Tag Archives: poetry

Poets chase fall and its opposite

I can’t describe exactly what leads to put these three links together. Two are poems, and one is an essay by a poet. They all remind me of fall. None of the three are too cold or set late in the year. But they all contain an idea of early darkness — some of them clearly and others less so — and, most importantly, consider how to push back. Or set themselves apart from it.

Vespers” by Louise Gluck.

In your extended absence, you permit me
use of earth, anticipating
some return on investment. I must report
failure in my assignment, principally
regarding the tomato plants.

Elegy for the Living” by Kathryn Simmons. “We wash up side by side / to find each other / in the speakable world, / and, lulled into sense, / inhabit our landscape….”

And an essay, “Omphalos: Returning to the troubles of a Northern Irish childhood” by poet Colette Bryce, who gives us a great word and stories.

I write about you all the time

Dan Chaisson’s review of Louise Gluck’s new book is a good piece that finds a great passage, true for just about any blogger, myself included.

My mother and father stood in the cold
on the front steps. My mother stared at me,
a daughter, a fellow female.
You never think of us, she said.

We read your books when they reach heaven.
Hardly a mention of us anymore, hardly a mention of your sister.

Then later:

I write about you all the time, I said aloud.
Every time I say “I,” it refers to you.

Leadership in poetry is making the case for poetry

The Post’s On Leadership series talks to poet Billy Collins, and he quickly swings the conversation away from himself to how a medium can lead.

Certainly one thing a poem can do is give you an imaginative pleasure by taking you places very suddenly that prose can’t take you, because poetry enjoys the broadest and deepest and highest and most thrilling level of imaginative freedom of any of the written arts.

Another thing poetry can do is connect you with the history of human emotion. That’s why at critical points in our lives, at funerals or weddings or other rituals, often a poem is read. The poem shows us that these emotions, love and grief, have been going on through the centuries; and that the emotion we’re feeling today is not just our emotion, it’s the human emotion.

Poetry is the only history we have of human emotions. Most history books, what we call history books, are stories of battles and treaties, negotiations and beheadings and coronations. But poetry is the only reminder of this very essential part of being human, which is one’s emotional life and all the dimensions it entails.

Weekend as ‘a small anti-seed’

Been off the work grid for a few days. Here’s what I’ve been reading.

Kay Ryan, “In Case of Complete Reversal,” in the new issue of Poetry.

Born into each seed
is a small anti-seed
useful in case of some
complete reversal…

Douglas Kearney, “Afrofuturism (Blanche says, “Meh”)“.

are we there yet?
are we we yet?
are we we there?
are there we there yet?
are we here yet there?
there, there.

Edward Thomas, “Lights Out.” Posted a link to this one last week, finding it a beautiful poem about the powerless and strangely desire-less feeling of falling asleep. Rereading after learning he wrote it while deep in WWI.

Danez Smith, “alternate names for black boys.” I was bummed this poem didn’t run in Poetry‘s Poem of the Day feed this month. Given the events of the month, how could the magazine not mention one of the best poems it’s published this year? But apparently I was just looking in the wrong place. Editors reran a link, with several follow-ups, on the magazine’s Twitter.

Eavan Boland, “The Lost Art of Letter Writing.” This one kills me. It will probably do the same to you. It will raise up every letter you haven’t sent, every story or emotion or interest or question you’ve wanted to share but failed to put into words, and dump them all over your slow mortal head.

The ratio of daylight to handwriting
Was the same as lacemaking to eyesight.

Poems for returning to work

The opposite of my weekend-arrival-poetry post the other day. The morning comes a little too early. The weather a little too hot. Etc.

Rodrigo Toscano, “At a Bus Stop in El Barrio.”

Tha’ vahnahnah go-een to keel joo.

Excuse me?

Tha’ vahnahnah    …    go-een to keel joo.

I’m sorry, I don’t understand.

Alexa Selph, “Market Forecast.”

Adjectives continue
their downward spiral,
with adverbs likely to follow.

Katharine Coles, “The Same Old Riddle.”

We keep trying to kill it, split it, hack
It to itsy bits. We suspend it
On the wall where we can see it
Passing. We hang it around our necks

Michael Earl Craig, “Advice for Horsemen.”

When trying to catch a horse it helps if you look away.
Eye contact just pisses them off.

Dean Young, “Romanticism 101.”

Then I realized I hadn’t secured the boat.
Then I realized my friend had lied to me.
Then I realized my dog was gone
no matter how much I called in the rain.
All was change.

Poem that stuck this summer

Because… so different, powerful, net-dropping, or all of the above.

James Baldwin, “Untitled.” Possible about the maturing of the civil rights movement. Or about celebrity. In either case, gently stunning. First lines: “Lord, / when you send the rain, / think about it, please, / a little?”

Caroline Bergvall’s “From ‘DRIFT.’ ” Part words and part images, the poem begins with pages of rough lines and slashes and builds to words blowing apart into their letters in what seems to be a storm at sea. Seems to be.

Ada Limon, “State Bird.” Metaphor breaks your heart.

Samiya Bashir, “Carnot Cycle.” Beautiful application of geology to life. Made me look up what in the world the Carnot Cycle was. Wikipedia:

The Carnot cycle is a theoretical thermodynamic cycle proposed by Nicolas Léonard Sadi Carnot in 1824…. It can be shown that it is the most efficient cycle for converting a given amount of thermal energy into work, or conversely, creating a temperature difference (e.g. refrigeration) by doing a given amount of work.

Gabrielle Calvocoressi, “Captain Lovell, [‘My eyes are shaky and glimmer like the stars’].” Don’t read too quickly. Opens itself on reread, research.

My eyes are shaky and glimmer like the stars.
My head turns to the left and it moves
just like a pendulum. The kids laugh and shake
it back to me, all the ways I’m stupid,
not like them. But I know how the grass sounds
when the locusts come, like a spaceship
taking off and how it makes the air shake.

It turns out Calvocoressi is writing about her nystagmus, a condition “of involuntary eye movement, acquired in infancy or later in life, that may result in reduced or limited vision.” And Calvocoressi creates this with it.

April Bernard, “Anger.”

When, during my travels along the Gulf Coast,
the intruder returned in the night
and I did not call the cops again but stood
with a butcher knife facing the door, yelling, “Come in!”
although this time it was just the wind flapping
and banging the screen door — 

Tim Seibles, “Mosaic.” One of the longest and most enrapturing Poetry‘s published this year. “In America skin was / where you belonged, a who / you were with, a reason / someone might: how — at the / parties of hands unknown — / astonishing deaths / could meet you.”

Jane Hirshfield, “My Life Was the Size of My Life.”

My life was the size of my life.
Its rooms were room-sized,
its soul was the size of a soul.

Mary Karr, “Descending Theology: The Resurrection.”

Poems that start the weekend

The stresses, discontents, all melting or traded away for better. So, seven poems and two joyous art-poems I’ve found here and there this summer…

Matthew Sweeney, “Gold.”

After the murder, I called a meeting
to see if we were happy. I declared
I was not — I said I liked the man
we shot. You all disagreed with this.

Joanie Mackowski, “Consciousness.”

How it is fickle, leaving one alone to wander

the halls of the skull with the fluorescents
softly flickering. It rests on the head

like a bird nest, woven of twigs and tinsel
and awkward as soon as one stops to look.

Elaine Equi, “Still Life #1.”

Look deep into the blueberry eyes of breakfast.

Joshua Mehigan, “The Fair.”

The fair slid into town just as a clown
slides into pants. The fit was loose but right.

Mitch Roberson, “Every Day We Are Dancers.”

It begins with the lewd macarena
each of us performs in the shower,
then the modified twist we are hip to
with that ever-absorbent partner, the towel

Tony Fitzpatrick, “The Atomic Oriole.”

Gary J. Whitehead, “Making Love in the Kitchen.”

We do it with knives in hand,
blue tongues licking the bottoms of pots,
steam fogging the windows from hearts
of artichokes being strained.

Rita Dove, “Flirtation.”

Outside the sun
has rolled up her rugs

and night strewn salt
across the sky. My heart

is humming a tune
I haven’t heard in years!

Mary Mapes Dodge, “The Moon Came Late.”

Dealing with the days

The Age Demanded” by Ernest Hemingway

The age demanded that we sing
And cut away our tongue.

My head has been too stuck in the above mode this last month. Too much going on, too many hours at the office, sapping the good stuff of life too quickly and consistently, before the tree can replenish itself, and I haven’t been feeling myself. Or reading. Or watching movies. Or just being happy.

But like I said the other day, Maine was restorative. And gave glimpses of an alternative life. And has come amid serious digging. Digging out of the hole, catching up with what overtook me earlier this year and especially this summer. I’m starting to have some success there, I think. We’ll see.

So, I’ve moved on to poems about digging out and replenishing.

Living with the News” by W.S. Merwin.

Can I get used to it day after day
a little at a time while the tide keeps
coming in faster the waves get bigger
building on each other breaking records

We grow accustomed to the Dark-” by Emily Dickinson.

The Bravest – grope a little –
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead –
But as they learn to see -

Ways of Talking” by Ha Jin.

After losing a land and then giving up a tongue,
we stopped talking of grief
Smiles began to brighten our faces.
We laugh a lot, at our own mess.

Heart” by Sue Song.

Forgive those years I left you
pounding your Morse of grief, alone—

On the other side of refilling, I hear there are good things and good sleep.

Send Me a Leaf” by Bertolt Brecht.

Lights Out” by Edward Thomas.

Here love ends,
Despair, ambition ends;
All pleasure and all trouble,
Although most sweet or bitter,
Here ends in sleep that is sweeter
Than tasks most noble.

More NoMa graffiti poems

After I posted about the Robert Frost graffiti on the sidewalk a block from NPR HQ, friends alerted me to sibling graffiti nearby at NoMa Metro.

noma-poetry

“With out you, today’s emotions are just the scurf of yesterdays” is a line from Amelie. Which was a terrific movie and poetic in many ways. But the source adds new mystery. Is the graffiti artist trying to broaden our poetic definitions? Or random grabbing from a quote site? The theme certainly fits with that of the Frost quote: sadness at loss of someone close.

And — Jess pointed me toward the New Yorker blog post about mysterious poetry turning up in Central Park. (In the last month, I’ve fallen so behind on my reading. It’s the worst.) About the placard found: “I was enchanted to find a park sign filled with poetry rather than the usual mishmash of information, rules, and thinly veiled threats. And such doting poetry: the park, the sign implied, had not been entirely beautiful without me….”

There’s apparently one more poem near the Metro. I think I’ve seen it but only too quickly in passing. Need to photograph and look it up.

Frost was here

frost-sidewalk

Spray-painted verse appeared the other week on a sidewalk near work. I took a pic and planned to look it up later. I remembered the photo today and the source came up quickly: the end of Robert Frost’s “Reluctance.”

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?

Wonderful — and what a mystery. Cool Disco Bob! How often does Frost get graffiti? Who’s the writer? A graffitist with a MFA and a broken heart?

Who’s the intended recipient? An NPR staffer? A resident of the next-door apartments? They make up most of the people walking that way down the block. Are there other verses in the neighborhood? I hate to see graffiti in a beautifully rebuilt block. But I also wonder if any others find this mystery intriguing and a little warming. Does good graffiti makes good neighbors?