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Posts tagged poetry

from "The Joys and Perils of Overlapping Reading," by Nate Barksdale, Comment, 10 December 2010

For much of my post-college reading life, I‘ve been interested in the experience of shifting between texts, in particular the way that, for a short spell, the text I shift to inhabits the same mental space as the one I’ve just left, so that the second book feels like an increasingly improbable continuation of the previous narrative. Say you’re reading Great Expectations and just as your expectations begin to flag, you switch volumes and the scenery becomes more agreeable, the prose less stultifying, the seedy incidental characters more plausibly named, till at last you give in to reality and admit that you’ve abandoned Dickens for Graham Greene. Better yet, you can shift genres entirely. Sociological surveys may suddenly, with a little sleight of hand, contain sonnets.

"Poetry by Meer Taqi Meer, a renown poet of India," paper, self-made ink and bamboo pen (2009), by Shanawaz Alam Ahmed, International Exhibition of Calligraphy :: via ephemera assemblyman
by Andy Crouch for Culture Making

Why is this night different from all other nights?

“At least he didn’t suffer,”
no one whispered, nor
“Now he is at peace.”
All those consolations
were denied them.

His eyes had been wild with pain.
In the grave who gives G–d praise?

The only miracle, so to speak,
was that death had come so quickly.

In that restless Sabbath darkness
(even as Sheol was sundered)
they huddled, shuddered,
watched, and wondered.

"To Winter," by William Blake, from Poetical Sketches, 1783

O Winter! bar thine adamantine doors:
The North is thine; there hast thou built thy dark
Deep-founded habitation. Shake not thy roofs,
Nor bend thy pillars with thine iron car.

He hears me not, but o’er the yawning deep
Rides heavy; his storms are unchained, sheathed
In ribbed steel; I dare not lift mine eyes;
For he hath reared his sceptre o’er the world.

Lo! now the direful monster, whose skin clings
To his strong bones, strides o’er the groaning rocks:
He withers all in silence, and in his hand
Unclothes the earth, and freezes up frail life.

He takes his seat upon the cliffs,—the mariner
Cries in vain. Poor little wretch, that deal’st
With storms!—till heaven smiles, and the monster
Is driv’n yelling to his caves beneath Mount Hecla.

from "If you were coming in the fall," by Emily Dickinson, from the first volume of her posthumous Poems, 1890 :: via Brooklyn College of the City University of New York

If you were coming in the fall,
I’d brush the summer by
With half a smile and half a spurn,
As housewives do a fly.

If I could see you in a year,
I’d wind the months in balls,
And put them each in separate drawers,
Until their time befalls.

If only centuries delayed,
I’d count them on my hand,
Subtracting till my fingers dropped
Into Van Diemens land.

If certain, when this life was out,
That yours and mine should be,
I’d toss it yonder like a rind,
And taste eternity.

But now, all ignorant of the length
Of time’s uncertain wing,
It goads me, like the goblin bee,
That will not state its sting.

garbage has to be the poem of our time because
garbage is spiritual, believable enough

to get our attention, getting in the way, piling
up, stinking, turning brooks brownish and

creamy white: what else deflects us from the
errors of our illusionary ways, not a temptation

to trashlessness, that is too far off, and,
anyway, unimaginable, unrealistic.

Garbage: A Poem, by A.R. Ammons, 1993 :: via The Curator

excerpt Tweet-worthy
from "The Meaning of a Tweet," by Rebecca Larson, IVP - Strangely Dim, 25 August 2009

This idea [of concise communication] certainly isn’t new. How about the book of Proverbs? “When words are many, sin is not absent, / but he who holds his tongue is wise” (10:19). At seventy-eight characters, including spaces and punctuation, eminently tweetable. What about memorable speeches? We don’t remember the whole speech. But the short quotes are bite-sized, so they stick. “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country” (seventy-nine characters). Long? No. Meaningful? Yes. Or how about song lyrics? “I have run, I have crawled, I have scaled these city walls, only to be with you. But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”—128 characters. Tweet it, baby.

This highly lauded poem by William Carlos Williams could be tweeted with 51 characters to spare:

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Or this Japanese Haiku:

old pond . . .
a frog leaps in
water’s sound

Simple. Beautiful. Tweet-worthy.


from "Mary Gannon, Editor of Poets & Writers Magazine," by Christy Tennant, IAM Conversations, 23 Jul 2009
Untitled (13 1/8 x 10 x 3 1/2 in; private collection), by Joseph Cornell, 1942

"A Whitman Tribute," KCRW's Bookworm, 2 April 2009
excerpt Adoration

Praise God, men and women dressed in brown, carrying your lives on your backs. Praise God, street-side café with your goggle-eyed Chihuahua sign. Praise God, scrap metal horse. Praise God, basement shop full of silky foreign scarves.

Praise God, shoe store so proud of being in Collegetown since before you were born.

Praise God, little tattoo parlor with the brass sign on your inner door, Confessions, 3-5 pm.

from "The Inauguration. At Last," by Maira Kalman, And the Pursuit of Happiness, 29 January 2009
from "Letter to a Young Poet," by Daniel Nayeri, The Curator, 16 January 2009

The poem, titled “Upon Reading Canada,” was an epistolary one-pager. No rhyme, meter, rhythm, or purposeful cadence worth mentioning—“free verse” would be what they aptly call it. It shared with Mr. Collins’s poetry only its general typographic shape. The rest was a haphazard cocksure motif of Billy Collins himself, cast as the heavy weight champion of the world. You see, boxing rings have lines in the form of boundary ropes, which you must grapple within. This is metaphorically similar to writing, which also incorporates lines—this time, of words.

You can see that the Muses had clearly favored me with a friend request.

repost Good bad art
a Ideas Blog post, 5 January 2009

Literature | Why Orwell liked “good bad” art, according to a review of his collected essays: Such works “had the advantage of propagandizing for humble and obvious ideas rather than dangerous, overambitious ones. Good bad books are written by ‘natural novelists … who seem to attain sincerity partly because they are not inhibited by good taste.’ ” [Pop Matters]

"To the Stone-Cutters," by Robinson Jeffers (1887–1962) :: via wood s lot

Stone-cutters fighting time with marble, you foredefeated Challengers of oblivion Eat cynical earnings, knowing rock splits, records fall down, The square-limbed Roman letters Scale in the thaws, wear in the rain. The poet as well Builds his monument mockingly; For man will be blotted out, the blithe earth die, the brave sun Die blind and blacken to the heart: Yet stones have stood for a thousand years, and pained thoughts found The honey of peace in old poems.


Here is Carnegie Hall. You have heard something of the great Beethoven and it has been charming, masterful in its power over the mind. We have been alleviated, strengthened against life—the enemy—by it. We go out of Carnegie into the subway and we can for a moment withstand the assault of that noise, failingly! as the strength of the music dies….

But as we came from Anthiel’s “Ballet Mechanique,” a woman of our party, herself a musician, made this remark: “The subway seems sweet after that.” “Good,” I replied and went on to consider what evidences there were in myself in explanation of her remark. And this is what I noted. I felt that noise, the unrelated noise of life such as this in the subway had not been battened out as would have been the case with Beethoven still warm in the mind but it had actually been mastered, subjugated. Antheil had taken this hated thing life and rigged himself into power over it by his music. The offense had not been held, cooled, varnished over but annihilated and life itself made thereby triumphant. This is an important difference. By hearing Antheil’s music, seemingly so much noise, when I actually came up on noise in reality, I found that I had gone up over it.

image Sorted books
from "Sorted Books," by Nina Katchadourian :: via Bob Carlton
from "Poetry for Primates," Fed by Birds, 20 September 2008

There’s been increased interest lately in monkey languages after discoveries were made about how putty-nosed monkeys combine sounds to create a basic syntax:

* Hack-hack-hack-hack: “There’s an eagle over there!” * Pyow-hack-hack-pyow-pyow-pyow: “I’ve seen a leopard, let’s move away!” * Hack-hack-hack-pyow-hack-hack-hack-hack-hack “There’s an eagle over there, let’s move away!”

But research at the Great Ape Trust using the sign language Yerkish reveals the primates are capable of far more linguistic sophistication. Primate Poetics sets out a manifesto to enrich this new language, starting, ambitiously, with a translation of the epic Gilgamesh:

“We will learn Yerkish. We will translate human literature into Yerkish. We will invent words, word-tricks, word-jokes, word-games to show the apes new ways of using (their) language. We will become knowledgeable and original enough to be invited by the researchers of the Great Ape Trust to read our Yerkish translation of Gilgamesh to Kanzi, Panbanisha and all the others.

“We are not here to compare and to compete with the ape but to appreciate its language for its own beauty. This is emphatically not about some lone genius monkey penning the Great Primate Novel.”

video Turf-cutting

from "Cutting Peats," by lyndafiddle/YouTube, 10 July 2007
"Blacksmith Shop", from Provinces: Poems 1987-91, by Czeslaw Milosz, translated from the Polish by the author and Leonard Nathan

Blacksmith Shop

I liked the bellows operated by rope. A hand or a foot pedal - I don’t remember. But that blowing and blazing of fire! And a piece of iron in the fire, held there by tongs, Red, softened, ready for the anvil, Beaten with a hammer, bent into a horseshoe, Thrown in a bucket of water, sizzle, steam.

And horses hitched to be shod, Tossing their manes; and in the grass by the river Plowshares, sledge runners, harrows waiting for repair.

At the entrance, my bare feet on the dirt floor, Here, gusts of heat; at my back, white clouds, I stare and stare. It seems I was called for this: To glorify things just because they are.