Welcome You can read about the books I’ve published, click on links to order those in print, as well as browse sample poems.
Bio During the more than 40 years that I’ve been writing poems, I’ve worked as a business editor, English professor, and college administrator. Now I’m writing full time. I'm a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and serve on the board of the Writers' League of Texas.
On Poetry The powerful thing about making a poem is the immersion into the materials: physical landscape, language, relationships, culture, psyche, imagination, and memory. Out of this mix of the personal cosmos, a poet can fabricate a small world, and if it is done well, it may interest others, even garner their rapt attention. Much of the pleasure of poetry, as Robert Frost once said, is that “every poem is a momentary stay against the confusion of the world.” The external world recedes, and the internal world spins out its verbal creation, and for the time that this is happening, nothing else matters. For me, as the writer, that is satisfaction enough. For the reader, that may be satisfaction enough too.
Latest Book: Mornings with Dobie's Ghost
The Novelist and the Storyteller
I’ll give McMurtry credit for what
he’s done with all those stories—
he’s a real novelist, knows how
to get inside his men and women,
create a world that pulls a reader
in and on, like a long winter dream.
Hell, I knew he was a writer when
he reviewed Henry Miller in college.
His potshots at me were pretty easy
to get off, after I was gone, and
some of his bullets were on the mark—
I found my anecdotage could get
tedious, too—but I wasn’t a novelist,
I was a storyteller, taking tales
from far and near, open campfire
or some old cowboy’s living room,
and shaping them on the page,
giving them as much of the grit
and texture of the Brush Country
or West Texas desert as I could,
yarns and folk tales and ghost stories,
gifts received and passed on, and
maybe ol’ Larry, older now than I
ever was, owes me a small thanks
for pointing toward the longhorns
and mustangs and turning him loose.
– from Mornings with Dobie's Ghost
Drifting down the Yangtze River
Last night as we passed the lights
of houseboats docked along the bank,
the way dark as a carp’s gullet
and humming with cold harmonies,
I looked hard for Li Bai and his lantern
floating mid-river, waiting for the moon
to emerge from the clouds, waiting
for me to climb aboard with a bottle
of jiu so we could tell each other
poems in our disparate tongues, laughs
bouncing off the rumpled hillsides
and waking up the authorities,
those tiresome scolds who have forgotten
the night songs their parents once sang.
– from China Sketchbook
I’ll bet if Buddha
had been a Texan
he might have picked
this live oak, older
than the Republic,
have sat right under
the missing limb,
others reaching out
What he might have
known as nirvana
through chigger bite
itching is a koan
ripe for meditation.
– from At Paisano Ranch
Mathematics of Meaning
He got so caught
in his tangle
that he couldn’t
keep from growing
as he spoke
and every hypotenuse
in the room
missed his point.
– from Drinking from the River
Visit to Wolf House
Despite posted warnings, no rattlesnakes
sine waved across the dirt path leading
to Jack London’s folly, stones stacked
around imagined rooms, a glorious ruin
with a weed-choked reflecting pool
in a dry country far from the wet gums
of the sea. The real story of the walk
on the way in was the woman coming
down a hill alongside her two kids
and mother, grinning in the sunlight,
stabbing the earth with her walking stick
as she flung a leg up and out and down,
bound to finish the mile-and-a-half round trip
to the house and grave, her palsy no bar
to her joy and the day of her joy.
– from Waiting for an Etcher
You’d think at fifty I might know
something about the way a car engine
works, or might want to know.
Gas and sparking, pistons, compression.
The guy thing, or Pirsig’s balance
between cruising and carburation. I tried
to tune my Beetle years ago, pull at
the belts, follow electrical wires.
It didn’t take. One of my college
students tells me he hates poems.
He can’t make them make sense.
I tell him he’ll have to read poems
to pass this course and get
a degree. Maybe he can learn
how to get behind the wheel,
start the poem up, and find
an image that can take him on
down the road, leaving the buzzards
to spiral along the refried roads,
waiting for heat strokes or road
kills, shimmering with symbolism.
– from Tropical Green
still dark, the rustling wind
and a lone dog’s bark
so clear I can hear them,
nearly, sounds I’d like
to scrape from the trunk
of a tree and stuff into
my pockets, sure to want
them should the buzzing get
glows like a clouded moon.
Beyond the wheel, everything
out there takes its broken
bearing, fixed in this web
going home from night fishing,
flashlights bobbing, my car
takes the park road over
to the highway. I look
both ways and just go,
no matter left or right,
up a hill and straight
toward the bluing day,
ready to come round
a bend and be there,
light in the window, food
and coffee going, taking
hold of flesh that burns
and heals, both, like tar
on an old patched road,
bubbling in the sun.
– from Greatest Hits
the ball through the gap in left
center, and the shortstop drifts
beyond the infield’s arc, waiting
for the left or center fielder
to run the ball down and fling it
On the fly or off
a hop, no matter, the thing’s
to time the swing back home,
turning and whipping a hard
overhand to the plate, where
the runner from first cannot slide
out of his pending doom, ball
buried in a leather web, ending
At short you live
to make the pivot, you trust
your arm to get it right, this
humming toward home, and lordy
do you let it fly.
– from Hook & Bloodline
Place of Alphabets
how we came to be
awake in this place
of alphabets, where
the Ts provide a bit
of shade and the Rs
all rush downhill,
searching for an S
and the promise
your eyes and listen
to the clock deep
in your vowels, where
tick and tock tell
is for stringing
a song, the wind
is for twisting it
around the contours
of our lives, where
we sort through
the endless crackle
– from Night Spiders, Morning Milk, Definition of Hours
Picasso’s Corrida [7.2.1957]
The impeccable strokes
of a Zen masterpiece. . .
the stark congruity
of a Rorschach blot. . .
bull, horse, and picador,
exploding with energy. . .
the lance, sinking
into the bull’s back,
impales the picador;
the rearing horse,
catalyst in this confrontation,
will get its belly slashed.
Nothing remains unbloodied,
nothing remains safe
in the heat of the corrida,
in the terrible black ink
of blood, froth, and sweat
that gives the snow-white page
its frozen beauty.
– from In the Magnetic Arena
Click to Read
May 22, 2017
June 11, 2017
Aug 24, 2017 Interview by John Cook
NEWS & EVENTS
Art Opening and Reading
With Steven Schroeder and Chera Hammons
Chalice Abbey, Amarillo, TX 6:00 p.m.
Reading at Southwest/Texas Popular Culture Assn and American Culture Assn Annual Meeting
Hyatt Regency Hotel, Albuquerque, NM 4:45 p.m.
An Hour in Spring: Reading
With Gene Novogrodsky, Ruth Wagner, Beto Conde, Ana Hinojosa, Jose Alvarez
Brownsville Museum of Fine Art, Brownsville, TX 7:00 p.m.
Texas Weather Anthology: Reading and Book Signing
With Jan Seale, David Bowles, Katie Hoerth, and Cesar de Leon
Barnes & Noble Bookstore, 4005 N. 10th Street, McAllen, TX 2:00 p.m.
Sept 7 Langdon Review Weekend: Reading
Langdon Cultural and Educational Center, Granbury, TX 2:30 p.m.
Sept 14 A Literary Evening: Reading and Book Signing
With Michael Putegnat and Wayne Moore
Brownsville Historical Museum, Brownsville, TX 6:00 p.m.
Feb 24 Reading at People's Poetry Festival
Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Corpus Christi, TX 12:15 p.m.
May 5 Weaving the Terrain Anthology: Reading
Malvern Books, Austin, TX 3:00 p.m.
Sept 1 Launch date for new book: Mornings with Dobie's Ghost
Sept 6 Langdon Review Weekend: Reading
Langdon Cultural and Educational Center, Granbury, TX 11:20 a.m.
Sept 25 Reading and Book Signing
With Jim LaVilla-Havelin
The Twig Bookstore, San Antonio, TX 6:30 p.m.
Sept 30 Reading and Book Signing
With Lowell Mick White
Malvern Books, Austin, TX 1:00 p.m.
Nov 3 Georgetown Literary Festival Reading
With contributors to Texas Poetry Calendar 2019
Georgetown Public Library, Georgetown, TX 1:00 p.m.
Dec 8 Texas Poetry Calendar 2019 Anthology: Reading
Malvern Books, Austin, TX 4:00 p.m.