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.