A Fragrant Memory

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(Blank verse in trochaic pentameter)

A garden flourishes in my mind’s time
Of last season and the next season
A memory of work, an exertion
Overtly hostile to gardening.

Seed, digging, dunging, mulching, and
Weeding . . . over, over, and over
Spiders grasshoppers, mantis, and larva,
When memory returns that summer crowd.

Oh I’ve never met a grasshopper
I didn’t dislike, but remembering
Often wisdom is nearer to me
When I stoop it is then that I soar.

Little problems are easy to solve;
But it’s much too late for big problems
Lovely chrysanthemums are then in
Bloom over a carpet of dry leaves.

In the contrast of pathos and beauty
All things disappear, and beauty is
The garden of ideas and is
At no time one thing or one process.


The Flower


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(Rhymed verse in Alternating   Iambic Tetrameter/Trimeter)

One morning in the early spring,
The grass still dewed with night.
I found a flower burgeoning,
Suffused in golden light

And later, when a sunny day
Had warmed the verdant green,
The flower blossomed, tall and gay
Of all the glowers, Queen.

When I returned across the lea
As day was almost done,
She glowed again in majesty
Beneath a setting sun.

And when dark night concealed the view
Behind her sable blind,
The flower, clad again in dew,
Unfolded in my mind.

After the style of  Wordsworth (1770 – 1850),  a poet I hold in almost religious veneration, as an expression in an age of doubt of the transcendent in nature and the good in man. A great innovator, he permanently enlarged the range of English Poetry, both in subject matt and in treatment (A distinction, I’m sure, he would not himself have accepted).

Words on Driftwood Bleached White

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[Blank Verse in Trochaic Trimeter]

Words on a windswept shore

Words scribed in brown pigment

Words on a wood casket

Words on cedar faded white.

Words in saltwater inscribed

Words of a son returned

Words penned in icy brown foam

Words held in fond memory.

Words that escaped the sea

Words of a fool’s disjecta

Words of bewilderment

Words a spent man haply wrote.

Words that cup him in sleep

Words that will not disturb

Words fixed in rain stitched sand

Words etched in shadows cold.

Words swing him quiet and mute

Words lull him lull him low

Words nuzzle and warn his soul

Words lull him lull him low.

Alexander Pushkin

Capture copyFor me, getting to know a little something about Pushkin has turned out to be a voyage of late-in-life learning. The quest began in San Francisco on a Monday afternoon in the North Beach District (Little Italy) in a tiny tea shop named “Serendipi Tea.” My college philosophy professor Doctor Green and I were drinking tea in this little shop because the professor liked its euphonious name. Doctor Green informed me that the tea we were sipping; from flowered ceramic demi-tasse cups, was Alexander Pushkin’s own personal blend of chai. It was that bit of information that caused my secret disappointment that we were not sipping our tea from Russian style tea glasses.

It was also Professor Green’s vocalizing the name Pushkin that sparked my interested curiosity. I had been marginally curious and interested in Pushkin since my high school literature classes and maybe before. Yet it seems that, in the West, Pushkin remains somewhat on the margins of translated verse. However native tongue speakers write and talk effusively of his originality, his depth and his broad appeal. And, since high school I have come to think of him as a Russian blend of Shakespeare and Elizabeth Bishop, bizarre as that may seem. The Russians so often compare him to Mozart, and this is perhaps the nearest we can come to a simple comparison. I believe that this contrast between the Pushkin legacy at home and the lesser profile abroad is unique in world literature; if we take a moment to consider the particularity that Cervantes, Goethe, Dante, Victor Hugo, et alia are all the national poets of their homeland and also famous abroad.

Capture1 copyIt seems to me that to many Americans, Pushkin is just another Russian enigma. And even at the university level, he turns up only in specialized Russian poetry courses, narrow Slavic curricula and, because of his African ancestry, in the U.S. black media. And even now he has rarely been included in general poetry seminars where other Russians—Pasternak, Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva, Lermontov, Brodsky—are part of the canon of world verse.

So . . . since that day of tea sipping at the Serendipi Tea shop, I’ve dug deeper into the mysteries of Pushkin’s odd place in the Western scene, the battleground of translation. It seems that it’s the consensus of western literary Pooh-Bah’s that Pushkin, in English translation, does not travel well. As Nabokov put it in a poem of his own (originally published in The New Yorker) this excerpt seemingly expresses the conundrum:

tea copy2

Tea at Serendipi Tea

“What is translation? On a platter
A poet’s pale and glaring head;
A parrot’s screech, a monkey’s chatter,
And profanation of the dead.”

I believe that magic is real, and that any person who can speak, write, paint or fashion words so as to convey an idea, or a feeling, is a sorcerer. I see a supernatural power in any art for its ability to effect profound emotional and psychological changes in a person without bodily contact. I consider language to be the most powerful and mystical form of magic. A poem by Pushkin creates the impression that what he says could never be said otherwise, that each word fits perfectly, and that no other words could ever assume a similar function. To discover Pushkin is to discover the treasured jewels of wordplay. In poetry, no one else even comes close to Alexander Pushkin.

Breathing Salt Scented Waters

Breathing Salt Scented Waters is a memoir with an abundance of salty sea spray between the lines. These are the stories of Gus and Sophie who sailed, like replica Viking navigators, the thousand-and-one islanded waters of the world’s largest, most majestic temperate rainforest, the Tongass in the Alexander Archipelago.

Gus and Sophie shared a common ethical credo – they were unknowing existentialists believing that each individual is ultimately responsible for the consequences of their own life circumstance. Prizing creativity more highly than conformity, they grappled with circumstances in a uniquely individualized way. These two adventurers felt that sincerity, self-analysis, and conviction is all one can expect with regard to vindicating ethical decisions, and since they saw no cosmic scheme in life, they accepted the notion that people must invent their own meanings of life.

This book can be purchased on Amazon.

Interview with Gustav Tjgaard by Jean Bartlett

Riding the intrepid waves of sea, land and wilderness

An interview with author Gustav Tjgaard

Written by Jean Bartlett, October, 2017  (www.bartlettbiographies.com)

WindjammingWithSealConsider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself?” ~ Herman Melville, Moby Dick.

Shortly after the December 2011 release of his sea-driven historic nonfiction novel “Windjamming to China,” the book’s prolific author Gustav Tjgaard was featured on the Pacifica Historical Society’s award-winning television series Footprints of Pacifica. The episode was hosted by Pacifican David Hirzel. David, a tall ship and heroic era historian as well as a multi-published playwright, poet and novelist, asked the author what his reasons were for writing this book – a book which went on to land the coveted Literary Classics Seal of Approval.

“It was my ambition in writing ‘Windjamming to China,’ to make the sea, the sailor and his ship, legitimate literary subjects by associating them with man’s intrinsic fascination and challenge with the mystery of the vast ocean, in my case, the Pacific,” Gustav began. “I believe that there resides in the human subconscious a profound and innate nostalgic connection with the salt sea. After all, the waters of the ocean and the amniotic water of our mother’s womb are identical. The mineral content of the ocean and its ionic balance is exactly that of the optimum healthy human blood, amniotic fluid, lymphatic fluid and cellular fluid. The human embryo lives in this oceanic environment obtaining a growth of three billion times its original weight. This cognitively precise similarity between the human fluids and the ocean has been recognized since antiquity. (Greek historian) Heradotus wrote of this subject matter in

408 BCE. So, of course, even if unrecognized, there is little wonder that there exists in the somewhat loquacious depths of the human soul a nostalgic longing for home and for the sea salt origins.

Gustav, who did not begin writing or doing art until he retired at 79, in 2004, and moved with his wife Sono to Pacifica, California, is currently working on his eighth book, a novella, which he plans to finish by year end. “I have to do something in my retirement,” the celebrated writer laughed.

 Gustav was born in his father’s boatyard which was located on Decatur Island, one of the 172 named islands and reefs of the San Juan Archipelago which is located in the northwest corner of the contiguous United States and is part of the state of Washington. Located between the U.S. mainland and Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, the islands are home to a variety of residents which include: osprey, bald eagles, harlequin ducks, peregrine falcons, harbor seals, harbor porpoises, river otters, black-tail deer, silver foxes, and the noble pass through of gray whales, humpback whales and pilot whales. The islands have a temperate climate year-round and in the 2000 census, Decatur Island had a human headcount of seventy-one.

“I was born in 1925 and I am the only child of Charles and Lillian Tjgaard,” Gustav noted. “My father was from Sweden and my mother, who was more Swedish than my father, is the daughter of two Swedes. Only very recently I discovered that she most likely romanticized her origins and was born in Colorado rather than Sweden. While that is still under investigation, what remains true is that after my parents married they moved to Vancouver, Canada.”

“But all their lives they had a built-in hatred of England,” Gustav laughed clearly not agreeing with this thinking on his parents’ part. “If it was English it was bad. They went from Canada to the United States in a very short span of time because of that reason. Vancouver is almost within walking distance of Decatur Island. But still, once they got to the United States, ‘Phew. What a relief!’ My father was a relatively serious fellow. My mother used to complain constantly about every picture that came out about royalty and she said, ‘Queen Mary has not changed her hat. That’s the same hat she had in 1914.’ My mother was outraged by this hat behavior!”

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Interview with Jean Bartlett

A local Pacifica writer, Jean Bartlett, has included me in her collection of biographies. Her site can be found here: https://www.bartlettbiographies.com/

Click the tiger image on her site to read my biography, or view the pdf below.

An interview with Gustav Tjgaard, author & illustrator of wilderness & sea