The Baw Plaa at Baan Hom Samunphrai, Chiang Mai. *

COWPATTYHAMMER consists of 10 years of articles, discussions, and essais by the poet, Christopher Woodman. If you click on his name you can visit his personal pages on Homprang.com, the website of the Baan Hom Samunphrai School in Chiang Mai which he edits.  That’s where he lives and works with the Director, his Traditional Medicine Doctor wife, Homprang Chaleekanha.

You’ll find there a New Bio   rewritten for his birthday on December 7th,  2021 and still evolving.

You can also visit About The Author on Cowpattyhammer.com for a more anecdotal Bio and an index to some of the highpoints of his critical and expository writing  on this site.

The Complete Directory below is an attempt to index the site in such a way that a visitor can explore it more specifically while at the same time gaining a larger sense of the whole. With the exception of the Three Short Prefaces just below, each of the 24 Threads is a substantial essay followed by up to 50 ‘Comments,’ many of which are indeed whole essays in themselves.

Though largely composed by Christopher Woodman, there are also a number of significant dialogue-threads co-authored with his close friend, W.F.Kammann.

NOTE on the ‘Baw Plaa:’  In Thai, a baw is a hole in the ground, a well, a mine shaft or pond, and plaa means fish — amidst the paddies the baw fills up with water, so this is a baw plaa. There are huge fish in this one, some of which, like its best poems, are over 25 years old. Click twice on the photo and you can see them.



You can click on the highlighted TITLES
below to view the full Articles.


a.) A Preface to FIG LEAF SUTRAS: A Memoir in Poems, 1990-2020:
…..A very old new book tracked backwards.

Fig Leaf Sutras: A Memoir in Poems, 1990-2020, is a very different book from his earlier books, La-Croix-Ma-Fille and Galileo’s Secret. It’s a Memoir, and embraces in reverse order the whole range of the author’s poetries from his most recent metaphysical riffs & glosses on Chiang Mai back to his very first dot-matrix mutterings in Brooklyn before there was poetry at all. The heart of the book contains some of his most unaffected “pure poetry,” he says, and at the very end there are what he regards as “three lyric triumphs over both art and adversity.” “In so far as the book has a theme, it’s my own trajectory as a poet with the last tracks first, dignifying as they do the mountains of compost that still nourish me from way back before there was even a start.”..

b.) “NOTHING LEFT AT SEA:” On how to approach the ‘secret’ in
…..Galileo’s Secret. 

An introduction to a single short poem at the heart of Galileo’s Secret “not to explain it but just to be near enough to share a glimpse for a few blesséd moments, not a vision or a voice but a flicker, a settling, an exhalation.” A simple-minded page of silent reflection.

…dc.) HOW RELICS REWRITE: Revisiting the Pieces.  (updated March 25th, 2022)
…………………………….A Preface to  A Forthright Appeal.

At least it started out short — but such ‘rewriting’ can create relics, Version 2and if such relics are fertile like fantasies and crystals they grow, sometimes exponentially! Like this statement for example: “I have very few friends who read poetry, and even fewer who read the poetry I write. This is partly because at two very important junctures in my life I parted with poetry altogether, and as a poet I have no past.”


MAIN THREADS, 2010-22.

I. “GALILEO’S SECRET:”  (4 Threads, 2018-22).


A straightforward appeal by the author based on the fact that, despite substantial success between 1990 and 2010, not one of his poems has been accepted for publication since then, and his 3 books remain unpublished. Using current political and social metaphors, the thread tries to uncover whatever it is that may overshadow/diminish/disqualify his work, and help to lift his poetry above the fray. The author feels that our current national crisis is a valuable PARABLE whether or not his work deserves reconsideration: “This appeal certainly lifts my own spirits,” the poet says. “It gives me courage to believe in my value as a writer even if I remain disqualified by my age or my very late credits, what is more by what I’ve done or who I am.” Indeed, his hope is that this Appeal will give everyone who lives on the margins with his or her distinct voice intact but unheard a lift, as in a sense we all must do.(5 Comments)


This is a detailed attempt to cast light on some of the complex graphics, images, and metaphors in Part II of GALILEO’S SECRET,  and includes the title phrase which appears for the first and only time in the book in a light-hearted poem called “Celestial Observations.”  The much more difficult title-poem of the thread, on the other hand, “For Those Like Galileo Who No Longer Read,” is from Part III and is accompanied by one of the strongest graphics in the whole 10 years of Cowpattyhammer — in fact the image appears twice in the blog,  and you always have to Click more than once to see them fully as on this little b/w index photo right here. This theme is developed in the 26 ‘Essais’ in the Comments that follow including in the two discussions of Breugel’s “The Fall of Icarus” as well as in the intimate encounters with, among others, the Strangler Fig, the Wizard of Oz, Sonya & Leo Tolstoy at home, and the Archimandrite Seraphim Bit Haribi chanting The Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic! It’s a curious thread, bizarre even, and there’s a strong feeling of more to come — no thread is ever really “over” on Cowpattyhammer, and you can leave a “Reply” to start up the discussion again anywhere you like. (26 Comments)

3.) IN PRAISE OF THE STILL UNWEIGHED: Off the Record at 80

A long and passionate self-examination culminating in a detailed exploration of the moods and modes of the 9 short poems  that make up Part I of GALILEO’S SECRET. There are 50 substantial ‘Essais’ written over a 4 1/2 month period, and I don’t think my personal development or my values have ever been more effectively explored. It’s about Hope, really, the small bird that we all know as “that thing with feathers,” and, needless to say,  Emily Dickinson is the hero of the whole thread alone up there in her bedroom — closely followed by the visionary mentor/muddler, Sir Stanley Spencer. Here he is pushing his pram through his beloved Cookham’s lanes, for him as exotic as any Shangri-la or Chiang Mai haunted jungle. (50 Comments)


An attempt to get under the poet’s hat for a moment to see what he means by a “hunch.” Under the HatAs he very rarely uses theological, psychological, or philosophical discourse separate from metaphor, this is probably the best that can be done at an intellectual formulation of his modus operandi. The  little poem, “Daedalus Brief,” steals the show, particularly if you click your way through the discussions of it in the related comments in other threads, and of course take it seriously.


II. “LA-CROIX-MA-FILLE:” (5 Threads, 2017-18).


An introduction to the final ‘illuminated’ version of LA-CROIX-MA-FILLE which highlights the distinction between those poems which are written by a personal hand and those which have lived long enough on their own to become self-generating ‘Relics:’
 width=….— like a ‘hex’ or ‘ruin’ at the site of a betrayal or massacre, the title represents not something that once ‘happened’ but is happening all the time like an icon, a mantra, a prayer or a spell;
….— like the “Notes on the First and Last Poems” at the very end of the book, the thread sets the whole scene in the present without compromising any of the original intentions or participants. The same is true of the “Hexes, Ruins, Riddles and Relics” of the subtitle there’s too much ‘danger’ in such mysteries to risk more in the details;
….— like the final illuminated haiku in the book, everyone who has been through such things must “stoop to take the water’s fall” whether it be to ‘take a knee’ or ‘a bow’ — or, as the 16th Century poet, Sir Thomas Wyatt, acknowledges when he uses the Anglo-Norman word ‘danger,’ to place a ‘neck on the block;’
….“So it is that LA-CROIX-MA-FILLE takes its place in the same perilous tradition as “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” “They Flee From Me That Sometime Did Me Seek,” and “La Belle Dame Sans Merci.” And with reference to the latter in particular, the old Middle-English word ‘daunger‘ is French while at the same time as English as the fleurs de sel on your table, or the coup de grâce at hers.” (You’ll find the original of this Here.) (7 Comments).

6.) for FRANZ WRIGHT: “dark, then bright, so bright.”

This thread is a Coda to the preceding thread and puts Franz Wright in the context of “He Reflects on What His Genius Means,” the opening poem of LA-CROIX-MA-FILLE. If you have the time it might be better to read thread #7 first as of course it precedes it chronologically. Delia Sculpture #1 Jan 12, 2022 (1)This one, “For Franz Wright,” introduces the theme of creative anger with the opening ‘Relic’ poem of the book (it’s “thought to be Samson’s,” after all, “found amongst the ruins”), and then takes the opportunity to tell the story of Franz Wright’s life (March 18th, 1953 to May 14th, 2015) in some detail. The mood is indeed almost hagiographic — and what a paradox, like Raskolnikov, or indeed anything out of Dostoievski. The thread is addressed to my Latvian friend, Jūlija Lebedeva, who was in the process of ‘illuminating’ the book at this very time, and whose contribution has so deepened it. [ * Sculpture: “Head with Windshield Shards” by Delia Woodman. Be sure to CLICK on all the graphic tabs at least twice as many of them expand.]


Despite it’s contemplative graphic, this very long thread is constructed like a whole hornet’s nest of Russian dolls — a paradox indeed! In fact, the thread straddles 6 years of debate about the poet Franz Wright’s bizarre intervention in a much earlier thread which culminated in his calling Christopher Woodman’s poem, “Leonardo Amongst Women,” “perfectly awful.” This event occurred just before Christopher’s Blog:Cowpattyhammer went off in one direction and Thomas Brady’s Blog:Scarriet  in another, a painful break which changed both of them. An important plus in the thread is the way it illustrates both the creativity and the negativity that underlay the original Blog:Scarriet experiment, a paradox which was also at the very heart of Franz Wright’s genius — he was one of the most quarrelsome, ornery poets who has ever lived with the hugest heart and almost flawless broken voice. Its a very rich thread indeed, I think — one of my favorites. So please do give it some time and celebrate with me ‘Franz Wright, the most valuable of companion-poets on the loneliest of roads.’ (He too published almost nothing before he was 50, and was dead by 63 — which is perhaps easier than being still alive at 80…).  (Annotated Appendix with 56 Comments.)

8.) “O FOOL OF EARTH!”  A Haiku by Samson illuminated by Jūlija with
……Caravaggio, T.E.Lawrence & an encore by our Christy himself.

.      (Nov 21, 2017)

This is a bravura thread built around a single illuminated Haiku, one of Jūlija’s earliest sketches for LA-CROIX-MA-FILLE — at the time still subtitled A Book of Poems & Relics. The conceit is that “O Fool of Earth” is one of the artifacts that has been “found amongst the ruins,” not “written,” and is therefore, like the other “Relics” in the book, formatted in Lucida Blackletter with capitalized nouns and red illuminations. In addition, the two towering “pillars” of the drama, the Prophet Samson over here and Lawrence of Arabia over there, are displayed in the genius light of Caravaggio’s mannerist heroes, and are at the same time admired and ridiculed as “Fools of Earth.” Those are the words of “our Christy” from J.M.Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World which introduce ‘Pillars on the Beach,’ Part I of the book. “It’s a passionate, over-the-top thread,” Christopher says, “an apotheosis of shame combined with valor, and it still makes my heart miss a beat as well as beat a bit faster.  And to tell you the truth, I don’t really know the difference — ‘Been there, done that’ is all anybody can say!”

9.) ON HOW I MAKE SENSE OF IT: the poet deconstructs somebody
…..else’s Haiku.

A deconstruction of the last Haiku in LA-CROIX-MA-FILLE, this reading combines close metrical analysis with New- as well as Post- Critical observations left over from Christopher Woodman’s years at Columbia, Yale and Cambridge. But even more importantly, the critique relives in detail how the little poem found its true form over a period of 30 years, and has now settled down as one of the most important ‘Relics’ in the book, gilded and framed. “It never changes yet never stays still,” the author says. “For me it embodies all the richnesses of a ‘Hex,’ a ‘Ruin,’ and a ‘Riddle’ combined, and has everything I look for in a ‘Relic.’  And it just never stops giving.”

III. “ON WHAT I CAN SAY:” (5 Threads, 2015-17).

10.) ON WHAT I CAN SAY: deconstructing the spirits’ beguiling
……but awful mess…

In this section of the Index there is a big shift of focus from Christopher Woodman’s  books to the mysterious world around him in Chiang Mai. This thread describes a visit to one of his favorite Wats (Temples) on the ancient pilgrim trail through the jungle on the way up Doi Suthep, the Holy Mountain that hangs over the city, indeed one of the most revered Shrines in Thailand. small white chicken There are many strange and exotic surprises in the thread both about what is “spiritual” about the place as well as about what is taught in such a fey, chaotic environment. Indeed, you have to click yet again on everything to see it all like the seductive little Nang Ram dancer behind the chicken in the bushes, and there’s a great deal more like that buried in the thread itself. The very end includes what the author feels is probably the best thing he’s ever written about the Buddha story — which, he says, is also about what a writer learns from such an experience and, more likely than not, has simply got to unlearn. Because this thread is about reading and writing poetry too.

11.) ON WHAT WE’RE NOT ALLOWED TO SAY: deconstructing
……(October 7, 2017)

Unlearning also means learning not to ask too many questions but to remain in uncertainty as John Keats suggested and so eloquently bore witness to both in his brief, febrile life and forever in his poetry. “For you can never stop on such a road,” it says in this thread, “it’s that steep and narrow, indeed, any attempt to turn round and head back is curtains. Why, even just pausing to catch your breath can trigger an avalanche!” So the “indiscretions” are multiple, both my own and those of other unfortunates, and clicking through them will take you to some places as strange as any Wat-Pha-Lad-type reliquary junk-pile. (2 Comments)


This is the thread I most often touch back to, and if you’ve been following me recently will recognize you’ve been here before:  for my brother Tony, for Galileo’s daughter; for why I make it all up, how relics rewrite, why Immanuel Kant, Emily Dickinson, G.F.Handel, and Winslow Homer, and the Canal de Bourgogne quite specifically. Here’s a graphic followed by a short excerpt you may well  remember:…..“And that’s how bad the Devil is, not knowing your place in the grown-up world, not just lying down and being quiet like the big dog Sam. Being soft in the head like being Eve in God’s grown-up Garden, like not only rejecting Heaven but being in cahoots with the Devil in a serious effort to rewrite Paradise. ‘Unless we become as Rogues we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven,’ Emily Dickinson wrote to a friend at age 50, and I’d say courage like that coupled with a delicate body and a diamond mind is heroic!”
…..“Which is why I write as well, as if my desk were underground in Lascaux — as if the hunt depended on my depiction of the beauty and grace of the animals as well as my reverence for them. And even the sun rising.” (57 Comments)

14.) SAVAGE BEAUTY: (do I dare? do I dare?)  (

A short but extravagantly illustrated thread: “the hidden waterfall,” entered through the jungle on the other side of the Holy Mountain; “Merlin collared,” or how to get cornered at home plus a black magic  adventure with an intrepid friend from the Tetons, Brian Hayden. Ottoman Miniaturist (200)And always the very big question: “do I dare? do I dare?” — the words of the failed poet whose success is writing on anyway and then arriving at a whole riff on Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red, a great novelist’s greatest novel and at the same time a great treatise on refinement and passion in Turco/Persian culture and miniaturist art which seems to say, We’re here! An autobiographical thread full of passionate photos and poems with a lot of help from my friends including Omino 23, a rapper from the Turks and Caicos Islands who turned out to be Bill Kammann’s diver-son, and Paddy Linehan, of course, the great old-soul writer from Ireland. A gathering thread, startled and started but never quite finished. (22 Comments)


….(5 Threads, 2013-14).

15.) CLICK THRICE, THEN LET ME KNOW  (May 28, 2014)

A short thread full of secrets, forgotten passwords, fake spells and mystical non-disclosures. This is partly because it’s the last thread in this Index put together under the cross-eyed management of both Cowpattyhammer.com and Scarriet.com, so it rattles along in a nervous, off-hand sort of way from one stranger’s secret to another’s even stranger. But it’s beautiful to look at, and edifying too in the end, and includes some memorable poetry from both sides of the tracks. And it left me free after I had finished it, as I still am. Free but alone and if anything (never mind that) even less read. (16 Comments)


A very positive thread developed around a memorable image:
“As bare and simple as this Piero della Francesca, it says, “and as dependent on faith. That means your faith, the faith you have in yourself, the viewer, not in Jesus or Mary or anything like that but just in how much faith you are able to bring to whatever you see without rhyme or reason, like that tiny little bird on the left, or the big one on the stable roof for that matter, which is unmistakably a magpie…”
This is the last in the series of close encounters (#16-19) with two of my closest friends who had earlier belittled my poetry. Indeed, their ragging cast a shadow over my whole life for almost 2 years starting from Make It New in #19 below. But in the end One for Sorrow, Two for Joy is a very positive thread because of its heart-felt restorative work on the very poem my friends chose to dish. This was “Leda Takes Another Lover,” one of my proudest, most fey yet most faithful poems, and its restoration continues all the way up to #3 above. The discussion includes not only the original, 1992 version of the poem first written in French as “Le Verger” (“The Orchard”), but also some of the most fruitful close-readings in the whole of Cowpattyhammer, and some of the most telling anecdotes as well. And I realized in the process that it always has to be now or never for a poet like myself (“vulnerability,” I call it in A Forthright Appeal), that I have to blow my own ‘pan-pipes,’ as I call them above, seductively or triumphantly or whatever even if there’s nobody there to hear me — to make my own way, that says, talk my own talk up and down and sideways. And I too will pump my fist in the air as if it were the 1968 Olympics, proud of the defiant glove on my hand even as it says I’m no good. And I hope you can forgive me. (38 Comments)or what it is………

17.) TEA BREAK BY THE FORGE (March 11, 2014)

At the very end this thread reaches inside the fountain image that introduces the Annotated  Index, passing through various levels of comprehensibility to arrive face to face with a haunted presence that is neither seen nor unseen. Tea BreakClick on the photo of the author working in the Baw Plaa at the very end (twice, please!), then go back and give some time to Dawn Potter’s beautifully moving introduction to such potentialities and on to her arguments for wanting to take it all down.

………………….Nevertheless you are there, hidden,
………………….And again you wake me,
………………….Scentless, noiseless,
………………….Someone or something,
………………….Something or someone faithless,
………………….And that will not return.
……………………………………Dawn Potter (March 11th, 2014)

After Edna St Vincent Millay’s extraordinary teen-age “Renascence,” you can return to the world with Bill Kammann’s celebration of comprehensibility as the essential ingredient to all useful perception, and of course the antidote to my own attempts to say not this, not that and certainly not anything reasonable about love what is more about marriage. Indeed, the whole thread is an example of the sort of tea-break by the forge that I look forward to most when I sit down to re-write the world alone like Emily Dickinson upstairs on my porch. The hammer blows are silent as I cool my hot arms after all that heat and hammering in the country kitchen. (27 Comments)

18.) BORDANDO el MANTO TERRESTRE by Remedios Varo

.“This thread was designed to deal with some of the issues that were left hanging at the end of the previous thread, “Make It New,” which ended upside down in the grass. Those issues stalled at that moment, needless to say, but I think the final discussion of Emily Dickinson’s “haunted house” probably took us as far as we could go anyway, under the circumstances.”haunted house
….— I still find this Thread devastating, and sincerely hope you do too. Because some things just are.
….— I never figured out who the enlightened apparition called Omino 23 actually was, or how much he had to do with the demons who also managed to slip in. Disguised in whites they set about scuffing up the pitch with their hiking boots on, so how could anyone be expected to play properly for all those 79 overs as if it were cricket?
….— Tragic in the sense of goats’ play — i.e. just as dark as light.

Such a rich and diverse Forum with so many valuable visitors, and then suddenly the whole kite candles like a wet rag — badly packed parachutes make for limp landings! You have to scroll backwards and then repack your gear for the same day in 2015 to find that old storm-blown fields like these way out in the Atlantic are still there to welcome new landings. Have a look and you’ll find much there like this.

Inishmore: the island at the very end of the beginning of the world.

….That’s why the indigenous people up the road are so important to me, because they tell me so much more about who I am right here right now without any of the higher stuff. 
….When I look in the mirror these days it’s not an elevating sight, believe me. But that’s o.k. — because the old wizened ‘good-fella’ that looks back at me now tells me don’t worry, nothing that really matters is ever outdated what is more undreamt. “That’s what makes it alright,” the gracious young mother with the tall daughter answers in the graphic, “that’s what makes it new.”

….(5 Threads, 2010-11.)……….

This is the last of the series of ‘Asian’ dialogues between Cowpattyhammer’s two close but fractious friends, its unhinged poet on the one hand and its scrambled Buddhist sannyasin on the other. Beginning with the ancient caves at Barabar in India made so famous by E.M.Forster in A Passage to India, it’s a funny, inspiring, trippy, affirmative yet outrageous encounter, a super-sensible dialogue that explores the limits of Perception on the one hand and of Error on the other while focussing on the Meaning and Value of Emptiness, i.e. The Void as opposed to the Manifest Existence that even Bill Kammann and Christopher  Woodman assume they live in. And if this Alice in Wonderland Introduction irritates and/or interests you you should probably give the Thread a chance — it will scramble and/or unhinge your minds once and for all, which is almost certainly a good thing when it comes to understanding such matters.

The penultimate Asian collaboration between Christopher Woodman and W.F.Kammann, this dialogue focusses on Rudyard Kipling’s novel, Kim, not as an adventure story but as an inspired modern treatise on Buddhism. Because the novel challenges Western assumptions about the value of Tibet’s essentially elitist spirituality which, in Kipling’s novel, is presented as less nurturing than the education the genius orphan-boy, Kim, receives on the road with just a befuddled old ex-Abbot as guide and companion. And the thread is very personal too, for its two authors have both been there/done that, each in his own way, making the discussion more urgent and real for them. Like this, for example:
.“One evening at Garwald I asked Trunpa, already in his cups, why don’t we Western disciples see things? Why don’t we have visions or at least get a feeling of some sort of special powers developing in us? And Rimpoche just laughed that crooked laugh of his, because he was already paralyzed on one side after the car accident. ‘Visions? Powers?’ he chortled. ‘Why do you want that old stuff? It’s so easy for one thing, and so useless for another. You’re on a higher path now — because we Tibetans couldn’t do any of the stuff you do. Personal relationships, that’s much harder — we couldn’t do that at all. And look at us? Look what a mess we’ve made with those things here in the West?’
….“ ‘The challenge is to love and care for one another personally, and even passion is part of that, even sex. We were like spirit animals. We could do magic and fly and see all sorts of things, but we couldn’t do anything with each other. Just abuse.’ 
….Which was precisely why Kim’s Lama had quit his Himalayan fastness in the first place, drifting off to search for a deeper sort of salvation along the teeming, fetid, lowland roads of India, a sort of Victorian Dharma Bum, in other words — which is still a revolutionary thought for those Western Buddhists who fantasize about strict yogic practices at high altitude. On the other hand, Kim’s way doesn’t mean to drop out like Jack Kerouac either, our home-grown spiritual fantasist, but to be more active, more rooted, sane and practical, indeed post-formal seekers who remain very much in this world and, much to their credit, largely invisible…
….The other important aspect of this interpretation of Kim is the way it probes the relationship between the very young genius author, ‘Ruddy,’ already an international celebrity by the age of 30, and his equally extraordinary but shyer, deeper, more reflective artist-father, John Lockwood Kipling, who was also one of the West’s earliest experts on Tibetan Buddhist iconography. Of course Lockwood actually appears in the novel as a character, indeed he’s the Spirit Master who teaches the old Reverend Lama from Tibet as if the latter were the disciple or chela, not the other way around. And finally, this celebrated Anglo-Asian novel called Kim was written in Brattleboro, Vermont.….

 (posted by W.F.Kammann,
.   …


To scroll down though the Archive from beginning to end you can enter the site with www.cowpattyhammer.wordpress.com. If you decide to read the discussions, on the other hand, you will have to navigate using the ***MAJOR THREADS*** widgets in the left-hand margin.

There are 24 fully developed Threads in the present Cowpattyhammer.com INDEX. There are in addition 38 ad hoc Threads from the original Cowpattyhammer/Scarriet.com joint site which began in September 2009. If you are interested, you can access the Threads not introduced specifically in the INDEX through the ARCHIVES in the left-hand margin, and navigate by the dates.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: