Thursday, December 29, 2011

I Will Wade Out, a poem by E.E.Cummings.

Post 650 - Here's a poem for the New Year.

I Will Wade Out by E.E.Cummings.

i will wade out

till my thighs are steeped in burning flowers

I will take the sun in my mouth

and leap into the ripe air


with closed eyes

to dash against darkness

in the sleeping curves of my body

Shall enter fingers of smooth mastery

with chasteness of sea-girls

Will i complete the mystery

of my flesh I will rise

After a thousand years



And set my teeth in the silver of the moon

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A wedding is the entrance to a marriage by William Byrd.

Post 649 - William Byrd (born in London in 1543, died in 1623 at Stondon Place in Essex) was the son of a musician, and studied music principally under Thomas Tallis. Byrd was the most prolific composer of his time in England and was known as the English Palestrina. Here is his wedding poem:

A Wedding Is.. by William Byrd.

A wedding is the entrance to a marriage:

One drives through, and suddenly one's there!

Stepping from a fairy tale carriage

Into quite ordinary air.

Life is now a dance, though beautiful,

Requiring intense coordination;

Each self becomes, in ways inscrutable,

More fully what it is in combination.

And we who love you wait, of course, outside

As you become through love that mystery:

One flesh made whole of separate groom and bride;

Two selves, one life; two notes, one harmony.

When you are one, we then may cherish two:

Loving not just one, but both of you.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Beannacht, a poem by John O'Donohue.

Beannacht ("Blessing") by John O’Donohue.

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colors,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Interview with the Wind, a poem by Alice Oswald.

Post 646 - Alice Oswald was born in 1966. She read Classics at New CollegeOxford, has worked as a gardener at Chelsea Physic Garden, and today lives with her husband, the playwright Peter Oswald (also a trained classicist), and her three children in Devon. In 1994, she was the recipient of an Eric Gregory Award. Her debut collection, The Thing in the Gap-Stone Stile, won the 1996 Forward Best First Collection prize and her second collection, Dart, won the 2002 TS Eliot prize. In 2004, Oswald was named as one of the Poetry Book Society's Next Generation poets. Her collection Woods etc., published in 2005, was shortlisted for the Forward Poetry Prize (Best Poetry Collection of the Year). In 2009 she published both A sleepwalk on the Severn and Weeds and Wildflowers, which won the inaugural Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry, and was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize. In October 2011, Oswald published her 6th collection, Memorial.

Interview with the Wind by Alice Oswald.

Once the Wind existed as a person

Carrying its unguarded inner mouth wide open . . .
And I notice a kind of girlish nervousness

Sensitive to any tiny shock, tell me,
When did it lose its mind?
I love the kind of sounds it carries.
I think of the Wind as the Earth's voice muscle,
Very twisted and springy, but is it tired?
What happens to bells for example
Being lifted over hills?
And prayers?

There are millions of grass-nibs trying their names on the air.
There are phrases not fully expressed, shaking the bars of the trees.
Never any conclusion. Every decision being taken back again into movement.

And on a long road on a hot day,
When the Wind gets under the Wind

And blows up a mist of dust,
Obviously it speaks in verse, obviously

It inhales for a while and then describes by means of breath

Some kind of grief, what is it?

A kind of kiss. A coldness.
And yet not uptight, not afraid to fondle.
Is it blind is it some kind of blindness

The way it breezes at Dusk

And goes on and on turning over and over

More and more leaves in the darkness?

A kind of huge, hushed up,
Inexhaustible, millions of years old sister.
Would she describe herself, when running over grass for example,
Would she describe herself as a light breeze?
Or is she serious?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

If You Forget Me, a poem by Pablo Neruda.

Post 645 - If You Forget Me by Pablo Neruda.

I want you to know
one thing.
You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving, a poem by Edgar Albert Guest.

Post 644 - Eddie Guest (1881– 1959) was a prolific English-born American poet who was popular in the first half of the 20th century and became known as the People's PoetIn 1891, Guest came with his family to the United States from England. After he began at the Detroit Free Press as a copy boy and then a reporter, his first poem appeared on December 11, 1898. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1902. For 40 years, Guest was widely read throughout North America, and his sentimental, optimistic poems were in the same vein as the light verse of Nick Kenny, who also wrote syndicated columns during the same decades.
From his first published work in the Detroit Free Press until his death in 1959, Guest penned some 11,000 poems which were syndicated in some 300 newspapers and collected in more than 20 books, including A Heap o' Livin' (1916) and Just Folks (1917). Guest was made Poet Laurate of Michigan, the only poet to have been awarded the title.

Thanksgiving by Edgar Albert Guest.
Gettin' together to smile an' rejoice,
An' eatin' an' laughin' with folks of your choice;
An' kissin' the girls an' declarin' that they
Are growin' more beautiful day after day;
Chattin' an' braggin' a bit with the men,
Buildin' the old family circle again;
Livin' the wholesome an' old-fashioned cheer,
Just for awhile at the end of the year.
Greetings fly fast as we crowd through the door
And under the old roof we gather once more
Just as we did when the youngsters were small;
Mother's a little bit grayer, that's all.
Father's a little bit older, but still
Ready to romp an' to laugh with a will.
Here we are back at the table again
Tellin' our stories as women an' men.

Bowed are our heads for a moment in prayer;
Oh, but we're grateful an' glad to be there.
Home from the east land an' home from the west,
Home with the folks that are dearest an' best.
Out of the sham of the cities afar
We've come for a time to be just what we are.
Here we can talk of ourselves an' be frank,
Forgettin' position an' station an' rank.

Give me the end of the year an' its fun
When most of the plannin' an' toilin' is done;
Bring all the wanderers home to the nest,
Let me sit down with the ones I love best,
Hear the old voices still ringin' with song,
See the old faces unblemished by wrong,
See the old table with all of its chairs
An' I'll put soul in my Thanksgivin' prayers.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

That Sure is My Little Dog, a poem by Eleanor Lerman.

Post 643 - Eleanor Lerman (1952 - ) is an American poet and author and a lifelong New Yorker, born in the Bronx.  Lerman was the recipient of the inaugural Juniper Prize, the 2002 Joy Bale Boone Award for Poetry, the 2006 Milton Dorfman Poetry Prize, and a fiction grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts. In 2007, she received a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2011, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. She currently lives on Long Island, in Nassau County.

That Sure is My Little Dog by Eleanor Lerman.

Yes, indeed, that is my house that I am carrying around
on my back like a bullet-proof shell and yes, that sure is
my little dog walking a hard road in hard boots. And
just wait until you see my girl, chomping on the chains
of fate with her mouth full of jagged steel. She’s damn
ready and so am I. What else did you expect from the
brainiacs of my generation? The survivors, the nonbelievers,
the oddball-outs with the Cuban Missile Crisis still
sizzling in our blood? Don’t tell me that you bought
our act, just because our worried parents (and believe me,
we’re nothing like them) taught us how to dress for work
and to speak as if we cared about our education. And
I guess the music fooled you: you thought we’d keep
the party going even to the edge of the abyss. Well,
too bad. It’s all yours now. Good luck on the ramparts.
What you want to watch for is when the sky shakes
itself free of kites and flies away. Have a nice day.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Nearly A Valediction, a poem by Marilyn Hacker.

Post 642 - Marilyn Hacker (born 1942) is an American poet, translator and critic. She is Professor of English at the City College of New York. Her books of poetry include Going Back to the River (1990), Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons (1986), and Presentation Piece (1974), which won the National Book Award and was also a Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets. Winter Numbers (1996), details the loss of many of her friends to AIDS and her own struggle with breast cancer, garnered a Lambda Literary Award and The Nation's Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. In 2009, Hacker won the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation for King of a Hundred Horsemen by Marie Étienne, which also garnered the first Robert Fagles Translation Prize from the National Poetry Series. In 2010, she received the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry.

 Nearly A Valediction by Marilyn Hacker.

 You happened to me. I was happened to
like an abandoned building by a bull-
dozer, like the van that missed my skull
happened a two-inch gash across my chin.
You were as deep down as I've ever been.
You were inside me like my pulse. A new-
born flailing toward maternal heartbeat through
the shock of cold and glare: when you were gone,
swaddled in strange air I was that alone again,
inventing life left after you.

 I don't want to remember you as
that four o'clock in the morning eight months long
after you happened to me like a wrong
number at midnight that blew up the phone
bill to an astronomical unknown
quantity in a foreign currency.
The U.S. dollar dived since you happened to me.
You've grown into your skin since then; you've grown
into the space you measure with someone
you can love back without a caveat.

 While I love somebody I learn to live
with through the downpulled winter days' routine
wakings and sleepings, half-and-half caffeine-
assisted mornings, laundry, stock-pots, dust-
balls in the hallway, lists instead of longing, trust
that what comes next comes after what came first.
She'll never be a story I make up.
You were the one I didn't know where to stop.
If I had blamed you, now I could forgive
you, but what made my cold hand, back in prox-
imity to your hair, your mouth, your mind,
want where it no way ought to be, defined
by where it was, and was and was until
the whole globed swelling liquefied and spilled
through one cheek's nap, a syllable, a tear,
was never blame, whatever I wished it were.
You were the weather in my neighborhood.
You were the epic in the episode.
You were the year poised on the equinox.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Ball, a poem by Wislawa Szymborska.

Post 641 - Here's a poem by the Polish Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska. which was published in the New Yorker in 2003. From Monologue of a Dog: New Poems, translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh.


As long as nothing can be known for sure (no signals have been picked up yet), as long as Earth is still unlike the nearer and more distant planets, as long as there’s neither hide nor hair of other grasses graced by other winds, of other treetops bearing other crowns, other animals as well-grounded as our own, as long as only the local echo has been known to speak in syllables, as long as we still haven’t heard the word of better or worse mozarts, platos, edisons, elsewhere, as long as our inhuman crimes are still committed only between humans, as long as our kindness is still incomparable, peerless even in its imperfection, as long as our heads packed with illusions still pass for the only heads so packed, as long as the roofs of our mouths alone still raise voices to high heavens – let’s act like very special guests of honour at the district firemen’s ball, dance to the beat of the local oompah band and pretend that it’s the ball to end all balls. I can’t speak for other – for me this is misery and happiness enough: just this sleepy backwater where even the stars have time to burn while winking at us unintentionally.

Monday, October 17, 2011

We Are Always Too Late, a poem by Eavan Boland.

Post 640 - Eavan Boland was born in Dublin in 1944. Her father was a diplomat and her mother was an expressionist painter. At the age of six, Boland and her family relocated to London. She later returned to Dublin for university and received her B.A. from Trinity College in 1966. She was also educated in London and New York.
Her awards include a Lannan Foundation Award in Poetry, an American Ireland Fund Literary Award, a Jacob's Award for her involvement in The Arts Programme broadcast on RTÉ Radio, and an honorary degree from Trinity. She's taught at Trinity College, University College, Bowdoin College, and was a member of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. She's also a regular reviewer for the Irish Times.
Boland and her husband, the author Kevin Casey, have two daughters. She's currently a professor of English at Stanford University where she directs the creative writing program.

We Are Always Too Late by Eavan Boland.

Is in two parts.

First the re-visiting:

the way even now I can see
those lovers at the café table. She is weeping.

It is New England, breakfast time, winter. Behind her,
outside the picture window, is
a stand of white pines.

New snow falls and the old,
losing its balance in the branches,
showers down,
adding fractions to it. Then

The re-enactment. Always that.
I am getting up, pushing away
coffee. Always I am going towards her.

The flush and scald is
to her forehead now, and back down to her neck.

I raise one hand. I am pointing to
those trees, I am showing her our need for these
beautiful upstagings of
what we suffer by
what survives. And she never even sees me.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

RAIN, a poem by Don Paterson.

post 639 - for Alysia.

RAIN by Don Paterson

I love all films that start with rain:
rain, braiding a windowpane
or darkening a hung-out dress
or streaming down her upturned face;

one long thundering downpour
right through the empty script and score
before the act, before the blame,
before the lens pulls through the frame

to where the woman sits alone
beside a silent telephone
or the dress lies ruined on the grass
or the girl walks off the overpass,

and all things flow out from that source
along their fatal watercourse.
However bad or overlong
such a film can do no wrong,

so when his native twang shows through
or when the boom dips into view
or when her speech starts to betray
its adaptation from the play,

I think to when we opened cold
on a rain-dark gutter, running gold
with the neon of a drugstore sign,
and I’d read into its blazing line:

forget the ink, the milk, the blood—
all was washed clean with the flood
we rose up from the falling waters
the fallen rain’s own sons and daughters

and none of this, none of this matters.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Is it a month? a poem by J. M. Synge.

Post 638 - Is it a month? by J. M. Synge

Is it a month since I and you

In the starlight of Glen Dubh

Stretched beneath a hazel bough

Kissed from ear to throat to brow,

Since your fingers, neck and chin

Made the bars that fenced me in,

Till Paradise seemed but a wreck

Near your bosom, brow and neck

And stars grew wilder, growing wise

In the splendor of your eyes!

Since the weasel wandered near

Whilst we kissed from ear to ear

And the wet and withered leaves

Blew about your cap and sleeves,

Till the moon sank tired through the edge

Of the wet and windy hedge?

And we took the starry lane

Back to Dublin town again.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Curtains, a poem by Ruth Stone.

Post 637 - Ruth Stone was born in 1915 in Roanoke, Virginia and today lives in Vermont. In 1959, after her husband, professor Walter Stone, committed suicide, she was forced to raise three daughters alone. As she once pointed out, her poems are all “love poems, written to a dead man” who forced her to “reside in limbo” with her daughters. She's the author of thirteen books of poetry and the recipient of many awards and honors, including the 2002 National Book Award (for her collection In the Next Galaxy), the 2002 Wallace Stevens Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Eric Mathieu King Award from The Academy of American Poets, a Whiting Writers' Award (with which she bought plumbing for her house), two Guggenheim Fellowships (one of which roofed her house), the Delmore Schwartz Award, the Cerf Lifetime Achievement Award from the state of Vermont, and the Shelley Memorial Award. In July 2007, she was named poet laureate of Vermont.

Elizabeth Gilbert tells this story about Stone's writing style and inspiration, which the poet shared with her: "As she was growing up in rural Virginia, she would be out, working in the fields and she would feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape. It was like a thunderous train of air and it would come barreling down at her over the landscape. And when she felt it coming ... cause it would shake the earth under her feet, she knew she had only one thing to do at that point. That was to, in her words, 'run like hell' to the house as she would be chased by this poem. The whole deal was that she had to get to a piece of paper fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page. Other times she wouldn't be fast enough, so she would be running and running, and she wouldn't get to the house, and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it, and it would 'continue on across the landscape looking for another poet.'"

Curtains by Ruth Stone.

Putting up new curtains,
other windows intrude.
As though it is that first winter in Cambridge
when you and I had just moved in.
Now cold borscht alone in a bare kitchen.

What does it mean if I say this years later?

Listen, last night
I am on a crying jag
with my landlord, Mr. Tempesta.
I sneaked in two cats.
He screams, "No pets! No pets!"
I become my Aunt Virginia,
proud but weak in the head.
I remember Anna Magnani.
I throw a few books. I shout.
He wipes his eyes and opens his hands.
OK OK keep the dirty animals
but no nails in the walls.
We cry together.
I am so nervous, he says.

I want to dig you up and say, look,
it's like the time, remember,
when I ran into our living room naked
to get rid of that fire inspector.

See what you miss by being dead?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Short History of the Apple, a poem by Dorianne Laux.

Post 636 - Dorianne Laux was born in Augusta, Maine in 1952. She worked as a sanatorium cook, a gas station manager, a maid, and a donut holer before receiving a BA in English from Mills College in 1988. She’s the author of Facts About the Moon (W. W. Norton, 2005), which was the recipient of the Oregon Book Award, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Among her other collections, What We Carry (1994), was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Awake (1990), was nominated for the San Francisco Bay Area Book Critics Award for Poetry. Among her other awards are a Pushcart Prize, an Editor's Choice III Award, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Laux has taught at the University of Oregon's Program in Creative Writing. She now lives, with her husband, poet Joseph Millar, in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she serves on the faculty of North Carolina State University's MFA Program. Dorianne Laux’s fifth collection,The Book of Men, is now available from W.W. Norton & Company.

A Short History of the Apple by Dorianne Laux

Teeth at the skin. Anticipation.
Then flesh. Grain on the tongue.
Eve's knees ground in the dirt
of paradise. Newton watching
gravity happen. The history
of apples in each starry core,
every papery chamber's bright
bitter seed. Woody stem
an infant tree. William Tell
and his lucky arrow. Orchards
of the Fertile Crescent. Bushels.
Fire blight. Scab and powdery mildew.
Cedar apple rust. The apple endures.
Born of the wild rose, of crab ancestors.
The first pip raised in Kazakhstan.
Snow White with poison on her lips.
The buried blades of Halloween.
Budding and grafting. John Chapman
in his tin pot hat. Oh Westward
Expansion. Apple pie. American
as. Hard cider. Winter banana.
Melt-in-the-mouth made sweet
by hives of Britain's honeybees:
white man's flies. O eat. O eat.

See and hear her read her wonderful poetry at

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What Work Is, a poem by Philip Levine.

Post 635 - Philip Levine, known for his detailed and personal verse about the working class, has been appointed the US's new poet laureate. The Library of Congress announced on Wednesday that the 83-year-old Levine will succeed fellow Pulitzer winner WS Merwin this autumn. The laureate, who receives $35,000 and is known officially as the poet laureate consultant in poetry, serves from October through May. Richard Wilbur, Joseph Brodsky and Robert Pinsky are among the previous appointees.
Levine has received virtually every literary honor, but he is the least rarefied of poets. A Detroit native who as a young man worked in automobile plants, he has for decades chronicled, celebrated and worried about blue-collar life. Levine's awards include the Pulitzer in 1995 for The Simple Truth and the National Book award in 1991 for What Work Is.
The laureate has few official duties and poets have used the job to pursue a range of personal projects, from Billy Collins's Poetry 180, which encourages the reading of verse in high school, to Robert Hass's Watershed conference on nature writing. Levine says, "There's a great deal of American poetry that's hardly known and that should be known. As a poet who didn't get published for a long time, I know what it's like not to be read. The other thing I'd like to do is reach out to readers. I would like to bring attention to the kind of people I've written about."

What Work Is by Philip Levine.

We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is--if you're
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
You rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it's someone else's brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, "No,
we're not hiring today," for any
reason he wants. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding you for your brother,
who's not beside you or behind or
ahead because he's home trying to
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wagner, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You've never
done something so simple, so obvious,
not because you're too young or too dumb,
not because you're jealous or even mean
or incapable of crying in
the presence of another man, no,
just because you don't know what work is.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

High Flight, a poem by John Gillespie Magee.

Post 634 - John Gillespie Magee, Jr. (1922 – 1941) was an American aviator and poet who died at the age of 19 as a result of a mid-air collision over Lincolnshire during World War II. He was serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force, which he joined before the United States officially entered the war. I came across this poem last night while watching a lovely Canadian film, The Snow Walker, where it was recited in its entirety by James Cromwell.
It put me in mind of those 30 brave young Americans who lost their lives fighting on our behalf when their helicopter was shot down last week in Afghanistan. May they rest in peace.

High Flight by Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee Jr.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high unsurpassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

Friday, August 5, 2011

In Millstreet Hospital, a poem by Bernard O'Donoghue.

Post 633 - Bernard O'Donoghue was born in Cullen, County Cork, in 1945, later moving to Manchester. He studied Medieval English at Oxford University, where he's a teacher and Fellow in English at Wadham College. He's the author of Seamus Heaney and the Language of Poetry (1995). His poetry collections are Poaching Rights (1987); The Weakness (1991); Gunpowder (1995), winner of the 1995 Whitbread Poetry Award; Here Nor There (1999); and Outliving (2003). His work of verse translation, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, was published in 2006 and a Selected Poems in 2008.
Bernard O'Donoghue received a Cholmondeley Award in 2009. His most recent poetry collection is Farmers Cross (2011).

In Millstreet Hospital by Bernard O'Donoghue.

My cousin, they tell me, doesn't wake up much,
nor does she seem to see the green mountain

framed in the window of this chapel of ease
for travellers booked in for their long pilgrimage.
When I leave at the end of visiting-hours
a small, tidy man is sitting by the door:
stick, well-knotted tie, watch-chain, tweed jacket.
He gets to his feet, raises his hat and enquires:
'Excuse my troubling you, but would you be
going anywhere near a railway station?'
The young smiling nurse bends over him,
and takes him by the elbow, saying:
'Maybe tomorrow, James. Maybe tomorrow
we'll take you to the station.'

Monday, August 1, 2011

What to Remember When Waking, a poem by David Whyte.

Post 632 - The celebrated writer and teacher David Whyte explores the cyclical, conversational nature of reality and the disciplines that allow us to create an identity robust enough to meet its gifts and demands. An inspiring poem.....

What to Remember When Waking by David Whyte.

In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other,
more secret, movable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.

What you can plan is too small for you to live.

What you can live wholeheartedly
will make plans enough for the vitality
hidden in your sleep.

To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden
as a gift to others.

To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.

You are not a trouble guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents.
You were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now looking through
the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence
of everything that can be,
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely
white page on the waiting desk?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Mad Cow Talks Back, a poem by Jo Shapcott.

Post 622 - Jo Shapcott FRSL, (born March 1953, London) is an English poet, editor and lecturer who’s won the National Poetry Competition, the Commonwealth Poetry Prize, the Costa Book of the Year Award, a Forward Poetry Prize and the Cholmondeley Award. She’s Professor of Creative Writing at Royal Holloway College, University of London, and is the current President of The Poetry Society.
But if it hadn't been for "the intervention of really important teachers" in her life, she might well have ended up not in poetry, but in synchronized swimming. She started writing stories and poems as a child, at a time when "playing with the language" is "almost like Plasticene or mud or clay." When her focus shifted, first to synchronized swimming and then to boys and dancing, good teachers kept bringing her back to poetry and "chance and luck" kept her on track. She read English at Trinity College, Dublin and at Oxford, came to America to do a PhD on Elizabeth Bishop and started attending writing workshops. One of these was taught by Seamus Heaney. Shapcott was hooked and "poetry won, the PhD lost." She’s highly engaging as a poet, luminously intelligent as a critic, anthologist and broadcaster, and a widely admired and influential figure in British poetry today.

The following poem first appeared as the concluding sequence of Phrase Book (1992), a brilliantly imaginative response to the-then crisis over Mad Cow Disease.

The Mad Cow Talks Back by Jo Shapcott.

I'm not mad. It just seems that way
because I stagger and get a bit irritable.
There are wonderful holes in my brain
through which ideas from outside can travel
at top speed and through which voices,
sometimes whole people, speak to me
about the universe. Most brains are too
compressed. You need this spongy
generosity to let the others in.

I love the staggers. Suddenly the surface
of the world is ice and I'm a magnificent
skater turning and spinning across whole hard
Pacifics and Atlantics. It's risky when
you're good, so of course the legs go before,
behind, and to the side of the body from time
to time, and then there's the general embarrassing
collapse, but when that happens it's glorious
because it's always when you're travelling
most furiously in your mind. My brain's like
the hive: constant little murmurs from its cells
saying this is the way, this is the way to go.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Some Kiss We Want, a poem by Rumi.

Post 621 - Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhī, also known as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī, but known to the English-speaking world simply as Rumi, was a 13th-century Persian Muslim poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic (September 1207 – December 1273). Rūmī is a descriptive name meaning "the Roman" since he lived most of his life in an area called Rūm (then under the control of Seljuq dynasty) because it was once ruled by the Eastern Roman Empire. He was actually born in Afghanistan. Following his death, his followers founded the Mawlawīyah Sufi Order, also known as the Order of the Whirling Dervishes, famous for its Sufi dance known as the samāʿ ceremony.
Although a number of major Islamic poets easily rival the likes of Dante, Shakespeare and Milton in importance and output, they still enjoy only a marginal literary fame in the West because the works of Arabic and Persian thinkers, writers and poets are considered as mere sideshows beside the grand narrative of Western literature. Rumi's poems have been widely translated into many of the world's languages and transposed into various formats. In 2007, he was described as the "most popular poet in America."

Some Kiss We Want by Rumi.

There is some kiss we want with
our whole lives, the touch of

spirit on the body. Seawater
begs the pearl to break its shell.

And the lily, how passionately
it needs some wild darling! At

night, I open the window and ask
the moon to come and press its

face against mine. Breathe into
me. Close the language-door and

open the love window. The moon
won't use the door, only the window.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Advice to a Poet, a poem by Patrick Galvin.

Post 620 - Patrick Galvin, one of the leading Irish poets and dramatists of his generation, was born in Cork City in 1927 and died recently in May 2011. He was the son of Patrick Galvin, a docker and a leading local boxer, a colorful character who had fought Jack Dempsey. Paddy was one of 12 children who grew up in a tough, militant environment, and he left school at 12 to become a delivery boy. After he ran away to join the Foreign Legion, he joined the RAF in 1942 and fought in Libya and Palestine. He worked for the Irish Times as a war correspondent in Korea, and then became part of the group around Brendan Behan who were to do so much to revitalize Irish, then English drama. He disliked the new suburban middle class in Ireland and in his poetry and his plays, he held an uncomfortable mirror up to his fellow countrymen. He loved the public role of the disorderly poet, but played it creatively, without falling into the self-destructive booziness of Brendan Behan and Dylan Thomas. He renewed himself by periodic disappearances into the Munster countryside, the most productive of which was a sojourn with the tinkers wandering around Waterford and Kerry. In his last years, he spent much of his time in Belfast as resident dramatist at the Lyric Theatre.

Advice to a Poet by Patrick Galvin.

Be a chauffeur, my father said
And never mind the poetry.
That’s all very well for the rich
They can afford it.
What you need is money in your belt
Free uniform and plenty of travel.
Besides that, there’s nothing in verse.
And all poets are raging homosexuals.

I’d still like to be a poet

Another thing: don’t ever marry
And if you do, then marry for cash.
Love, after all, is easily come by
And any old whore will dance for a pound.
Take my advice and be a chauffeur
The uniform will suit you a treat
Marriage and poems will blind you surely
And poets and lovers are doomed to hell.

I’d still like to be a poet

But where’s the sense in writing poetry?
Did any poet ever make good?
I never met one who wasn’t a pauper
A prey to bailiffs, lawyers and priests.
Take my advice and be a chauffeur
With your appearance you’re bound to do well
You might even meet some rich old widow
Who’ll leave you a fortune the moment she dies.

I’d still like to be a poet

Well, blast you then, your days are darkened
Poverty, misery, carnage and sin.
The poems you’ll write won’t be worth a penny.
And the women you marry will bleed you to death.
Take my advice and buy a revolver
Shoot yourself now in the back of the head.
The Government then might raise a subscription
To keep your poor father from breeding again.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

“El Siete Mares,” a poem by Bradley Paul.

Post 619 - Bradley Paul was born in Baltimore in 1972. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, his poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Pleiades, Smartish Pace, Boston Review, and other journals. His first book of poetry, The Obvious, was selected by Brenda Hillman for the 2004 New Issues Poetry Prize, and his second book of poetry, The Animals All Are Gathering, won the 2009 AWP Donald Hall Prize in Poetry. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, the painter and writer Karri Paul, and their dog, Violet.

“El Siete Mares” by Bradley Paul.

Not Los Siete Mares.
Though there are seven seas
there is only one restaurant.
Octopus with Veracruz sauce.
Like pulp? Like from a tree?
Beaten and bleached into paper?
But what comes is not pulpo.
Nor is it takonigiri,
white ellipse with a purple edge
and wrapped with a green-black band,
pretty shapes and colors.
Nor meunière nor paillard nor confit.
They grabbed an octopus from the tank
and chopped it up and got it hot
and here in a mound on a plate
is a hot chopped up octopus.
There is saltwater still in its flesh.
My wife meanwhile
orders fried catfish,
which is a catfish thrown whole into oil
and brought out to stare at her.
Which is not how they do it
in Tennessee.
Can’t pretend now, friend.
You know you’re eating me.

Bradley Paul explains, "One day, I ate at El Siete Mares, a family-owned place down on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, and the scene described above took place. My wife grew up in Tennessee, and fried catfish there means a filet of catfish, breaded and fried in oil. The final product doesn’t even look like a fish. But the fried catfish at El Siete Mares is quite literally a catfish thrown whole into oil. When it’s brought out, it has a horrifying look on its face. The abstraction is gone; there’s no illusion that you’re eating something other than an animal that was alive a few minutes earlier and was then fried to death. It’s not a totally new experience — I grew up in Baltimore, so I’ve watched my fair share of live blue crabs go into a pot and come out a few minutes later with their eyes still in place, only red and covered in Old Bay (hell for them; heaven for me). In this instance, however, I think I was expecting one thing, while another, more scary thing arrived on my plate. Out of that jarring experience came this poem. Maybe that’s where all poems come from."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Träumerei, a poem by Philip Larkin.

Post 618 - Philip Arthur Larkin, CH, CBE, FRSL, was born in Coventry, England in 1922. He attended St. John's College, Oxford and his first book of poetry, The North Ship, was published in 1945. After college, he served as university librarian at the Brynmor Jones Library at the University of Hull for 30 years. During that time, he was the recipient of many honors, including the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry. He was offered, but declined, the position of poet laureate in 1984, following the death of John Betjeman. Larkin was chosen in a 2003 Poetry Book Society survey, almost two decades after his death, as Britain's best-loved poet of the previous 50 years, and in 2008 The Times named him Britain's greatest post-war writer.
Deeply anti-social and a great lover and published critic of American jazz, Larkin never married and lived out his days in the provincial city of Hull, where he died from cancer in 1985.

He once said that deprivation for him was what daffodils were for Wordsworth!

Philip Larkin - Träumerei.

In this dream that dogs me I am part
Of a silent crowd walking under a wall,
Leaving a football match, perhaps, or a pit,
All moving the same way. After a while
A second wall closes on our right,
Pressing us tighter. We are now shut in
Like pigs down a concrete passage. When I lift
My head, I see the walls have killed the sun,
And light is cold. Now a giant whitewashed D
Comes on the second wall, but much too high
For them to recognize: I await the E,
Watch it approach and pass. By now
We have ceased walking and travel
Like water through sewers, steeply, despite
The tread that goes on ringing like an anvil
Under the striding A. I crook
My arm to shield my face, for we must pass
Beneath the huge, decapitated cross,
White on the wall, the T, and I cannot halt
The tread, the beat of it, it is my own heart,
The walls of my room rise, it is still night,
I have woken again before the word was spelt.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Of Politics, & Art, a poem by Norman Dubie.

Post 617 - After finishing high school, Norman Dubie (1945 -) had hoped to play football for West Point, but instead, following his father's wishes, he enrolled at the University of New Hampshire at Durham. There he failed every subject except English and Geology and was then rejected by the draft due to high blood pressure. After taking some time off, he enrolled at Goddard College in Vermont where he received his BA in 1965. He subsequently received a fellowship from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where he earned his MFA in 1968, as well as an invitation to stay on as a member of the program's regular faculty. In 1975 he was invited to establish an MFA program at Arizona State University in Tempe and accepted a position there as consultant in the arts. He currently lives and teaches in Arizona. Dubie's poetry has received the Bess Hokin Award from the Modern Poetry Association, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
I love this poem - it reminds me of when I attended a one-room country schoolhouse some sixty years ago in Killesk and first learned to love poetry.

Of Politics, & Art by Norman Dubie.

Here, on the farthest point of the peninsula
The winter storm
Off the Atlantic shook the schoolhouse.
Mrs. Whitimore, dying
Of tuberculosis, said it would be after dark
Before the snowplow and bus would reach us.

She read to us from Melville.

How in an almost calamitous moment
Of sea hunting
Some men in an open boat suddenly found themselves
At the still and protected center
Of a great herd of whales
Where all the females floated on their sides
While their young nursed there. The cold frightened whalers
Just stared into what they allowed
Was the ecstatic lapidary pond of a nursing cow's
One visible eyeball.
And they were at peace with themselves.

Today I listened to a woman say
That Melville might
Be taught in the next decade. Another woman asked, "And why not?"
The first responded, "Because there are
No women in his one novel."

And Mrs. Whitimore was now reading from the Psalms.
Coughing into her handkerchief. Snow above the windows.
There was a blue light on her face, breasts and arms.
Sometimes a whole civilization can be dying
Peacefully in one young woman, in a small heated room
With thirty children
Rapt, confident and listening to the pure
God rendering voice of a storm.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Wait for me, a poem by Konstantin Simonov.

Post 616 - The Soviet poet and novelist Konstantin Mikhailovich Simonov (1915 - 1979) is best known for his patriotic verse dealing with World War II and for his vivid prose descriptions of Soviet troops in action during the war. He was born in St. Petersburg and received a degree in literature from the Gorky Institute of Literature in Moscow in 1939. Simonov then became a member of the Communist party, and in 1941 was called to military duty as a correspondent for the journal Red Star. His wartime dispatches were read by a wide audience, and he was awarded several medals for his work, including the Stalin Prize. After World War II, Simonov traveled extensively as a member of various literary and journalistic delegations, visiting Japan, China, the United States, and Western Europe. A member of the editorial boards of various Soviet journals and publishing houses, he twice served as a deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R. In 1968, he and other high-ranking members of the Union of Soviet Writers refused to sign a statement of official support for the government's invasion of Czechoslovakia; yet he remained an esteemed member of the Soviet literary establishment. Throughout the 1970s, he served as secretary of the Union of Writers. He died in Moscow in 1979.

Wait for me by Konstantin Simonov.

Wait for me and I’ll return, only wait very hard.
Wait when you are filled with sorrow as you watch the yellow rain.
Wait when the wind sweeps the snowdrifts.
Wait in the sweltering heat.
Wait when others have stopped waiting, forgetting their yesterdays.
Wait even when from afar no letters come for you.
Wait even when others are tired of waiting.

Wait for me and I’ll return, but wait patiently.
Wait even when you are told that you should forget.
Wait even when my mother and son think I am no more.
And when friends sit around the fire drinking to my memory
Wait and do not hurry to drink to my memory too.

Wait for me and I’ll return, defying every death.
And let those who do not wait say that I was lucky.
They will never understand that in the midst of death
You with your waiting saved me.
Only you and I will know how I survived:
It was because you waited as no one else did.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Walking Through a Wall, a prose-poem by Louis Jenkins..

Post 615 - When Mark Rylance accepted a Tony Award as Best Actor in a Play for Jerusalem last night, he shared this poem with the expectant crowd. In case you missed it — or tuned out in confusion in the middle — the complete poem is below:

Walking Through a Wall by Louis Jenkins.

Unlike flying or astral projection, walking through walls is a totally earth-related craft, but a lot more interesting than pot making or driftwood lamps. I got started at a picnic up in Bowstring in the northern part of the state. A fellow walked through a brick wall right there in the park. I said, 'Say, I want to try that.' Stone walls are best, then brick and wood. Wooden walls with fiberglass insulation and steel doors aren't so good. They won't hurt you. If your wall walking is done properly, both you and the wall are left intact. It is just that they aren't pleasant somehow. The worst things are wire fences, maybe it's the molecular structure of the alloy or just the amount of give in a fence, I don't know, but I've torn my jacket and lost my hat in a lot of fences. The best approach to a wall is, first, two hands placed flat against the surface; it's a matter of concentration and just the right pressure. You will feel the dry, cool inner wall with your fingers, then there is a moment of total darkness before you step through on the other side.

When Rylance accepted his 2008 Best Actor Tony for his Broadway debut in Boeing-Boeing he shared another Jenkins poem, The Back Country.

Louis Jenkins (1942 -) is a prose poet from Enid, Oklahoma. He's lived in Duluth, Minnesota, for over 30 years with his wife Ann. His poems have been published in a number of literary magazines and anthologies. Jenkins has been a guest on A Prairie Home Companion numerous times and has also been featured on The Writer's Almanac. The author's book, Nice Fish, was winner of the Minnesota Book Award in 1995. His book Just Above Water won the Northeastern Minnesota Book Award in 1997. In 1996, Jenkins was a featured poet at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Night on the Island, a poem by Pablo Neruda.

Post 614 - Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet and politician. He’s famous for his romantic love poems, specially for the collection Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair or Veinte Poemas. These poems have a very sensual and erotic touch to them which was one of the reasons for their great popularity. Most of Neruda’s writing was in Spanish but this has been translated into English.

Night on the Island by Pablo Neruda.

All night I have slept with you
next to the sea, on the island.
Wild and sweet you were between pleasure and sleep,
between fire and water. Perhaps very late
our dreams joined
at the top or at the bottom,
Up above like branches moved by a common wind,
down below like red roots that touch.

Perhaps your dream
drifted from mine
and through the dark sea
was seeking me
as before,
when you did not yet exist,
when without sighting you
I sailed by your side,
and your eyes sought
what now--
bread, wine, love, and anger--
I heap upon you
because you are the cup
that was waiting for the gifts of my life.

I have slept with you
all night long while
the dark earth spins
with the living and the dead,
and on waking suddenly
in the midst of the shadow
my arm encircled your waist.

Neither night nor sleep
could separate us.

I have slept with you
and on waking, your mouth,
come from your dream,
gave me the taste of earth,
of sea water, of seaweed,
of the depths of your life,
and I received your kiss
moistened by the dawn
as if it came to me
from the sea that surrounds us.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Self-Portrait, a poem by Chase Twichell.

Post 613 - Chase Twichell was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1950. She received a bachelor's degree from Trinity College (Hartford) in 1973 and earned an MFA from the University of Iowa in 1976. From 1976 to 1984 she worked at Pennyroyal Press, and from 1986 to 1988 she co-edited the Alabama Poetry Series, published by University of Alabama Press. She also co-edited The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises from Poets Who Teach with Robin Behn (HarperCollins, 1992).
She's won awards from the Artists Foundation (Boston), the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. She's recently won the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award from Claremont Graduate University for Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been, her seventh book of poetry. She's taught at Princeton University, Goddard College, Warren Wilson College, the University of Alabama, and Hampshire College. In 1999, Twichell founded Ausable Press, which she operated until it was acquired by Copper Canyon Press in 2009. A practicing Buddhist, she lives in Keene, New York, with her husband, the novelist Russell Banks.

In a Fall 2003 Tricycle magazine interview, she said, "Zen is a wonderful sieve through which to pour a poem. It strains out whatever's inessential." This is very evident in the following short poem.

Self-Portrait By Chase Twichell.

I know I promised to stop
talking about her,
but I was talking to myself.
The truth is, she’s a child
who stopped growing,
so I’ve always allowed her
to tag along, and when she brings
her melancholy close to me
I comfort her. Naturally
you’re curious; you want to know
how she became a gnarled branch
veiled in diminutive blooms.
But I’ve told you all I know.
I was sure she had secrets,
but she had no secrets.
I had to tell her mine.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Two Menus, a poem by Rachel DeWoskin.

Post 612 - Rachel DeWoskin (1972-) is an American author and screen actress. She spent her twenties in China as a consultant, writer, and the unlikely star of a nighttime soap opera called "Foreign Babes in Beijing." Her memoir of those years, Foreign Babes in Beijing, has been published in six countries and is being developed as a television series by HBO. Her novel Repeat After Me, about a young American ESL teacher, a troubled Chinese radical, and their unexpected New York romance, won a Foreward Magazine Book of the Year award. Her third book, the novel Big Girl Small, was just recently published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Rachel has a BA in English from Columbia and an MFA in poetry from Boston University. She now divides her time between NYC, Chicago, and Beijing with her husband, playwright Zayd Dohrn, and their two little girls.

Two Menus by Rachel DeWoskin

Outside McDonald’s downtown
in Beijing, I board a bus bound
for mountains with Xiao Dai
who carries equipment, asks why
I have to be so headstrong.
I say nothing. We belong
to a climbing club. Sheer rocks.

It is better to be the head of a chicken
than the tail of an ox. Men mention
wisdom whenever I disagree
with them. I am roped in, belayed. If we
fall, we all fall. My fingers are between
a thin ridge, sideways, gripping. I lean
down to tell Xiao Dai it’s better to be
neither chicken nor ox. He can’t hear me.
The rope swings, flicking sparks off cliffs.

Translation is insurance. With just
enough to cover what we must,
we speak only where there’s overlap, conserve
our syllables, expressions, every move.

The restaurant in Beijing called “Bitterness
and Happiness” has two menus: one of excess,
the second, scarcity. We order grass
from one and from the other, flesh.
The Chinese language has
77,000 characters Xiao Dai regards as
evidence. When I ask of what, he is putting
roots on my plate. Love, he says. My footing
gets rocky around these matters of fact.
A word for each affair? The waiter is back.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Reluctance, a poem by Robert Frost.

Post 611 - Robert Frost was born in San Francisco in 1874. He moved to New England at the age of eleven and became interested in reading and writing poetry during his high school years in Lawrence, MA. He was enrolled at Dartmouth College in 1892, and later at Harvard, though he never earned a formal degree from either.

In 1895, Frost married Elinor Miriam White, who became a major inspiration in his poetry until her death in 1938. The couple moved to England in 1912, after their New Hampshire farm failed, and it was there that Frost was influenced by such contemporary British poets as Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke, and Robert Graves. While in England, Frost also became friends with the poet Ezra Pound, who helped to promote and publish his work. He and his wife returned to the United States in 1915.

By the 1920s, he was the most celebrated poet in America, and with each new book — including New Hampshire (1923), A Further Range (1936), Steeple Bush (1947), and In the Clearing (1962) — his fame and honors (including four Pulitzer Prizes) increased. Robert Frost lived and taught for many years in Massachusetts and Vermont. He died in Boston in 1963.

About him, President John F. Kennedy said, "He has bequeathed his nation a body of imperishable verse from which Americans will forever gain joy and understanding."
I think this is a particularly beautiful poem.

Reluctance by Robert Frost.

Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world, and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.

The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last long aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch-hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question 'Whither?'

Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Journey, a poem by Mary Oliver.

Post 610 - Mary Oliver (born in 1935) is an American poet who has won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. The New York Times described her as "far and away, this country's best-selling poet." Oliver briefly attended both Ohio State University and Vassar College in the mid-1950s, but did not receive a degree at either college. She’s since received Honorary Doctorates from The Art Institute of Boston, Dartmouth College, and Tufts University.
Oliver has given very few interviews, saying she prefers for her writing to speak for itself. While she’s produced many memorable poems, this is one of my favorites.

The Journey by Mary Oliver.

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

We Saw A Vision, a poem by Liam Mac Uistin.

Post 609 - The following poem, in English and in Irish, was read today at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin in the presence of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who laid a wreath in memory of those who died in the struggle for Irish freedom. The Garden commemorates freedom fighters from various uprisings, including:
- the 1798 rebellion of the Society of United Irishmen
- the 1803 rebellion of Robert Emmet
- the 1848 rebellion of Young Ireland
- the 1867 rising of the Fenian Brotherhood
- the 1916 Easter Rising of the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army
- the 1919-21 Irish War of Independence of the IRA.
The Garden was opened in 1966 by President Eamon de Valera on the fiftieth anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, in which he had been a commander. Its focal point is a statue of the Children of Lir by Oisín Kelly, symbolising rebirth and resurrection.

We Saw A Vision by Liam Mac Uistin.

In the darkness of despair we saw a vision, We lit the light of hope, And it was not extinguished. In the desert of discouragement we saw a vision, We planted the tree of valor, And it blossomed.

In the winter of bondage we saw a vision, We melted the snow of lethargy, And the river of resurrection flowed from it.

We sent our vision aswim like a swan on the river, The vision became a reality, Winter became summer, Bondage became freedom, And this we left to you as your inheritance.

O generation of freedom remember us, The generation of the vision.

In Irish, the poem reads as follows:

An Aisling.

I ndorchacht an éadóchais rinneadh aisling dúinn. Lasamar solas an dóchais. Agus níor múchadh é.

I bhfásach an lagmhisnigh rinneadh aisling dúinn. Chuireamar crann na crógachta. Agus tháing bláth air.

I ngeimhreadh na daoirse rinneadh aisling dúinn. Mheileamar sneachta táimhe. Agus rith abhainn na hathbheochana as.

Chuireamar ár n-aisling ag snámh mar eala ar an abhainn. Rinneadh fírinne den aisling. Rinneadh samhradh den gheimhreadh. Rinneadh saoirse den daoirse. Agus d'fhágamar agaibhse mar oidhreacht í.

A ghlúnta na saoirse cuimhnígí orainne, glúnta na haislinge...

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A sonnet by William Shakespeare.

Poet 608 - How that man could write.....

Shakespeare's Sonnet 30.

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancelled woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanished sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor'd and sorrows end.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

To My Mother, a poem by Christina Rossetti.

Post 607 - The English poet Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894) wrote poems of love, fantasy, and nature, verses for children, and devotional poetry and prose. This is Rossetti’s first poem, written on April 27th, 1842, when she was 11 years old.

To My Mother by Christina Rossetti.

To-day’s your natal day,
Sweet flowers I bring;
Mother, accept, I pray,
My offering.

And may you happy live,
And long us bless;
Receiving as you give
Great happiness.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A poem by Emily Dickinson.

Post 606 - Emily Dickinson (1830–86).

Complete Poems. 1924.

Part One: Life


We never know how high we are
Till we are called to rise;
And then, if we are true to plan,
Our statures touch the skies.

The heroism we recite
Would be a daily thing,
Did not ourselves the cubits warp
For fear to be a king.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Vow, a poem by Wendy Cope.

Post 605 - With the royal wedding coming up later this week, a poem on the subject of marriage seemed most appropriate. So I thought immediately of Wendy Cope.

Cope was born in Kent in 1945 and studied History at St Hilda's College, Oxford. She trained as a teacher at Westminster College of Education, Oxford, and taught in primary schools in London from 1967 - 1986. She became Arts and Reviews editor for Contact, the Inner London Education Authority magazine, and continued to teach part-time, before becoming a freelance writer in 1986. She was television critic for The Spectator magazine until 1990. She received a Cholmondeley Award in 1987 and was awarded the Michael Braude Award for Light Verse (American Academy of Arts and Letters) in 1995.She was shortlisted for the Whitbread Poetry Award in 2001.

Cope is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and currently lives in Winchester, England. In 1998 she was the listeners' choice in a BBC Radio 4 poll to succeed Ted Hughes as Poet Laureate. Her poetry is perhaps best known for its humor and wit. For example, Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis takes up just four lines and captures the irreverent mood of her writing:
It was a dream I had last week
And some sort of record seemed vital.
I knew it wouldn’t be much of a poem,
But I love the title.

I think this would be a great poem for William and Kate to read to one another during the ceremony on Friday next.

A Vow by Wendy Cope.

I cannot promise never to be angry;
I cannot promise always to be kind.
You know what you are taking on, my darling –
It's only at the start that love is blind.
And yet I'm still the one you want to be with
And you're the one for me – of that I'm sure.
You are my closest friend, my favorite person,
The lover and the home I've waited for.
I cannot promise that I will deserve you
From this day on. I hope to pass that test.
I love you and I want to make you happy.
I promise I will do my very best.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Easter, 1916, a poem by William Butler Yeats.

Post 604 - William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939) was an Irish poet and dramatist, and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years Yeats served as an Irish Senator for two terms. He was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival, and along with Lady Gregory, Edward Martyn, and others, founded the Abbey Theatre, serving as its chief during its early years. In 1923 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for what the Nobel Committee described as "inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation." He was the first Irishman so honored.

Easter is always a special time for me, not just as a symbol for resurrection and renewal, but because it's the anniversary of the time where the Irish people asserted their coming of age and finally broke free from English rule. Given the current focus on freedom and rebellion in the Middle East and elsewhere, it seemed to be an appropriate choice this year.

In this poem, Yeats memorializes the leaders who sacrificed their lives in the Easter rebellion of 1916 and pays tribute to their ability to transform themselves and the history of Ireland through the "terrible beauty" of insurrection. I love the beautiful use of language and metaphor in this poem.

Easter 1916, by William Butler Yeats.

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman's days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our winged horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road.
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone's in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse -
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Owl and the Pussycat, a poem by Edward Lear.

Post 603 - Edward Lear (1812 - 1888) was a British poet and painter known for his absurd wit. His father, a stockbroker, was sent to debtor's prison when he was thirteen and the young Lear was forced to earn a living. He quickly gained recognition for his work and in 1832 was hired by the London Zoological Society to execute illustrations of birds. His first book of poems, A Book of Nonsense, (1846) was composed for the grandchildren of his patron, the Earl of Denby. Around 1836 Lear decided to devote himself exclusively to landscape painting (although he continued to compose light verse). Between 1837 and 1847 Lear traveled extensively throughout Europe and Asia. After his return to England, his travel journals were published in several volumes as The Illustrated Travels of a Landscape Painter. Lear's travel books were popular and respected in their day, but are largely forgotten today. Instead, he's remembered as the creator of the modern limerick, and for his many humorous poems. This is one of my own favorites:

The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear.

The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
"O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are, you are, you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are."
Pussy said to the Owl "You elegant fowl,
How charmingly sweet you sing.
O let us be married, too long we have tarried;
But what shall we do for a ring?"
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows,
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose, his nose, his nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.
"Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling your ring?"
Said the Piggy, "I will"
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon.
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand.
They danced by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

By the way, a runcible spoon is a small fork with three prongs, one having a sharp edge, that is curved like a spoon. This spoon is used to eat pickles, etc., and presumably sliced quince as well.

How pleasant to know Mr Lear!
Who has written such volumes of stuff!
Some think him ill-tempered and queer,
But a few think him pleasant enough.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Broken Promises, a poem by David Kirby.

Post 602 - David Kirby was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1944. He received his B.A. from Louisiana State University, and earned his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University. He's taught all over America and at international programs in Italy, England, France, and Spain. He's now the Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of English at Florida State University and writes distinctive long-lined narrative poems that braid together high and popular culture, personal memory, philosophy, and humor.
He believes that, "no poem speaks to us as directly as a stop sign or a Star of David. But nobody listens to a Jay-Z song and says, 'Hmm, I wonder what he meant by that,' and a well-made poem works the same way."

Broken Promises by David Kirby.

I have met them in dark alleys, limping and one-armed;
I have seen them playing cards under a single light-bulb
and tried to join in, but they refused me rudely,
knowing I would only let them win.
I have seen them in the foyers of theaters,
coming back late from the interval

long after the others have taken their seats,
and in deserted shopping malls late at night,
peering at things they can never buy,
and I have found them wandering
in a wood where I too have wandered.

This morning I caught one;
small and stupid, too slow to get away,
it was only a promise I had made to myself once
and then forgot, but it screamed and kicked at me
and ran to join the others, who looked at me with reproach
in their long, sad faces.
When I drew near them, they scurried away,
even though they will sleep in my yard tonight.
I hate them for their ingratitude,
I who have kept countless promises,
as dead now as Shakespeare’s children.
“You bastards,” I scream,
“you have to love me — I gave you life!”

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Those Who Do Not Dance, a poem by Gabriela Mistral.

Post 601 - Gabriela Mistral was born in Vicuña, Chile, in 1889, but was raised in the small Andean village of Montegrande, where she attended the Primary school taught by her older sister, Emelina Molina. In December 22, 1914, Mistral was awarded first prize in a national literary contest Juegos Florales in Santiago, with the work Sonetos de la Muerte (Sonnets of Death). She had been using the pen name Gabriela Mistral since June 1908 for much of her writing. After winning the Juegos Florales she infrequently used her given name of Lucila Godoy for her publications. She formed her pseudonym from the two of her favorite poets, Gabriele D'Annunzio and Frédéric Mistral or, as another story has it, from a composite of the Archangel Gabriel and the Mistral wind of Provence. She taught elementary and secondary school for many years until her poetry made her famous. She played an important role in the educational systems of Mexico and Chile, was active in cultural committees of the League of Nations, and was Chilean consul in Naples, Madrid, and Lisbon. She held honorary degrees from the Universities of Florence and Guatemala and was an honorary member of various cultural societies in Chile as well as in the United States, Spain, and Cuba. She taught Spanish literature in the United States at Columbia University, Middlebury College, Vassar College, and at the University of Puerto Rico.
In her later years, poor health slowed her traveling and during the last years of her life she made her home in Roslyn, New York; in early January of 1957 she transferred to Hempstead, New York, where she died from pancreatic cancer on January 10, 1957, aged 67. Her remains were returned to Chile nine days later. The Chilean government declared three days of national mourning, and hundreds of thousands of Chileans came to pay her their respects.

Those Who Do Not Dance by Gabriela Mistral.

A crippled child
Said, “How shall I dance?”
Let your heart dance
We said.

Then the invalid said:
“How shall I sing?”
Let your heart sing
We said

Then spoke the poor dead thistle,
But I, how shall I dance?”
Let your heart fly to the wind
We said.

Then God spoke from above
“How shall I descend from the blue?”
Come dance for us here in the light
We said.

All the valley is dancing
Together under the sun,
And the heart of him who joins us not
Is turned to dust, to dust.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Father’s Day, a poem by James Tate.

Post 600 - Six hundred entries, another minor milestone achieved. Someone emailed me today and asked me if I liked my work. The answer was yes, very much, especially since I stopped working for a living. James Tate would understand this. In a 1998 interview, he pointed to one unifying element in his work: “My characters usually are — or, I’d say most often, I don’t want to generalize too much — but most often they’re ... trying to find some kind of life.” Today, I feel I have more freedom to explore and find the more satisfying aspects of life. I like writing and exploring poetry better than anything I've found so far.

Father’s Day by James Tate.

My daughter has lived overseas for a number
of years now. She married into royalty, and they
won't let her communicate with any of her family or
friends. She lives on birdseed and a few sips
of water. She dreams of me constantly. Her husband,
the Prince, whips her when he catches her dreaming.
Fierce guard dogs won't let her out of their sight.
I hired a detective, but he was killed trying to
rescue her. I have written hundreds of letters
to the State Department. They have written back
saying that they are aware of the situation. I
never saw her dance. I was always at some
convention. I never saw her sing. I was always
working late. I called her My Princess, to make
up for my shortcomings, and she never forgave me.
Birdseed was her middle name.