Saturday, January 29, 2011

Lost, a poem by David Wagoner.

Post 594 - David Russell Wagoner was born in the city of Massillon, Ohio, in 1926. From 1944 to 1946, he served in the United States Navy. Around this time, Wagoner enrolled himself in the Pennsylvania State University where he earned an M.A. in English in 1949. Wagoner is one of the prolific writers amongst the list of modern American literary scholars. He's been a recipient of many prestigious literary awards.
* The National Book Award for 'Collected Poems,' and the Pushcart Prize (1977)
* National Book Award for 'In Broken Country' (1979)
* Pushcart Prize (1983)
* Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize (1991)
* American Academy of Arts and Letters Award
* Sherwood Anderson Foundation Fiction Award
* Eunice Tjetjens Memorial and English-Speaking Union prizes from Poetry magazine
* Fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts
In 1978, he was selected to serve as the Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. He also served as the editor of Poetry Northwest, until its last issue, in 2002.

Wagoner enjoys a great reputation both as a writer and as a professor. Currently, he lives in Washington and teaches at the University of Washington, as a professor of poetry, fiction and play-writing.

I find this to be a very inspiring and comforting poem.

Lost by David Wagoner.

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you

Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,

And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,

Must ask permission to know it and be known.

The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,

I have made this place around you,

If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.

No two trees are the same to Raven.

No two branches are the same to Wren.

If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,

You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows

Where you are. You must let it find you.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Pangur Bán, an old Irish poem.

Post 593 - This poem was written in the 8th century by an unknown Irish Monk, a student at the Monastery of St. Paul on Reichenau Island in Lake Constance where Germany meets with Carinthia, Austria. Little did he know that 1,200 years later, others like me would fall in love with Pangur Bán, too.
This poem bears similarities to the poetry of Sedulius Scottus, leading to speculation that he might have been the author. The Irish loved cats; there's a fine book, The Comical Celtic Cat, by Norah Golden (Mountrath, Portlaoise: The Dolmen Press, 1984). By the way, Bán means white in Gaelic. This translation is by Robin Flower.

Pangur Bán

I and Pangur Bán, my cat
'Tis a like task we are at;
Hunting mice is his delight
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
'Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill will,
He too plies his simple skill.

'Tis a merry thing to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur's way:
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

'Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our tasks we ply,
Pangur Bán, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dancing The Boys Into Bed, a poem by Ethna McKiernan.

Post 592 - Ethna McKiernan is a Minneapolis poet. Her first book of poetry, Caravan, was published in 1990. About her second book, The One Who Swears You Can't Start Over, published in 2002, the Bloomsbury Review wrote, “McKiernan seems to write because she has to, and graces her verse with resonance because she can. She stands out among the ranks of poets for her ability to match language to subject, sound to sense.”

(I was thinking of Carolyn Plumley when I posted this poem....)

Dancing The Boys Into Bed by Ethna McKiernan.

Crazy with giggles, a knee-high tornado
is dancing my skirt into knots.
His younger brother's slung across my shoulder,
bobbing his head to some infant dream.

They are the princes of Baba
and I am the palace queen
with regal peanut butter on her cheek.
We are kissing the world goodnight,

skimming a child's cha-cha
across the wooden floor, prancing our feet
to the beat of the baby's hiccups
in the bedtime world of Baba.

Sway, boys, rock the giddy room
to bits. I'll blanket down the castle
and toss some stars above your cribs,
then gently dance you into sleep.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Two Voices, a poem by Philip Levine.

Post 591 - Philip Levine (born in January, 1928, in Detroit, Michigan) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet. He taught for many years at California State University, Fresno. Until recently he was the Distinguished Poet in Residence for the Creative Writing Program at New York University. Levine began to write poetry while he was going to night school at Wayne Wayne State University in Detroit and working days at one of that city's automobile manufacturing plants. He earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa, where he studied with Robert Lowell and John Berryman. Among his awards:
* 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry - The Simple Truth
* 1991 National Book Award - What Work Is
* 1979 National Book Critics Circle Award - Ashes: Poems New and Old
* 1979 American Book Award for Poetry - Ashes: Poems New and Old
* 1979 National Book Critics Circle Award - 7 Years from Somewhere
* 1975 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize - The Names of the Lost
* 1987 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize
* Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize from Poetry
* Frank O'Hara Prize
* Two Guggenheim Foundation fellowships

He says, "I listen to jazz about three hours a day. I love Louis Armstrong."

Two Voices by Philip Levine.

I heard a voice behind me in the street
calling my name. This was not years ago,
this was yesterday in Brooklyn, late spring
of the new year, the flowers - roses, tulips,
mock orange, pansies- promising their colors
along the promenade. I was on my way
to nothing, just ambling along, my head
altogether empty on a Saturday morning
in my seventy-third year. Not altogether empty,
for the flowers were in it, and the crowds
of kids in bright shirts and sweaters, young kids
with their parents in tow, and across the bay
there were the cliffs breaking through the haze
to call to the Heights, to belittle Brooklyn
as it always does. Then my name, “Philip,”
a huge voice, deep and resonant, unfamiliar
or if heard before, heard on radio or TV,
too sonorous for daily life. So, of course,
I turned to behold more kids on roller blades,
kids on skateboards, kids on foot, no one
especially aware of me. Waiting, awake now
as I had not been, certain the morning meant
more than I’d come looking for. The crowds
passed, the sun grew stronger, the day passed
into afternoon and I gave up at last and turned
for home half-believing I’d missed something.
Let’s say I phone you tonight and tell you
about my little adventure which came to nothing.
What will you think? Not what will you say,
you’ll say it was an illusion or you’ll say
there was a deep need in me to hear
that particular voice, or sometimes the voices
of the air - all the separate voices in so
public a place - can unite for a moment
to produce “Philip“ or “John” or “Robert”
or whatever we expect. I don’t know
what you’ll think, I’ve never known, even
when you and I were together, and I’d
waken in the false dawn to hear you
in the secret voice that was yours crying
out into the dark a name not mine.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Some interesting facts about brass monkeys........

Post 590 - I never knew this......until today

It was necessary to keep a good supply of cannon balls near the cannon on old war ships. But how to prevent them from rolling about the deck was the problem. The storage method devised was to stack them as a square based pyramid, with one ball on top, resting on four, resting on nine, which rested on sixteen.

Thus, a supply of 30 cannon balls could be stacked in a small area right next to the cannon. There was only one problem - how to prevent the bottom layer from sliding/rolling from under the others.

The solution was a metal plate with 16 round indentations, called, for reasons unknown, a Monkey. But if this plate were made of iron, the iron balls would quickly rust to it. The solution to the rusting problem was to make them of brass - hence, Brass Monkeys.

Few landlubbers realize that brass contracts much more and much faster than iron when chilled. Consequently, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannon balls would come right off the monkey.

Thus, it was quite literally, cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.

And all this time, I thought that this was just a vulgar expression.....