Alex Grant

“His Holiness The Abbot Is Shitting in The Withered Fields” came along after reading “The Essential Haiku”(ed. Robert Hass.) Much of the content of the poem was inspired by commentaries by the Haiku Masters Buson, Basho and Issa, while the form was the indirect, unconscious product of reading the many haiku in the book. The poem title is actually an entire Buson Haiku.

The Sonnet form seemed an appropriately inappropriate vehicle to eulogize my Grandfather – “Iambic bloody pentameter? La-de-bloody-dah!” and was my first successful attempt to portray him without dripping sentimentality. The compression the form demands leaves no room for the superfluous – which can be frustrating when it doesn’t work, but rewarding when it does. This sonnet is a distilled amalgamation of two earlier, unsuccessful free verse poems.

The Villanelle (my first - and possibly last!) is something which has always intrigued me - specifically, Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle..." His ability to effectively "mask" the form just amazes me. I wrote this poem as a way out of not writing - the tightness and structure gave me a framework to build with - though be warned in advance if you haven't written one before - there is very, very little room to move! (which once again highlights Thomas' incredible gift.)






His Holiness the Abbot is Shitting in the Withered Fields

          - after Buson

The mortal frame, the Haiku Masters hold,
is made up of one hundred bones
and nine orifices.

The mind this frame contains can be used,
or not used, to make the poem,
or become the poem.

Becoming is accomplished without thought,
making requires the application
of intent and will.

All change comes from objects in motion.
To capture the thing at rest, you
must be moving.

So, 7 days bereaved, Issa made his father’s
death poem: “A bath when you’re born,
a bath when you die – how stupid.”

Grief is a silk neckerchief covering a burn
around the throat, holding sound
down in the body.

And so we make these sounds without
thought – the heretic body burns,
intends, and moves.

This poem first appeared in Alex Grant's Randall Jarrell-prizewinning chapbook, Chains & Mirrors.



Sonnet for the educated cook

“A man who never cooks just isn’t worth
a fuck,” my granddad always said, while spuds
were boiling hard above the reeking hearth.
He’d plunge his wrinkled arms into the suds
and mutter something choice about the lack
of moral fibre in the world today,
how he could show those earring-wearing slack-
arsed bums that cooking is the only way
a man who cannot paint or write or dredge
a sound from any instrument can strive
to be the equal of the privileged,
those educated fools whose pointless lives
remind us of the need for making good
on promises to live the way we should.



There's Love and Death, and In Between, You Eat and Drink


There’s Love and Death, and in between, you eat and drink.

The sun, the moon, the ocean’s noiseless halls -

It really doesn’t matter what you think.


Amphibious till the moment when you blink

Below the amniotic rain that squalls -

There’s Love and Death, and in between, you eat and drink.


You burn new maps into the earth and link

The chains of memory where the daisy falls -

It really doesn’t matter when you think.


You tie your knots and pay your dues in pink

And blues and green - even the hangman falls -

There’s Love and Death, and in between, you eat and drink.


You hold your life up to your ear, you blink

And pound your head against the wailing walls -

It really doesn’t matter how you think.


A thousand years from now, should these words chink

Your bones, this song will echo in your halls -

There’s Love and Death, and in between, you eat and drink -

It really doesn’t matter what you think.




AlexGrant.jpgAlex Grant's chapbook, Chains & Mirrors, (available through Main Street Rag) was awarded the 2006 Randall Jarrell Prize and the 2007 Oscar Arnold Young Award for best book of poetry in the previous year by a North Carolina writer. He was the 2004 winner of WMSU's Pavel Srut Poetry Fellowship, won first prize in the 2006 Kakalak Carolina Poets Anthology contest, was a 2006 semi-finalist for Tupelo Press's Dorset Prize, and has been finalist or runner-up for The Felix Pollak and Brittingham Prizes, Discovery/The Nation (twice,) The Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, The Arts & Letters Poetry Prize (4 times) and The Writers at Work Fellowship, among others. His ms., "Fear of Moving Water" was one of six finalists for the 2006 Sunken Garden Poetry Chapbook contest, and he was nominated for Meridian's Best New Poets anthology in 2005, 2006 and 2007(Poemeleon). His work has recently appeared or is upcoming in The Nation, Connecticut Review, North American Review, Arts & Letters, Sycamore Review, Nimrod, Kaleidowhirl, Mannequin Envy, Poetry Southeast and Seattle Review, among others. He works up and down the eastern seaboard for a not-for-profit healthcare organization, whose address you can read by the moon, and divides his personal time between Chapel Hill and Carrboro, where he lives with his wife, his dangling participles and his Celtic fondness for excess.