams I made sentences, then what I’ve seen today,
The past the past of afternoons of stories like memory
To seeing as a plain introduction to modes of love and reason
Then to end I guess with love, a method to this winter season
Now I’ve said this love it’s all I can remember
Of Midwinter Day the twenty-second of December
Welcome sun, at last with thy softer light
That takes the bite from winter weather
And weaves the random cloth of life together
And drives away the long black light!  
“From dreams I made sentences….a method to this winter season/Now I’ve said this love…”
The shortest day ends in structure and order preceding the longest night, the most total darkness…
Thanks, Julia, for leading us on this caravan!  

Midwinter Day – Part Six (a)

Filomena has been on me for weeks to write this poem. We have discussed it in bits and pieces. I was a Navy machinist mate in a former life; that is what qualifies this submission as part of the overall transition.  Tell me your thoughts.  

Midwinter Day – Part Five

For better or for worse, despite all the vast richness of Part Five, I peeped ahead to Part Six and found a passage I’d like to share today.  From p. 102:

“…Wagner felt he had to wear

Satin dressing gowns in order to compose

I am ashamed that death obsesses me

But death is just the usual

The obsessiveness is something I won at poker

Where I’m remembering what’s been played

So I can play my hand so no one ever dies

                                                                   How preoccupying

Is the wish to include all or to leave all out

Some say either wish is against a poem or art

                                                                       I’m asking

Is it an insane wish?

                               To be besieged, beset with,

To have to sit with, to be harassed, obsessed,

To be possessed or ruled by

                                            I am confused by

Fear, perfection and love, this poem,

Order, mourning, vigilance and beer

And cigarettes and directness

Or clarity, words, truth or writing

Or the sublime…”

Midwinter Day – Part Four

I gotta confess, it was a tough slog getting through Part Four of Bernadette’s Midwinter Day today (yes we are on a first name basis by now, silly!). But this gem at the very end made the slog all worthwhile:

“I have a sensation of waiting, you should call and tell me how the rest might go. Like an important letter, a whole different matter, if I only knew what I need to know. You call and I say in some way I already know all about it, I expected it. That’s a story that might happen today, I don’t dare to end as death is still bewildering, love might be trick and you are another. But to be beginning I’ll only say that to have you as love is like the history of this idiosyncrasy. If that is not a story then I who have so far listened so much and now am beginning to be able to say something, which is another story, am surprised.” 

Midwinter Day – Part Three

Today’s passage from Bernadette Mayer‘s Midwinter Day section 3 leaves me breathless (and it is December 18, the first anniversary of the lynching…).  It is from p. 46, as we lumber onward to the shortest day of the year…

“And the energy of the world mainly comes
From the hearts of the homeostatic people in it
Who hopscotch around, either picking up the stone or kicking it
And should be left alone without invasions or savings
Though there are masses and classes of people,
                                                                             I don’t deny it
What but the impulse to move and speak
                                                                Can change the world”

Midwinter Day – Parts One and Two

Loving this passage from Bernadette Mayer‘s Midwinter Day, section II.

“If we’re all wrong about everything, the life so short and the craft so long to learn, the assay so hard, so sharp the conquering, the dreadful joy that passes so quick and then being left alone again, what I mean is love astonishes my feeling with its wonderful working so ardently so painfully that when I’m thinking about such certainty I don’t know like the earth if I’m floating or sinking.”

Happy Birthday, Emily Dickinson!

I can’t ignore that poetry (and my love for it) is a huge part of this transition.  It is the oil that lubricates, cools and cleans the gears and moving parts of my thinking and action (Is this a poem?).

So, we (me and two ModPo comrades) attended Emily Dickinson‘s birthday celebration at the Folger.  Peter Gizzi was the featured poet.

OK. So he started off with #1286, There is no frigate. Then #373, This world is not conclusion. Next was #124, Safe in their alabaster chambers, followed by #448, I died for beauty.  Here he mentioned that Keats was ED’s favorite poet (never knew that, makes me want to go back and check out Keats (think I have his complete works here in the bookcase)).

Next he read #883 (but my collection, edited by R.W. Franklin, says #930; that’s why I write down the number and the first line, or at least try to), The Poets light but Lamps, then #778, Four trees upon a solitary acre. Here he riffed about the “deep interiority.”Then #591, I heard a fly buzz – when I died. Here he quotes WCW and Wallace Stevens (but I can’t decipher my handwriting: “A poet always ### with her poems” quote from WCW and “A new poem is a new mind” quote from Stevens). Next #372, After great pain, a formal feeling comes.

Here I felt he was beginning the conclusion…

#508 (but my collection has it #383) I’m ceded – I’ve stopped being Their’s.  Here he mentioned the Civil War, and how ED wrote 1000 poems between 1860 and 1865.  #290 (but my collection has it as #319), Of Bronze – and Blaze, and he riffs on “An Island in dishonored Grass” which he says may have been about Whitman, whom he says ED detested, though it may have also been about the green grass of the battlefields. I was blown away by the line, “my splendors, are menagerie/ but their completeness show/will entertain the centuries/ when I, am long ago.” Reminds me a bit of the poetry of the Gettysburg Address. He also said ED was 30 at the beginning of the Civil War.

Then #1679, the ditch is dear to the drunken man. Here he mentioned James Schuyler, his mentor/professor in the 80’s (looks like he was there at the birth of the New York School, with Ashbery and O’Hara). And he concludes with that awe-inspiring 3rd letter to Thomas Higginson (that, I think I have located in Susan Howe‘s My Emily Dickinson, though the only reference I vividly recall is that to Carlo, her dog, so it might not be).

My last note is a mention of Jack Spicer on the difference between ED’s poems and letters.