December 26, 2006


Caption: The state of Vermont graciously agreed to pose for this picture.

El Cabrero is pretty sure most of you guys are slacking off at this time of year and is quite willing to join you.

Between now and New Year's, Goat Rope will highlight some of the best books I've read this year (although they were not generally published this year).

The hands-down winner of the Goat Rope Poet of the Year is David Budbill of Vermont, whose poetry chronicles the imaginary but real village of Judevine in that state's Northeast Kingdom.

I go to Vermont quite a bit to visit inlaws and it is a great state, even if it's not as endearingly screwed up as El Cabrero's Beloved State of West Virginia.

Though not a native of that state, Budbill has lived there for many years and has a very strong sense of place. Here are three books that I'd particularly recommend.

The first is Judevine, which is set in and around that village and captures many of the voices and stories of its residents.

Two others are in the modern iteration of the Chinese Zen/Taoist mountain poetry tradition: While We've Still Got Feet and Moment to Moment: Poems of a Mountain Recluse.

El Cabrero is himself aspires to be a reclusive Taoist mountain sage (of the High Church Anglican/Mahayana variety) and knows from experience that it's not easy, especially if one is not a sage and has trouble with the recluse part. One amusing theme of these poems is the contradiction between higher aspirations and our ordinary foibles.

Here's particular favorite of mine on the difficulty of maintaining equanimity (it also illustrates the difference between Taoism and strict forms of Buddhism):

Ahimsa Next Time, Maybe


The Taoist Mountain Recluse

Stands in his Summer Garden and

Says to the Deerfly About to Bite Him

Back to the undifferentiated Tao,
you son of a bitch!

And he smashes the triangular fly
into the hairs on his dirty brown arm.

(Comment: they really do have some nasty bugs up there.)



Jspiker said...

Sometimes you're the bug....sometimes you're the windshield...

Sounds like the bug just met its maker.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

I’ve not encountered the poetry of David Budbill. Thanks for enlightening me: he sounds like my kind of poet/sage.

Claude Scales said...

"It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, ...


"that we should at all times and in all places, ...


"give thanks unto thee, O Lord, ...


"holy Father, almighty, everlasting God."

Shantih shantih shantih

(My poor attempt at creating a bit of high church Anglican/Mahayana liturgy.)

I'm very familiar with the Northeast Kingdom, as my in-laws lived for some time in St. Johnsbury. I miss it very much since they moved. It's a special place.