Continuing this week with the “what makes a poem” question, here’s a poem, a found poem, a prose poem . . . a what?

What do you think?

That Female Ovenbird*

That female Ovenbird who nested up in the woods behind our house and who arrived here on May 25th, left Jamaica on May 8th. On the 9th she spent the night near Miami, having just made it to the main-land. She spent May 10th through the 16th resting and eating near the border of Florida and Georgia. On the 17th she was near the mid-coast of South Carolina. May 18th in western North Carolina, on the border of Virginia, not far from Brett and Diana’s house. On May 19th she was in northern Virginia, near the border of West Virginia. From May 20th through the 24th she again rested and ate in southeastern Pennsylvania, near where I lived almost 50 years ago. On May 25th she arrived here in our woods above our house. Imagine such a trip
in just 17 days!

I know all this because this particular Ovenbird had a geolocator attached to her back, which recorded her movements northward.
*from an article I read in Field Notes, Vermont Center for Ecostudies, Vol 5, Issue 1, Spring 2012

And, do you think this geolocator is an invasion of the ovenbird’s privacy? Lemme know.

More next week.

Sincerely, David Budbill
28 May 2012


I’ve been thinking a lot this week about what makes a poet and what makes a poem. The problem with a lot of poets, white American poets at least, is that they have no subject and nothing to say.

In the early 1960s I was told by a professor that W.H. Auden said if he had to choose between a young person who loved language and a young person who had something to say, he’d choose the young person who loved language, the implication clearly being that the poet who loves language is the true poet. And this, supposedly, from the author of “September 1, 1939″!

I think this misunderstanding of Auden must come from his saying, A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language.” Auden said “before anything else”, he did not say “only.”

But there has always been a tendency in poetry, white American poetry at least, to try to keep subject and any kind of political commitment out of the poem. And it’s why we are now in a sorry state where white American poetry is thought to mean anything you want it to mean and where white American poetry is free of any political commitment. I keep saying white American poetry because non-white poets have never been enslaved to this cockamamie idea. This is what drove my now dead pal Joel Oppenheimer to say, “Poetry is not about language. It’s about something!”

Thus if all you have is an interest in language, you don’t have enough to be a poet. You’ve got to have something to write about, some passion and commitment.

I’ve been thinking about this this week because I wrote a poem this week, which without its subjects, my daughter and her garden, would be nothing.


Here it is:

Seventy-Two is Not Thirty-Five


I spent seven hours yesterday at my daughter’s house

helping her expand their garden by at least ten times.

We dug up sod by the shovelful, shook off the dirt as

best we could; sod into the wheelbarrow and off to the

pile at the edge of the yard. Then all that over and over

again. Five hours total work-time, with time out for lunch

and supper. By the time I got home I knew all too well

that seventy-two is not thirty-five; I could barely move.


I got to quit earlier than Nadine. She told me I’d done

enough and that I should go get a beer and lie down on

the chaise lounge and cheer her on, which is what I did.


All this made me remember my father forty years ago

helping me with my garden. My father’s dead now, and

has been dead for many years, which is how I’ll be one

of these days too. And then Nadine will help her child,

who is not yet here, with her garden. Old Nadine, aching

and sore, will be in my empty shoes, cheering on her own.


So it goes. The wheel turns, generation after generation,

around and around. We ride for a little while, get off and

somebody else gets on. Over and over, again and again.


More next week.


Sincerely, David Budbill

21 May 2012


Dear Friends,

This week was almost entirely devoted to finishing my new website. These things take an incredible amount of time, even with a webmaster. I’m tickled, pleased, with the results. My new, redesigned and reorganized website is up now. You can visit it at:

I began the week by giving a reading to a group of senior citizens–not that I’m not! It was the first time I’d ever read in public from my new book PARK SONGS: A POEM/PLAY. It all went over very well, but that’s not all that surprising since all the pieces in the book are monologues or dialogues spoken by the people in the park, and thus they all have a dramatic flair which makes them easy to present.

And, since spring is here, I’m spending at least two hours a day, sometimes a lot more, out in the woods or in the garden working.

It’s about now that I begin to wonder if I’ll ever get back to work on whatever it is I’m writing; right now it is, or was, SAMOVAR AND ZEEMAHOOLAH. But this happens every spring during that transition from only writing and thinking about writing to doing that and working outdoors. The advantage to being as old as I am is that my work patterns are well set so I know that once this transition period is over, I’ll fall into a groove of working both at my desk and outdoors. Relax, Brother, it’ll all even out pretty soon.

I’m also wondering how much longer I want to go on with this weekly blog.

Sincerely, David Budbill
14 May 2012


A very busy week doing everything it seemed but working on SAMOVAR AND ZEEMAHOOLAH.

As I said two weeks ago, now I divide my time between my desk and my gardens. I finished replacing the 2 x 8 hemlock planks that hold in my raised, asparagus bed this week. I used 4-inch lag bolts to put it together so I think it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

I’ve also spent a lot of this week working with my new webmaster on my new, and soon to be launched–later this week, I hope–website. It’s amazing how after you think you’ve got everything exactly where it goes and laid out the way you want it, you continuously find places that need to be redone. I was ready to launch this new website last week, but my webmaster, sagely, advised me to wait a week or so to find the kinks, and we’ve found plenty.

Thursday Lois and I went down to Hanover, New Hampshire, to Dartmouth, to see our friend Ying Li’s show of new paintings at the gallery at the Hood Museum, and then to have lunch with her and her husband.

We went early to see what was at the Hood. There we saw two shows one a Jackson Pollock and José Clemente Orozco show about how Orozco influenced the young Pollock, and the other a group of wonderful photographs of Vermont quarries by Edward Burtynsky. More about both shows is at:

Burtynsky is the man about whom the movie MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES was made. If you haven’t seen MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES–

I recommend it highly. It drives home–the way nothing else I’ve ever seen can–what a destructive, consumptive life-style we rich, white, industrialized citizens of The-Countries-of-the-North live, and it does this by showing us the extent of waste and destruction our way of life has created. This waste and destruction we then pass off to the poor, non-whites of the world, the people of The-Countries-of-the-South. For more about all this see my satirical play, THINGY WORLD! at:

I also read through the Advance Uncorrected Proofs of my new book PARK SONGS: A POEM/PLAY and signed off on them. PARK SONGS: A POEM/PLAY is all monologues, dialogues and so on of people who hang out in a ratty little urban park in some city somewhere in America. There is no narrator, only the voices of the daytime inhabitants of the park.

PARK SONGS: A POEM/PLAY excites me. It’s totally different in design, presentation and content from any book I’ve ever written, although in some ways it’s a kind of urban JUDEVINE. It’s also connected to my most recent play, A SONG FOR MY FATHER,, in that, in my mind at least, they both take place in Cleveland, Ohio, where I come from.

I will post a link to PARK SONGS: A POEM/PLAY on my website later this summer and announce its availability on my Facebook page when the book is ready, which will be late August or early September.

More next week.

Sincerely, David Budbill
7 May 2012


I didn’t get anything done this week because my dog died.

Lu Shan (Chinese for Green Mountain) was my long time, most favorite companion. I’ve never been so attached to an animal before. The emails we’ve been getting this week all say what an exuberant, friendly, good-hearted dog he was, and it’s all true. Both my wife and I are beside ourselves. We spent all Monday afternoon and evening crying and got up Tuesday–I slept 2 hours that night–and started crying again. There wasn’t a mean bone in Lu Shan’s body. He was far and away the friendliest dog anybody ever knew, kind, sweet, exuberant–wildly exuberant–and the greatest swimmer ever–and very competitive about it; he hated to have anyone swim faster than he could. There was only one friend, a young guy from Montreal, who could swim faster than Louie, and Louie and Jan were special friends. I’ve felt horrible this week, empty and out of sorts. I know this will pass, but I don’t want it to. Louie was a genuine and great Zen master, a real “mountain Buddha reincarnated in dog form” as one friend put it. He loved everyone and thing and greeted everyone, animal or human, with great enthusiasm and élan. Here’s what I sent out to Louie’s friends the night he died.


Last Thursday, April 18, when Lois took Lu Shan, our 9 year old, golden retriever, for his daily walk in the woods, she had to coax him along with treats. He was not himself. Friday, he was so sluggish he did not even get up to greet some visitors, totally unlike Lu Shan, the friendliest dog in the world. I took him to the vet. No conclusion. Saturday he seemed to be a little better, although not himself. Sunday he was worse again. All he wanted to do was lie around and his breathing was labored. Monday he was worse. He could barely get up. Monday afternoon we took him into an emergency vet hospital in South Burlington. He was panting and having serious trouble breathing. The doctor said he had a large and very aggressive tumor on his heart and the only thing to do was euthanasia. Louie was in so much pain; we did it then and there. We are grief-stricken. Louie was our all time favorite dog.

We will be getting Louie’s ashes soon. This summer, when Louie’s friends are around, we will take his ashes out to the float on Wolcott Pond where Louie loved to go–and climb a vertical ladder all by himself, by the way–and leap joyously into the air and into the pond. We will then throw Lu Shan’s ashes off the raft and into the pond.

There are too many lives in this life, too many deaths,
and no amount of thought can save us
from our grief for dying things–
not even knowing resurrection
sure and green as spring.

More next week.