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Hummingbird Sleep

Poems, 2009-2011

Coleman Barks

Publication Year: 2013

The poems inHummingbird Sleep move associatively between Coleman Barks's personal experience and his extensive reading, weaving together a wild and eclectic range of material. A discussion of Plotinus, Barks's appearance on PBS NewsHour, a note Keats once left on Wordsworth's mantelpiece, a splinter in the heel, and a quote from the Upanishads-all make their way into Barks's most recent poems, which achieve intimacy and expansiveness at the same time.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-6


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pp. 7-11

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Starting Out from Ted Hughes’ Letters

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pp. 1-3

He would have his children make lists of similes and reward them thruppence each for the good ones. So & so is like so & so...

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My Face and My Voice

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pp. 4-8

Tenderhearted people sometimes misunderstand each other, not that I am always good in that way, but on the night in question, I feel like I was...

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Lightning Bugs and the Pleiades

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pp. 9-11

They belong with this piece of land as much as I do. I have lived here since 1968. They since . . . do we know? Wonder what the Cherokee...

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My Segment on the NewsHour

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pp. 12-13

I misquoted the Bible on national television. A preacher caught me, emailed, Not Luke 17:12, Luke 17:21. The one and two got transposed...

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Accordion Sections

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pp. 14-18

When I find a new poet that I love, I mark poems in the table of contents that I want to go back to and read to other people, on the phone, or in the Clubhouse...

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Our Next Dying

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pp. 19-21

The reading of the fossil record now is that 250 million years ago there was a Great Dying. 99.9 percent of everything then living died, which included some very odd...

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Word Choice

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pp. 22-24

In 1961 Gary Snyder’s Zen teacher tells him when language comes quickly and easily, it is more closely allied to one’s internal state. If you strain to find words, or if you wait for them...

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Snow Day, the Word God, and the Threat of the Power Going Off

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pp. 25-27

You know how I know there is something for the word God to refer to? So it is good to have that word I never use? But this once. Is...

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Old Men Out Walking

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pp. 28-31

I have watched old men walk around this neighborhood for over forty years. Now I am one of them, or more than one. Deliberate striders some, some swaggery with a stick, swinging it at times in a two...

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Inbetween Deaths

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pp. 32-34

I do not want the last thing I say to anyone to be how I feel something has gone cold in me and I don’t love you as much as I used to. You always want the truth...

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The Splinter and the Riversticks

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pp. 35-36

I get a splinter on the outside right of my heel. I need help. I call Benjamin. He says, Come on over...

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The Scar on the Back of My Right Hand

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p. 37-37

I have an inch-long scar on the back of my right hand. It has been there sixty-eight years, since I was five....

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The Tuesday before Thanksgiving

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pp. 38-39

Granddaddy, can I use the Clubhouse to have a mini-pre–Thanksgiving Dinner with my friends on Tuesday night? If you promise to do some dancing. That place needs some dancing. I can promise that...

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Tuck’s Coach

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p. 40-40

Tuck is seven. He has a new baseball coach, big guy, who makes it clear at the first practice that the fathers along the fence...

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pp. 41-43

In the last months of his life D. H. Lawrence wrote what was later published as More Pansies, a pun on...

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Rise & Fall

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p. 44-44

Late November afternoon. The windy flicks of red-brown light coming down are birds sometimes...

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November Nights

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pp. 45-46

The last thirty years have brought a change to how I work on writing. I used to like to go to a cabin on Fightingtown Creek in Fannin...

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A Perfect New Moon

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p. 47-47

Over the house next door, as I walk out, just where the sun set earlier, is a new moon supremely...

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Working Parts

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p. 48-48

The tiniest grasshopper is on this desk tonight. I keep thinking I must have killed him (or her) inadvertently, because I do not see where he hop-flies off to. It is like he jumps into invisibility...

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pp. 49-50

Our love of place is part of the love we have for presence. So while I wait for you, I write in praise of a kind of place I am drawn...

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p. 51-51

You can love, and you do love, the iron-knocking sound of a train going past. You are close to it, the iron-against...

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pp. 52-53

April 8 out my upstairs window. The white oak is reaching miniature hands toward me, toward everyone, a big sphere of little hands...

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p. 54-54

I am beautiful. Do you love me? You may kiss my neck if you want to. How could you not want...

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Celery Hearts

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p. 55-55

Sometimes I take a plastic baggie of finely chopped hearts of celery into Scholtzky’s sandwich shop concealed in my bookbag...

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Two Squirrel Stories

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pp. 56-57

An old friend stands by Rinzai’s bed as he is dying. Have you forgotten? Zen masters usually have something to say at the end. Rinzai points to the ceiling. Listen. Squirrels running across the roof, bickering. He smiles. He dies...

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There Ain’t Nothing Like It

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pp. 58-63

You know that guy last night talking about he’s from Beaumont, Texas? He’s broke down out here in the parking lot. He could do worse...

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He said, Benjamin my son said, . . .

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p. 64-64

He said, Benjamin my son said, Show me the places you have loved, so I will know them like you have. I will have to do that someday, he said, when you are...

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Salinger in Arabic

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pp. 65-67

Is it an inflammatory thing to say that war is immoral? It is. I mean no judgment on any young person in the armed services anywhere. I mean for me now at my age...

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Peter O’Callahan’s Dream of Me Not Being Here

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pp. 68-70

I sometimes act like I have a daring new voice that can say anything, and maybe I do. Maybe everyone does. I act like sometimes too that I have touched the emptiness...

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pp. 71-72

I took some LSD once, by myself, on a spring day in the 1980s. After an hour or so, I decided...

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A Sky-Opening

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p. 73-73

Now this light, last day of June 2010, sun going down, gone down, but with a glow out the east window...

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Middle Falls

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pp. 74-75

The Middle Falls of the McCloud River off Highway 89 south of Mount Shasta is a place and a presence all at once...

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p. 76-76

Sixty-five years ago I was eight. After supper, as I came out of the dining hall, there on the stoop was a pile of the...

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pp. 77-78

Sitting on the sand, cradled in a driftwood log seat, perfect. Beside me a yellow and black tangle of rope, nine inches long, knotted in the sea. I will bring it home to thee...

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Hummingbird Sleep

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p. 79-79

A hummingbird sleeps among the wonders. Close to dark, he settles on a roosting limb and lowers his body temperature to within a few degrees of the air’s own...

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The VOICE inside WATER

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pp. 80-89

First the voice dies, then I. First the voice, then a flowing underneath is heard, a moment-movement-lightening, fire and current, up and to the side, down and sidewards the other way. Christopher Smart, an English poet...

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Got to Stop

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p. 90-90

This highlife has got to stop, this looking up the roots of words in the dictionary...

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What I Am Sure Of

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pp. 91-92

On March 13, 2012, the fifteenth anniversary is coming of the Phoenix Lights, when thousands of people in 1997 saw something in the Arizona sky just after dusk. The then-governor...

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Coffeehouse Notes

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pp. 93-94

I have said it several ways, how as a child, and continuing on to now, I have been drawn to the ecstatic, with being drunk with some vitality, as when writing is coming, and I don’t know...

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p. 95-95

The fox is alive around here still, though Erica never saw her fox alive, roadkill from the highway near her place in the woods. From talking to people, books she found, and articles...

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Robert and Noah

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p. 96-96

Noah and Robert are out in a boat, on some little river near Madison, high summer, Noah just a boy. They see a house. They need drinking water. Robert grounds the boat...

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Original Sins

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pp. 97-98

We were talking about our earliest sins as children. One says his was putting a baby duck on a piano stool and turning it until the duckling slid off and broke its neck. Mine came at the age...

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It Is Raining with the Sun Out

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pp. 99-100

My friend James Hillman came to me in a dream night before last. His glowing energy was there, but he was a figure IN the wall...

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pp. 101-102

Here at seventy-four, I am having an idea what I do pretty-well, what not-so-well. I dream. I keep a journal of my dreams, and I put images from them in trance...

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p. 103-103

Anytime I read Rumi’s Love Dogs, I must remember to say, But remember, Rumi and I have here mentioned...

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Midafternoon Midsummer

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p. 104-104

Midafternoon midsummer when the big paddlewheels came by pushing barges or self-contained in an astonishingly plush excursion boat, people...

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We Laugh Together

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pp. 105-106

Milner came to an event I was doing. He sat in the back. I could see his face through several people’s heads smiling at me, big smile...

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The Gift of a Comeback

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pp. 107-109

Toward the end James said he could not tell much difference between living and dying, his collaboration with spirit so seamless...

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Heavy Rain in the Parking Lot

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p. 110-110

How does it arrive so evenly and sure from such wobbly shapes as the clouds of this overhanging...

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p. 111-111

Wittgenstein says, I can imagine a religion with no doctrines, so that nothing is spoken. I do not mean to imply by quoting Wittgenstein that I have ever read one...

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Grief in the Tub

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p. 112-112

It would be so fine if we could start fresh, the way we try to wake in a new year, in the spring, in an autumn wind. In a dream the other night my friend...

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pp. 113-116

"Starting Out from Ted Hughes’ Letters." Letters of Ted Hughes, selected and edited by Christopher Reid (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2007), 312–13. In a letter to his children...

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pp. 117-118

Some of these poems have appeared, often in slightly altered versions, in various periodicals. My gratitude to these publications and their editors for permission to reprint here...

E-ISBN-13: 9780820345758
E-ISBN-10: 082034575X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820345048
Print-ISBN-10: 0820345040

Page Count: 128
Publication Year: 2013

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