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Laws of the Sea

Today we have been reminded of the outlaw nature of the sea - as one country defends its blockade with violence, and another threatens a criminal investigation into a massive corporation that has catastrophically failed to live up to its promises.  The high seas, below and above, remain wild places, the home of piracy, rapine behavior and wanton criminality - indeed, their lawlessness reminds us of what humans get up to, when unfettered by laws, or held back by virtue.  What is perhaps more unsettling is to consider how matters are not much better, once, apparently evolved, we crawl onto the land.  For on land, where governance, and laws, obtain, companies and governments have managed to incorporate a web of so-called laws, agreements, decrees, principles, doctrines, ad infinitum - that add up to what, precisely? - money and power dominate; the weak are unprotected; and the voiceless, human or animal or plant, at the mercy of barely-veiled thuggery.  As humans, we may talk a good game, but we know our pensions ride on the profits of BP, and that our allies buy and sell weapons that we make for them so that the economy - that hateful excuse for every sin under the sun - can "recover".  One wants to say clean up the mess.  Where to begin?  We have leagues to go before we sleep.


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Wheeler Light for 'Life Jacket'.

The runner-up is: Daniel Duffy - 'President Returns To New York For Brief First Visit'

Wheeler Light currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Life Jacket

summer camp shirtsI couldn’t fit in then
are half my size nowI wanted to wear
smaller and smallerarticles of clothing
I shrunk to the sizethat disappeared

of an afterthoughtin a sinking ship body
too buoyant to sinktoo waterlogged for land
I becamea dot of sand


With the death of the poetic genius John Ashbery, whose poems, translations, and criticism made him, to my mind, the most influential American poet since TS Eliot, 21st century poetry is moving into less certain territory.

Over the past few years, we have lost most of the truly great of our era: Edwin Morgan, Gunn, Hill, Heaney and Walcott, to name just five.  There are many more, of course. This is news too sad and deep to fathom this week.  I will write more perhaps later. 

I had a letter from Ashbery on my wall, and it inspired me daily.  He gave me advice for my PhD. He said kind things about a poetry book of mine.

He was a force for good serious play in poetry, and his appeal great. So many people I know and admire are at a loss this week because of his death. It is no consolation at present to think of the many thousands of living poets, just right now. But impressively, and even oddly, poetry itself seems to keep flowing.