Speaking Music

The Scotland-based transatlantic publication Dark Horse Magazine is celebrating its 20th anniversary. A recent article by former U.S. Poet Laureate Dana Gioia entitled “Poetry as Enchantment” is available to read online here. I recommend it as an example of criticism done judiciously and with consideration to the future of the craft. Mr. Gioia writes of the sense of wonder at critical invention in a poem that can be understood intuitively be a reader. This same poem can also be examined to gain working knowledge of its form and structure, as a building is examined to discover how it is held up. More often than not today our wonder is subsumed by the task of the critic, as the child is surpassed by the adult.

"Spring Song" by Simon Glucklich
“Spring Song” by Simon Glucklich

Being able to listen to a poem read out loud is something the deaf are not able to do. But poetry began as an ancient oral art requiring no physical sight but the eye of imagination. Reading a poem on the page is likewise what the blind are not able to do. Poetry today stands somewhere between the page and the air, riding the backs of linguistic symbols and launching their arrows of meaning toward the reader. Somewhere between the old and the new, the sight and the sound of a poem, is its sense, which does not seek a house of understanding in one of our five physical senses. Both the deaf and the blind encounter this sense in poetry, and for those of us with senses intact, comparisons can be made and criticism “done.”

Poetry reading doesn’t begin with the critical eye. If it does so, say in the increasingly stringent quarters of an ideologically “rich” academia, a very narrow and more often literal or linguistic reading occurs. The study and enjoyment of poetry cannot be sustained by this activity alone, nor can it be continued with it at as the helmsman. There’s something in the immediate apprehension of language made in poetry that delights the intellect and connects it to the heart and the body – perhaps, feeding our souls. Enjoy the article and if you have the time, listen to a new poem I’ve recorded for the public at my Soundcloud. Spoken word – or spoken music?

By The Dawnzerlylight


The above image was my first venture into the small music world of Portland, Oregon. It was put together on a hand-me-down desktop computer more than a decade ago. I had just discovered I had a little penchant for songwriting as some lines I wrote in my poetry notebook never dried their ink to the page. When I picked up a guitar and began to teach myself tracks by Neil Young and Cat Power (and my biggest influence, L. Cohen) a new route of expression was discovered in that hazy green underbrush of youth. My words had found their place in verses, not in verse.

Besides the big names, I was also influenced by a group of young, local musicians that had come to Portland from their hometown of Salem. The lead singer-songwriter and I shared a class at Portland State University and I soon had him and another member of the band working beside me at the restaurant which I had picked up a bussing job at in a Northwest neighborhood. I soon learned that these talented players had a band and had just finished up their first self-released album under the name Typhoon. Their label was called Boy Gorilla Records. Soon, I was helping them load and unload gear, printing album covers and even recording my own split EP on the label with one Elec E. Morin. A few tracks of mine survive on a little visited Bandcamp site, but I’m proud of the work I got to share and experience with my friends.

I’ve given this blog the honorary http of “dawnzerlylight” as a smile and wink to that swiftly changing image of my Portland home for a good ten years of life – longest I ever stayed put in one place. But not many places, well, not many cities, remain as they were for the young who needed their streets, their cafes, their all-ages venues and their cheap homes for a cool basement to practice in beneath the hot summer streets. While playing scant shows in town I was privy to see the rise of friends to local and national acclaim, all beginning with a little label from the sons and daughters of Salem. See also Wild Ones, Genders, and Sons of Huns. There’s still quite a scene in Portland, I’m certain of it. Here’s to DIY movements, getting involved, and creating your own voice from the audience to the stage.

A Personal History of National Poetry Month

In 1996 during the Clinton administration National Poetry Month was placed in April following our country’s observance of Black History Month in February and Women’s History Month in March. Why April for poetry? One can recall Eliot’s opening line of The Waste Land (‘April is the cruellest month’) and Chaucer’s first words in his General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales (‘Whan that April , with his shoures soote’) as well as the tradition which unites those two works, the centuries of celebration in Christianity of the Resurrection, to understand the place that the great month of April holds not only for poetry but our culture here in the West.

For all of us on the Eastern seaboard, it also seems that April is the month in which Spring has finally arrived and winter lay behind! Not as cruel as Eliot’s reckoning.

This can be a time to turn our reflective faculty of observation to the making, reading, distributing and reciting of poetry, whether it be traditionally “Western” or not, in schools, homes, public spaces and wherever forms of media are shown or heard. The first reading took place April 9th of 1996 at the Library of Congress with then U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass and poets Rita Dove, Anthony Hecht, Mark Strand, as well as Carolyn Forche, Linda Pastan, and our current Laureate as of 2014, Charles Wright. Many other readings and events were planned and held across the nation for the beginning of this new month-long observance.


In 1996 I was a boy of 11, soon to turn 12 on the 30th, and at the time I had probably written some poems as an exercise in middle school English. My call to poetry as an art would come two years later when I composed “Leaves of Rebellion,” an allegorical poem seen in the seasonal changes of a tree, for my Speech & Writing course in Lewiston, NY. This poem satisfied the assignment and as a comfortable ‘B’ student I preferred to leave my efforts at “just enough to pass.” We had just moved across the country from Oregon and though we were now living in our first house as a family, I felt more despondent than ever with my new surroundings.

In this atmosphere I took my course, got my credits – but when two more poems were “needlessly” composed, over-achievement became a self-possessed obligation to create in this medium. I won’t leave any examples here for scrutiny, because the sorts of poems they were can be read in all the notebooks of the young since the Ancient Greeks or earlier: they were lovelorn, lonely things, bemoaning my family’s poverty, my introverted nature, an unrequited love, an intense dream, dark thoughts turned toward the end of life, and many more on these over-used and tired out subjects.

As all writers know after years of ceaseless activity, eventually a voice finds its way out and puts one’s situation in the world in writing which affords a fresh take on life. I reckon there is a connection between my disappointment of moving, losing friends, self-deprecation, and my subsequent growth of introspection, reflection and eventually a discernment that approaches a more objective light. There are too many examples from writers’ lives to claim this phenomenon to be uniquely mine! Poetry can end up re-constituting and re-making a life. Eliot knew this, and perhaps, so did Chaucer.

And so, looking toward my 30th birthday on the last day of this month of April, I look back at my life in poetry and keep my eyes ahead at life unfolding. For National Poetry Month, we can all find a moment each day to awaken ever so slightly to the vitality of poetry. There might just be in your school, at your neighborhood library or even in your own family, a child taking up their pen or pencil to the page to place in verse the feelings or images which have been whirling around inside them. Nurture this impulse with sharing poetry or just “be there” for them with your compassion. As much as my own work was been welded together with anger or sadness, they have been lifted up and formed convergences with the help of new friendships and loving words.

Holding On to Ephemera


The above is an image recently sent to me by a talented and genuine soul of the Northwest. He holds in his friendly hand an accomplishment of mine from 2006, Haiku Composed on an English Tour. It is the only self-published volume of poetry which I have arranged, printed and hand-sewed together. As a little bit of millennial ephemera, the chapbook exemplifies the DIY publishing ethos that seeped into my young blood in my first few years out of high school.

At the time I met my friend Mark, I was living in the liberal atmosphere of Portland, Oregon and attending an arts school. Though poetry had been my primary creative medium since I was 13, I intended to study photography and soon after printmaking at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. In the above chapbook, Mark’s copy being only one of a proposed 50 copies, drawings and clippings from maps I used while on a solo bicycle tour through England & Wales accompany the haiku which I wrote at the end of my days’ journeys. I had left PNCA and was embarking on a new chapter of my life altogether, and Haiku was the symbolic result of this period.

I am thankful to Mark for sending me this photo, quite unexpectedly, as he was searching through an old portfolio at home. Discoveries like these can become in a moment the unexpected blessing and reminder to the giver of such cherished and beholden ephemera. That friends keep and hold on to the little pieces of creativity that unknowingly become a benchmark for their personal history is affirmation enough that efforts are worth their short suffering and the support of friends is invaluable help to complete their work.

One Page Love Story: Share the Love


Almost 3 weeks ago, a volume of love stories featured on the year-long, collaborative Tumblr project One Page Love Story was released into the world for purchase on Kindle or in paperback. Affirming the continued existence of physical books, this volume is printed on nice, warm colored stock and has a matte colored cover, as you can see above in one of its new homes for the feast of public eyes, Strand Books! However, this Saturday March 7th and Sunday the 8th are Kindle free days in which you can read and revel in the work that’s been brought together.

The collection of writers involved in this project were prompted by author Rich Walls to participate in the crafting of short fictional love stories of their own composition, submitting one-a-day over a period of 10 days. One Page Love Story: Share the Love is the culmination of these multiple efforts. A portion of the proceeds go to First Book, a charity which “is determined to see that all children, regardless of their economic conditions, can achieve more in school and in life through access to an ongoing supply of new books,” and so I encourage Kindle readers to consider purchasing a paperback copy for this sake for themselves or as a gift.

I am quite proud to be amongst a hearty crew of working authors who have chosen to support such a worthy cause and create work in this surprisingly tough constraint & format. Each one manages to illuminate a wavelength in the spectrum of love’s expression within human life. Thank you to Rich for making this all possible and to the many readers, writers and lovers in this world, striving for those peak experiences of consciousness and communion.

New Activity in the Soil of Old Roots

2015-02-21 19.41.27

In my last three years of composing poetry, a bevel of new expression has given an edge to the language that has appeared beneath my pen. Concluding an exploration of themes of space travel that has reached back into my childhood and moving forward along the horizon line of our possible future in the stars, the above manuscript has been arranged and titled “Hugh Melody & Other Voices.”

I am approaching a number of poetry presses and publisher’s contests in order to find a home for the manuscript while I attend reading series in NYC that might afford an opportunity to test these compositions on an audience. I can be contacted directly if there are interested writers, readers and publishers out there who support emerging poets in finding homes for their work.

A selection of poems have been recited and recorded using Soundcloud and can be heard here for a taste of my style.

Periodic updates on future work, readings or forthcoming publication in journals will be posted here.

Happy reading – GDB