Thursday, April 30, 2009

National Poetry Month Day 30

e e cummings

Edward Estlin Cummings was born October 14, 1894 in the town of Cambridge Massachusetts. His father, and most constant source of awe, Edward Cummings, was a professor of Sociology and Political Science at Harvard University. In 1900, Edward left Harvard to become the ordained minister of the South Congregational Church, in Boston. As a child, E.E. attended Cambridge public schools and lived during the summer with his family in their summer home in Silver Lake, New Hampshire. (Kennedy 8-9) E.E. loved his childhood in Cambridge so much that he was inspired to write disputably his most famous poem, "In Just-" (Lane pp. 26-27)

Not so much in, "In Just-" but Cummings took his father's pastoral background and used it to preach in many of his other poems. In "you shall above all things be glad and young," Cummings preaches to the reader in verse telling them to love with naivete and innocence, rather than listen to the world and depend on their mind.

Attending Harvard, Cummings studied Greek and other languages (p. 62). In college, Cummings was introduced to the writing and artistry of Ezra Pound, who was a large influence on E.E. and many other artists in his time (pp. 105-107). After graduation, Cummings volunteered for the Norton-Haries Ambulance Corps. En-route to France, Cummings met another recruit, William Slater Brown. The two became close friends, and as Brown was arrested for writing incriminating letters home, Cummings refused to separate from his friend and the two were sent to the La Ferte Mace concentration camp. The two friends were finally freed, only due to the persuasion of Cummings' father.

This experience proved quite instrumental to Cummings writing; The Enormous Room is Cummings' autobiographical account of his time in the internment camp. E.E. was extremely cautious to attempt to publish The Enormous Room, however after great persuasion by his father, Cummings finally had a copy of the manuscript sent to Boston to be read. (Kennedy p. 213) Cummings greatest fan, Edward wrote after reading his son's manuscript, "I am sure now that you [E.E] are a great writer, and as proud of it now, as I shall be when the world finds out." (p. 213)

Cummings and Brown returned back to the states in January only to see Cummings drafted back to the war that summer. When Cummings returned after the armistice, he moved back in with Brown and soon met his first wife, Elaine Orr (p. 165). In 1920, Cummings began to concentrate on his writing and painting. For the next six years, Cummings wrote many pieces of work, Tulips and Chimneys (1923), & (1925), XLI Poems (1925), and Is 5 (1926). Also during that time, Cummings and Elaine's marriage ended in a rather complicated divorce. Cummings had no concept of how to treat his new wife correctly, so she found herself love in the arms of another man (p. 264).

In the same year that Is 5 was published, Cummings' father was abruptly killed and his mother was injured seriously in a car accident. With his new love-interest, Anne Barton, Cummings found out of his father's death at a small party in New York. Cummings and his sister, Elizabeth, immediately rushed to their mother's bedside. Although she was not expected to live through the week, Rebecca was inspired by her children to continue living and she miraculously survived a fractured skull. E.E. explained the catastrophe in these words,

"... a locomotive cut the car in half, killing my father instantly. When two brakemen jumped from the halted train, they saw a woman standing- dazed but erect- beside a mangled machine; with blood spouting (as the older said to me) out of her head. One of her hands (the younger added) kept feeling her dress, as if trying to discover why it was wet. These men took my sixty-six year old mother by the arms and tried to lead her toward a nearby farmhouse; but she threw them off, strode straight to my father's body, and directed a group of scared spectators to cover him. When this had been done (and only then) she let them lead her away." (Kennedy 293)
Cummings' father was an incredible influence on his work. At his death, Cummings' entered "a new poetic period." (p. 386) His father's death sobered E.E. to write about more important facets of life. Cummings began his new era of poetry by paying tribute to his father's memory in his poem, "my father moved through dooms of love" (Lane p. 41ñ43). This poem, used to cope with the death of his role model, was not a somber funeral drone, but rather, a celebration of the life and love that his father brought to Cummings' life and poetry. While making notes about his father, Cummings wrote, "He was the handsomest man I ever saw. Big was my father and strong with lightblue skies for eyes." (Kennedy p. 385)

From his father's death to 1932, Cummings survived a poor showing of his play Him (1927), and published two other works of his artistic talents in CIOPW (1931), and ViVa (1931). Cummings also successfully married and divorced Anne Barton in the five years after the accident that took his father away from him (p. 296). 1932 is an important year for Cummings because it is the year that he met the woman that he would ultimately spent his remaining life with. Marion Morehouse was twelve years younger than E.E. It is uncertain whether E.E. and Marion ever officially exchanged vows, although their role in each other's lives was certainly that of husband and wife (p. 338-340).

With a beautiful "wife", Cummings traveled the world. He ventured to Tunisia, Russia, Mexico, and France, among many other visits he made to lands across the Atlantic. Throughout these trips, Cummings manages to publish eight works: The Red Front (1933), Eimi (1933), No Thanks (1935), Tom (1935), Collected Poems (1940), 1x 1 (1944), and Santa Claus (1946). In Europe, Cummings wrote many anti-war poems in protesting America's involvement in Europe and the Pacific. E.E. wrote the poem "plato told" to continue the work that his late-father had done as the Executive Secretary of the World Peace Foundation. (Kennedy p. 286) His work was cut short for a brief period with the sudden deterioration of his mother's health. In January of 1947, Rebecca suffered a stroke and was put into a coma. She died a couple weeks later, never regaining consciousness. One of his poems was read at her funeral service, "if there are any heavens." (p. 413)

This memorial for Cummings mother is a true testament to the knowledge that E.E. had about his parents' love. He paints a picture to the reader of Cummings father waiting in heaven for his wife (Cummings' mother). His parents are described as strong and determined spirits, yet they have a comforting demeanor. Obvious from this poem, Cummings truly loved his parents, and had a sense of closure knowing that with his mother's death, the two were finally together.

Fifteen years after his mother's death, Edward Estlin Cummings collapsed from a cerebral hemorrhage at his summer home in Joy Farm. Soon after his death, three more volumes of his verse were published (p. 484). Counting these works, Cummings died leaving behind over twenty-five books of prose, poetry, charcoal and pencil drawings, plays and stories. He did all this in his sixty-eight years of life.

in Just-

in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little lame baloonman

whistles far and wee

and eddyandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old baloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and


baloonMan whistles

i thank you God for most this amazing

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
wich is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

National Poetry Month, Day 29

Jenny Joseph

Jenny Joseph (born 7 May 1932) is one of the UK's foremost living poets.

She was born in Birmingham, and studied English literature at St Hilda's College, Oxford, before becoming a journalist. She has worked for the Bedfordshire Times, the Oxford Mail and Drum Publications (Johannesburg, South Africa).

Her first collection of poetry was published in 1960. The poem entitled Warning, a witty poem about growing old, is her most popular work, and the inspiration for the Red Hat Society. A BBC poll found it to be the most popular 20th Century poem.

In 1995, she was awarded a travelling scholarship by the Society of Authors. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.


When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandles, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

National Poetry Month, Day 28

I didn't do this on purpose but it is perfect. Today is the anniversary of the death of today's poet...


WILLIAM WORDSWORTH was born at Cockermouth, Cumberland County, England, April 7, 1770, and he died on April 28, 1850. He was buried by the side of his daughter in the beautiful churchyard of Grasmere.

His father was law agent to Sir James Lowther, afterward Earl of Lonsdale, but he died when William was in his seventh year.

The poet attended school first at Hawkshead School, then at Cambridge University. William was also entered at St. Johns in 1787. Having finished his academical course, Wordsworth, in 1790, in company with Mr. Robert James, a fellow-student, made a tour on the continent. With this friend Wordsworth made a tour in North Wales the following year, after taking his degree in college. He was again in France toward the close of the year 1791, and remained in that country about a twelvemonth. He had hailed the French Revolution with feelings of enthusiastic admiration.

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive
But to be young was very heaven.

A young friend, Raisley Calvert, dying in 1795, left him a sum. A further sum came to him as a part of the estate of his father, who died intestate; and with this small competence Wordsworth devoted himself to study and seclusion.

In 1793, in his twenty-third year, he appeared before the world as an author, in "Descriptive Sketches" and "The Evening Walk." The sketches were made from his tour in Switzerland with his friend, and the Walk was among the mountains of Westmoreland.

In 1795 Wordsworth and his sister were living at Racedown Lodge, in Somersetshire, where, in 1797, they were visited by Coleridge. The meeting was mutually pleasant, and a life-long friendship was the result. The intimate relations thus established induced Wordsworth and his sister to change their home for a residence near Coleridge, at Alfoxen, near Neither Stowey. In this new home the poet composed many of his lighter poems, also the "Borderers," a tragedy, which was rejected by the Covent Garden Theatre. In 1797 appeared his "Lyrical Ballads," which also contained Coleridge's "Ancient Mariner."

In 1798, in company with his sister and Coleridge, he went to Germany, where he spent some time at Hamburg, Ratzeburg and Goslar. Returning to England, he took up his residence at Grasmere, in Westmoreland. In 1800 he reprinted his "Lyrical Ballads" with some additions, making two volumes. Two years later he married Mary Hutchinson, to whom he addressed, the beautiful lines, "She was a Phantom of Delight." In 1802, Wordsworth, with his sister and his friend Coleridge, visited Scotland. This visit formed one of the most important periods of his literary life, as it led to the composition of some of his finest lighter poems. In 1805 he completed the "Prelude, or Growth of my own Mind," a poem written in blank verse, but not published till after the author's death. In the same year he also wrote his "Waggoner," but did not publish it till in 1819. At this time he purchased a cottage and small estate at the head of Ulleswater, Lord Lonsdale generously assisting him. In 1807 he published two volumes of "Poems."

In the spring of 1813 he removed from Grasmere to Royal Mount, where he remained for the rest of his life, a period of thirty-seven years. Here were passed his brightest days. He enjoyed retirement and almost perfect happiness, as seen in his lines:

Long have I loved what I behold,
The night that calms, the day that cheers;
The common growth of mother-earth
Suffices me--her tears, her mirth,
Her humblest mirth and tears.

The dragon's wing, the magic ring,
I shall not covet for my dower,
If I along that lowly way
With sympathetic heart may stray,
And with a soul of power.

At the same time he commenced to write poems of a higher order, thus greatly extending the circle of his admirers. In 1814 he published "The Excursion," a philosophical poem in blank verse. By viewing man in connection with external nature, the poet blends his metaphysics with pictures of life and scenery. To build up and strengthen the powers of the mind, in contrast to the operations of sense, was ever his object. Like Bacon, Wordsworth would rather have believed all the fables in the Talmud and Alcoran, than that this universal frame is without a mind--or that mind does not, by its external symbols, speak to the human heart. He lived under the habitual away of nature:

To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

The removal of the poet to Rydal was marked by an incident of considerable importance in his personal history. Through the influence of the Earl of Lonsdale, he was appointed distributor of stamps in the county of Westmoreland, which added greatly to his income without engrossing all of his time. He was now placed beyond the frowns of Fortune--if Fortune can ever be said to have frowned on one so independent of her smiles. The subsequent works of the poet were numerous--"The White Doe of Rylstone," a romantic narrative poem, yet colored with his peculiar genius; "Sonnets on the River Duddon" "The Waggoner;" "Peter Bell;" "Ecclesiastical Sketches;" "Yarrow Revisited," and others. His fame was extending rapidly. The universities of Durham and Oxford conferred academic honors upon him. Upon the death of his friend Southey, in 1843, he was made Poet Laureate of England, and the crown gave him a pension of per annum. Thus his income was increased and honors were showered upon him, making glad the closing years of his life. But sadness found its way into his household in 1847, caused by the death of his only daughter, Dora, then Mrs. Quillinan. Wordsworth survived the shock but three years, having reached the advanced age of eighty, always enjoying robust health and writing his poems in the open air. He died in 1850, on the anniversary of St. George, the patron saint of England.

I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling leaves in glee;
A poet could not be but gay,
In such a jocund company!
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Lines Written In Early Spring

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And 'tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:--
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature's holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

National Poetry Month, Day 27

Today is the birthday of my beloved, and so today's poem is for her:

Fairy Queen

Beautiful as Beauty is which does not know its face is fair.
Rare and precious as a diamond hidden in a pirate's lair.
In her heart no thought except how best to meet another's need…
Always looking for the next most helpful, selfless word or deed.
Never first to speak a word of argument or injury.
All the beauty of an April day; This is my love, to me.

Keeping faith forever once her lips have passed her given word.
In her speech no trace of other's private sayings e'er is heard.
Reaching out without a murmur, helping before help is asked.
Simply keeping on each day to complete all with which she's tasked.
Tender to each child, each creature, each who comes with tears of pain.
Even when her own is greater, no one ever asks in vain.
No one more beloved. She is all that ever I need gain.

Blessed is the day upon which she, beloved, came to Earth.
Once in all the world was such a fairy treasure given birth.
Once alone was such a lovely woman's heart decreed to grow
Surely Someone wiser was the first to understand and know
Every way her love would bless my life. May it be ever so!!

For my love on her birthday, April 25, 2009

Saturday, April 25, 2009

National Poetry Month, Day 26

Today was Earth Jam, and I came home so cold I thought I was going to die. Hence, one of my favourite death poems, by a little-known poet. Here you go...

Helen Hunt Jackson

Helen Hunt Jackson was born on October 18, 1831 as Helen Maria Fiske. She was born and raised in Amherst, Massachusetts. Helen Maria Fiske. Helen grew up in a literary atmosphere and she was herself a poet and writer of children’s stories, novels, and essays. She published her work under the pen name of H.H.H. Her poetry was the outflow of deep sympathetic thought on the problem of life’s trials and temptations. Her verses were strong and noble, never giving attention to mere prettiness of verse. One of her early works, “Bits of Travel”, revealed the humorous side of her nature. With friendly merriment she describes human nature.

Soon, Helen’s interests turned to the plight of the American Indian. As a keen and sympathetic observer, her attention was attracted by the unfair treatment our American Indians received at the hands of government agents. Her interest in the American Indians began in Boston in 1879 at a lecture by Chief Standing Bear, who described the ill-treatment of the Ponca Indians in Nebraska. Helen was furious by what she heard, but being well balanced by nature, she made a painstaking study of the situation. She kept her feelings in check and searched for facts. When she was at last fully equipped for her work, she took up the pen in defense of the wronged Indian.

Because she was in poor health at the time, she wrote with desperate haste. “A Century of Dishonor” appeared calling for change from the base, selfish policy to a treatment characterized by humanity and justice.

Her next step was to cast her material in the form of fiction to reach a wider circle of readers. She wrote “Ramona”, which was her supreme effort. it was in every way a noble book and gave Helen lasting fame. “Ramona” first appeared as a serial in the “Christian Union”, because she was anxious to get the story out.

Helen died in San Francisco on August 12, 1885, while she was examining the condition of the California Indians as a special government commissioner.


My body, eh? Friend Death, how now?
Why all this tedious pomp of writ?
Thou hast reclaimed it sure and slow
For half a century bit by bit.

In faith thou knowest more to-day
Than I do, where it can be found!
This shrivelled lump of suffering clay,
To which I am now chained and bound,

Has not of kith or kin a trace
To the good body once I bore;
Look at this shrunken, ghastly face:
Didst ever see that face before?

Ah, well, friend Death, good friend thou art;
Thy only fault thy lagging gait,
Mistaken pity in thy heart
For timorous ones that bid thee wait.

Do quickly all thou hast to do,
Nor I nor mine will hindrance make;
I shall be free when thou art through;
I grudge thee nought that thou must take!

Stay! I have lied; I grudge thee one,
Yes, two I grudge thee at this last,--
Two members which have faithful done
My will and bidding in the past.

I grudge thee this right hand of mine;
I grudge thee this quick-beating heart;
They never gave me coward sign,
Nor played me once the traitor's part.

I see now why in olden days
Men in barbaric love or hate
Nailed enemies' hands at wild crossways,
Shrined leaders' hearts in costly state:

The symbol, sign and instrument
Of each soul's purpose, passion, strife,
Of fires in which are poured and spent
Their all of love, their all of life.

O feeble, mighty human hand!
O fragile, dauntless human heart!
The universe holds nothing planned
With such sublime, transcendent art!

Yes, Death, I own I grudge thee mine
Poor little hand, so feeble now;
Its wrinkled palm, its altered line,
Its veins so pallid and so slow --

Ah, well, friend Death, good friend thou art;
I shall be free when thou art through.
Take all there is -- take hand and heart;
There must be somewhere work to do

Friday, April 24, 2009

National Poetry Month, Day 25

Of course this is a day late...Shakespeare's birthday was yesterday. And perhaps it seems painfully obvious. But yesterday was a woman poet day in my matrix (Virgo OCD, yannow), and so few people think of Shakespeare as a poet rather than a dramatist that I think the obvious is worth stating at least once. So, enjoy the Bard of Avon, courtesy of the Bard of SLC...

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564, in Stratford-on-Avon. The son of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden, he was probably educated at the King Edward IV Grammar School in Stratford, where he learned Latin and a little Greek and read the Roman dramatists. At eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway, a woman seven or eight years his senior. Together they raised two daughters: Susanna, who was born in 1583, and Judith (whose twin brother died in boyhood), born in 1585.

Little is known about Shakespeare's activities between 1585 and 1592. Robert Greene's A Groatsworth of Wit alludes to him as an actor and playwright. Shakespeare may have taught at school during this period, but it seems more probable that shortly after 1585 he went to London to begin his apprenticeship as an actor. Due to the plague, the London theaters were often closed between June 1592 and April 1594. During that period, Shakespeare probably had some income from his patron, Henry Wriothesley, earl of Southampton, to whom he dedicated his first two poems, Venus and Adonis (1593) and The Rape of Lucrece (1594). The fomer was a long narrative poem depicting the rejection of Venus by Adonis, his death, and the consequent disappearance of beauty from the world. Despite conservative objections to the poem's glorification of sensuality, it was immensely popular and was reprinted six times during the nine years following its publication.

In 1594, Shakespeare joined the Lord Chamberlain's company of actors, the most popular of the companies acting at Court. In 1599 Shakespeare joined a group of Chamberlain's Men that would form a syndicate to build and operate a new playhouse: the Globe, which became the most famous theater of its time. With his share of the income from the Globe, Shakespeare was able to purchase New Place, his home in Stratford.

While Shakespeare was regarded as the foremost dramatist of his time, evidence indicates that both he and his world looked to poetry, not playwriting, for enduring fame. Shakespeare's sonnets were composed between 1593 and 1601, though not published until 1609. That edition, The Sonnets of Shakespeare, consists of 154 sonnets, all written in the form of three quatrains and a couplet that is now recognized as Shakespearean. The sonnets fall into two groups: sonnets 1-126, addressed to a beloved friend, a handsome and noble young man, and sonnets 127-152, to a malignant but fascinating "Dark Lady," whom the poet loves in spite of himself. Nearly all of Shakespeare's sonnets examine the inevitable decay of time, and the immortalization of beauty and love in poetry.

In his poems and plays, Shakespeare invented thousands of words, often combining or contorting Latin, French and native roots. His impressive expansion of the English language, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, includes such words as: arch-villain, birthplace, bloodsucking, courtship, dewdrop, downstairs, fanged, heartsore, hunchbacked, leapfrog, misquote, pageantry, radiance, schoolboy, stillborn, watchdog, and zany.

Shakespeare wrote more than 30 plays. These are usually divided into four categories: histories, comedies, tragedies, and romances. His earliest plays were primarily comedies and histories such as Henry VI and The Comedy of Errors, but in 1596, Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet, his second tragedy, and over the next dozen years he would return to the form, writing the plays for which he is now best known: Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra. In his final years, Shakespeare turned to the romantic with Cymbeline, A Winter's Tale, and The Tempest.

Only eighteen of Shakespeare's plays were published separately in quarto editions during his lifetime; a complete collection of his works did not appear until the publication of the First Folio in 1623, several years after his death. Nonetheless, his contemporaries recognized Shakespeare's achievements. Francis Meres cited "honey-tongued" Shakespeare for his plays and poems in 1598, and the Chamberlain's Men rose to become the leading dramatic company in London, installed as members of the royal household in 1603.

Sometime after 1612, Shakespeare retired from the stage and returned to his home in Stratford. He drew up his will in January of 1616, which included his famous bequest to his wife of his "second best bed." He died on April 23, 1616, and was buried two days later at Stratford Church.

A Selected Bibliography


The Rape of Lucrece (1594)
The Sonnets of Shakespeare (1609)
Venus and Adonis (1593)


A Midsummer Night's Dream (1595)
All's Well that Ends Well (1602)
Antony and Cleopatra (1607)
As You Like It (1599)
Coriolanus (1608)
Cymbeline (1609)
Hamlet (1600)
Henry IV (1597)
Henry V (1598)
Henry VI (Parts I, II, and III) (1590)
Henry VIII (1612)
Julius Caesar (1599)
King John (1596)
King Lear (1605)
Love's Labour's Lost (1593)
Macbeth (1606)
Measure for Measure (1604)
Much Ado About Nothing (1598)
Othello (1604)
Pericles (1608)
Richard II (1595)
Richard III (1594)
Romeo and Juliet (1596)
The Comedy of Errors (1590)
The Merchant of Venice (1596)
The Merry Wives of Windsor (1597)
The Taming of the Shrew (1593)
The Tempest (1611)
The Winter's Tale (1610)
Timon of Athens (1607)
Titus Andronicus (1590)
Troilus and Cressida (1600)
Twelfth Night (1599)
Two Gentlemen of Verona (1592)

Sonnet 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love ’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error, and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

Sonnet 130

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII [All the world's a stage]

Jaques to Duke Senior

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

National Poetry Month, Day 24

Gwendolyn Brooks

The African American poet Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks was born June 7, 1917, to Keziah and David Brooks in Topeka, Kansas. Later that year the Brooks family moved to Chicago, where her two siblings were born. Brooks' mother discovered Gwendolyn's gift for writing when she was seven. She promptly encouraged this talent by exposing the girl to various forms of literature. Her parents, however were very strict and she was not allowed to play with the kids in the neighborhood. As a child she lacked the sass and brass of the other girls in her class and became very isolated. As a result, she made few friends while in school. When Brooks was at home in her room she often created a world of her own by reading and writing stories and poetry. Due to her lack of social skills she became very shy and continued to be shy throughout her adult life. After graduating from high school she went on to Wilson Junior College and graduated in 1936. Her early verses appeared in the Chicago Defender, a newspaper written primarily for the black community of Chicago. In 1939 she was married to Henry Blakely and they had two children, Henry junior and Nora Blakely. In 1945 Gwendolyn Brooks' first book entitled A Street In Bronzeville was published. In 1949 Annie Allen (a loosely-connected series of poems related to a black girl's growing up in Chicago) was published and received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1950, becoming the first African American to receive this prestigious award in poetry. In 1953 Brooks' first novel is published Maud Martha. In 1963 she published Selected Poems and secured her first teaching job at Chicago's Columbia College. In 1967 at the Fisk University Writers Conference in Nashville, Brooks met the new black revolution. She came from South Dakota State College, which was all white, where she was received with love. Now she had arrived at an all black college where she was now coldly respected. After this trip Brooks says that she is no longer asleep she is now awake. After 1967 she became aware that other blacks feel that way and are not hesitant about saying it. She appeals to her people for understanding and is more conscious of them in her writing. In 1968 she published her next major collection of poetry, In the Mecca. The effect of her awakening is noticeable in her poetry. Brooks is less concerned with poetic form, and uses mostly free verse. In 1968 she was named poet laureate for the state of Illinois and was also the first African American to receive an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in 1976. Since then, Gwendolyn Brooks has gone on to receive over fifty honorary doctorates from numerous colleges and universities. She has received two Guggenheim Fellowships and has served as Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress. In 1990 she became professor of English at Chicago State University. Ms. Brooks died at the age of 83 Sunday December 3, 2000.

The Lovers of the Poor

arrive. The Ladies from the Ladies' Betterment
Arrive in the afternoon, the late light slanting
In diluted gold bars across the boulevard brag
Of proud, seamed faces with mercy and murder hinting
Here, there, interrupting, all deep and debonair,
The pink paint on the innocence of fear;
Walk in a gingerly manner up the hall.
Cutting with knives served by their softest care,
Served by their love, so barbarously fair.
Whose mothers taught: You'd better not be cruel!
You had better not throw stones upon the wrens!
Herein they kiss and coddle and assault
Anew and dearly in the innocence
With which they baffle nature. Who are full,
Sleek, tender-clad, fit, fiftyish, a-glow, all
Sweetly abortive, hinting at fat fruit,
Judge it high time that fiftyish fingers felt
Beneath the lovelier planes of enterprise.
To resurrect. To moisten with milky chill.
To be a random hitching post or plush.
To be, for wet eyes, random and handy hem.
Their guild is giving money to the poor.
The worthy poor. The very very worthy
And beautiful poor. Perhaps just not too swarthy?
Perhaps just not too dirty nor too dim
Nor--passionate. In truth, what they could wish
Is--something less than derelict or dull.
Not staunch enough to stab, though, gaze for gaze!
God shield them sharply from the beggar-bold!
The noxious needy ones whose battle's bald
Nonetheless for being voiceless, hits one down.
But it's all so bad! and entirely too much for them.
The stench; the urine, cabbage, and dead beans,
Dead porridges of assorted dusty grains,
The old smoke, heavy diapers, and, they're told,
Something called chitterlings. The darkness. Drawn
Darkness, or dirty light. The soil that stirs.
The soil that looks the soil of centuries.
And for that matter the general oldness. Old
Wood. Old marble. Old tile. Old old old.
Note homekind Oldness! Not Lake Forest, Glencoe.
Nothing is sturdy, nothing is majestic,
There is no quiet drama, no rubbed glaze, no
Unkillable infirmity of such
A tasteful turn as lately they have left,
Glencoe, Lake Forest, and to which their cars
Must presently restore them. When they're done
With dullards and distortions of this fistic
Patience of the poor and put-upon.
They've never seen such a make-do-ness as
Newspaper rugs before! In this, this "flat,"
Their hostess is gathering up the oozed, the rich
Rugs of the morning (tattered! the bespattered . . . ),
Readies to spread clean rugs for afternoon.
Here is a scene for you. The Ladies look,
In horror, behind a substantial citizeness
Whose trains clank out across her swollen heart.
Who, arms akimbo, almost fills a door.
All tumbling children, quilts dragged to the floor
And tortured thereover, potato peelings, soft-
Eyed kitten, hunched-up, haggard, to-be-hurt.
Their League is allotting largesse to the Lost.
But to put their clean, their pretty money, to put
Their money collected from delicate rose-fingers
Tipped with their hundred flawless rose-nails seems . . .
They own Spode, Lowestoft, candelabra,
Mantels, and hostess gowns, and sunburst clocks,
Turtle soup, Chippendale, red satin "hangings,"
Aubussons and Hattie Carnegie. They Winter
In Palm Beach; cross the Water in June; attend,
When suitable, the nice Art Institute;
Buy the right books in the best bindings; saunter
On Michigan, Easter mornings, in sun or wind.
Oh Squalor! This sick four-story hulk, this fibre
With fissures everywhere! Why, what are bringings
Of loathe-love largesse? What shall peril hungers
So old old, what shall flatter the desolate?
Tin can, blocked fire escape and chitterling
And swaggering seeking youth and the puzzled wreckage
Of the middle passage, and urine and stale shames
And, again, the porridges of the underslung
And children children children. Heavens! That
Was a rat, surely, off there, in the shadows? Long
And long-tailed? Gray? The Ladies from the Ladies'
Betterment League agree it will be better
To achieve the outer air that rights and steadies,
To hie to a house that does not holler, to ring
Bells elsetime, better presently to cater
To no more Possibilities, to get
Away. Perhaps the money can be posted.
Perhaps they two may choose another Slum!
Some serious sooty half-unhappy home!--
Where loathe-lover likelier may be invested.
Keeping their scented bodies in the center
Of the hall as they walk down the hysterical hall,
They allow their lovely skirts to graze no wall,
Are off at what they manage of a canter,
And, resuming all the clues of what they were,
Try to avoid inhaling the laden air.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

National Poetry Month, Day 23

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Lawrence Ferlinghetti was born in Yonkers, New York, in 1919. After spending his early childhood in France, he received his B.A. from the University of North Carolina, an M.A. from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. from the Sorbonne. During World War II he served in the US Naval Reserve and was sent to Nagasaki shortly after it was bombed. He married in 1951 and has one daughter and one son.

In 1953, Ferlinghetti and Peter Martin began to publish City Lights magazine. They also opened the City Lights Books Shop in San Francisco to help support the magazine. In 1955, they launched City Light Publishing, a book-publishing venture. City Lights became known as the heart of the "Beat" movement, which included writers such as Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac.

Ferlinghetti is the author of more than thirty books of poetry, including Americus, Book I (New Directions, 2004), San Francisco Poems (2002), How to Paint Sunlight (2001), A Far Rockaway of the Heart (1997), These Are My Rivers: New & Selected Poems, 1955-1993 (1993), Over All the Obscene Boundaries: European Poems & Transitions (1984), Who Are We Now? (1976), The Secret Meaning of Things (1969), and A Coney Island of the Mind (1958). He has translated the work of a number of poets including Nicanor Parra, Jacques Prevert, and Pier Paolo Pasolini. Ferlinghetti is also the author more than eight plays and of the novels Love in the Days of Rage (1988) and Her (1966).

In 1994, San Francisco renamed a street in his honor. He was also named the first Poet Laureate of San Francisco in 1998. In 2000, he received the lifetime achievement award from the National Book Critics Circle. Currently, Ferlinghetti writes a weekly column for the San Francisco Chronicle. He also continues to operate the City Lights bookstore, and he travels frequently to participate in literary conferences and poetry readings.

A Selected Bibliography


A Coney Island of the Mind (1958)
Back Roads to Far Places (1971)
Her (1960)
Open Eye, Open Heart (1973)
Pictures of the Gone World (1955)
Routines (1964)
Starting from San Francisco (1961)
The Mexican Night (1970)
The Secret Meaning of Things (1969)
Tyrannus Nix? (1969)
Unfair Arguments with Existence (1963)

Constantly Risking Absurdity

Constantly risking absurdity
and death
whenever he performs
above the heads
of his audience
the poet like an acrobat
climbs on rime
to a high wire of his own making
and balancing on eyebeams
above a sea of faces
paces his way
to the other side of the day
performing entrachats
and sleight-of-foot tricks
and other high theatrics
and all without mistaking
any thing
for what it may not be
For he's the super realist
who must perforce perceive
taut truth
before the taking of each stance or step
in his supposed advance
toward that still higher perch
where Beauty stands and waits
with gravity
to start her death-defying leap
And he
a little charleychaplin man
who may or may not catch
her fair eternal form
spreadeagled in the empty air
of existence

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

National Poetry Month, Day 22

Amy Lowell

Amy Lowell was born in 1874 at Sevenels, a ten-acre family estate in Brookline, Massachusetts. Her family was Episcopalian, of old New England stock, and at the top of Boston society. Lowell was the youngest of five children. Her elder brother Abbott Lawrence, a freshman at Harvard at the time of her birth, went on to become president of Harvard College. As a young girl she was first tutored at home, then attended private schools in Boston, during which time she made several trips to Europe with her family. At seventeen she secluded herself in the 7,000-book library at Sevenals to study literature. Lowell was encouraged to write from an early age. In 1887 she, with her mother and sister, wrote Dream Drops or Stories From Fairy Land by a Dreamer, printed privately by the Boston firm Cupples and Hurd. Her poem "Fixed Idea" was published in 1910 by the Atlantic Monthly, after which Lowell published individual poems in various journals. In October of 1912 Houghton Mifflin published her first collection, A Dome of Many Colored Glass.

Lowell, a vivacious and outspoken businesswoman, tended to excite controversy. She was deeply interested in and influenced by the Imagist movement, led by Ezra Pound. The primary Imagists were Pound, Ford Madox Ford, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), and Richard Aldington. This Anglo-American movement believed, in Lowell's words, that "concentration is of the very essence of poetry" and strove to "produce poetry that is hard and clear, never blurred nor indefinite." Lowell campaigned for the success of Imagist poetry in America and embraced its principles in her own work. She acted as a publicity agent for the movement, editing and contributing to an anthology of Imagist poets in 1915. Her enthusiastic involvement and influence contributed to Pound's separation from the movement. As Lowell continued to explore the Imagist style she pioneered the use of "polyphonic prose" in English, mixing formal verse and free forms. Later she was drawn to and influenced by Chinese and Japanese poetry. This interest led her to collaborate with translator Florence Ayscough on Fir-Flower Tablets in 1921. Lowell had a lifelong love for the poet Keats, whose letters she collected and influences can be seen in her poems. She believed him to be the forbearer of Imagism. Her biography of Keats was published in 1925, the same year she won the Pulitzer Prize for her collection What's A Clock.

A dedicated poet, publicity agent, collector, critic, and lecturer, Lowell died in 1925 at Sevenals.

A London Thoroughfare. 2 A.M.

They have watered the street,
It shines in the glare of lamps,
Cold, white lamps,
And lies
Like a slow-moving river,
Barred with silver and black.
Cabs go down it,
And then another,
Between them I hear the shuffling of feet.
Tramps doze on the window-ledges,
Night-walkers pass along the sidewalks.
The city is squalid and sinister,
With the silver-barred street in the midst,
A river leading nowhere.

Opposite my window,
The moon cuts,
Clear and round,
Through the plum-coloured night.
She cannot light the city:
It is too bright.
It has white lamps,
And glitters coldly.

I stand in the window and watch the
She is thin and lustreless,
But I love her.
I know the moon,
And this is an alien city.

Monday, April 20, 2009

National Poetry Month, Day 21

Yes, this is a two-fer. If you have been following, you know that Walt Whitman, one of my favourite poets of all time, already had his initial bow, way back on day eight or so. But there can't be too much Walt, and I have just realized that some of the ideas I have been using in some writing I am currently doing are bits and pieces of his masterwork, Song of Myself. And so...I need you all to share this amazing poem, if you haven't ever seen it. Yes, all of it. Here: The interface here wouldn't hold the whole thing as a blog entry. But I have some favourite pieces, and here are a few of them. And I don't promise not to post the occasional three-fer, or four-fer, either, before the month is over. And just because I am a Virgo and do the OCD thing, yes, there needs to be a new/different poet every day, so look below the Whitman for another of my UU existentialist friends.

Song of Myself, I, II, VI, LI & LII


I Celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form'd from this soil,
this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and
their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.

Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.


Houses and rooms are full of perfumes.... the shelves
are crowded with perfumes,
I breathe the fragrance myself, and know it and like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.

The atmosphere is not a perfume.... it has no taste
of the distillation.... it is odorless,
It is for my mouth forever.... I am in love with it,
I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked,
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.

The smoke of my own breath,
Echoes, ripples, and buzzed whispers.... loveroot, silkthread,
crotch and vine,
My respiration and inspiration.... the beating of my heart....
the passing of blood and air through my lungs,
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore
and darkcolored sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn,
The sound of the belched words of my voice.... words loosed
to the eddies of the wind,

A few light kisses.... a few embraces.... reaching around of arms,
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag,
The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along
the fields and hill-sides,
The feeling of health.... the full-noon trill.... the song of me
rising from bed and meeting the sun.

Have you reckoned a thousand acres much? Have you reckoned
the earth much?
Have you practiced so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin
of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun.... there are
millions of suns left,
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand.... nor
look through the eyes of the dead. nor feed on the spectres
in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.


A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any
more than he.
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful
green stuff woven.

Or I guess if is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we
may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of
the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the
same, I receive then the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them,
soon out of their mother's laps,
And here you are the mothers' laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues,
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths
for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men
and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring
taken soon out of their laps.
What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and

They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait
at the end to arrest it,
And ceas'd the moment life appear'd.

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and


The past and present wilt - I have fill'd them, emptied them.
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.

Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.

Who has done his day's work? who will soonest be through with his
Who wishes to walk with me?

Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?


The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains
of my gab and my loitering.

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadow'd wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.


W. H. Auden

Wystan Hugh Auden was born in York, England, in 1907. He moved to Birmingham during childhood and was educated at Christ Church, Oxford. As a young man he was influenced by the poetry of Thomas Hardy and Robert Frost, as well as William Blake, Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Old English verse. At Oxford his precocity as a poet was immediately apparent, and he formed lifelong friendships with two fellow writers, Stephen Spender and Christopher Isherwood.

In 1928, his collection Poems was privately printed, but it wasn't until 1930, when another collection titled Poems (though its contents were different) was published, that Auden was established as the leading voice of a new generation.

Ever since, he has been admired for his unsurpassed technical virtuosity and an ability to write poems in nearly every imaginable verse form; the incorporation in his work of popular culture, current events, and vernacular speech; and also for the vast range of his intellect, which drew easily from an extraordinary variety of literatures, art forms, social and political theories, and scientific and technical information. He had a remarkable wit, and often mimicked the writing styles of other poets such as Dickinson, W. B. Yeats, and Henry James. His poetry frequently recounts, literally or metaphorically, a journey or quest, and his travels provided rich material for his verse.

He visited Germany, Iceland, and China, served in the Spanish Civil war, and in 1939 moved to the United States, where he met his lover, Chester Kallman, and became an American citizen. His own beliefs changed radically between his youthful career in England, when he was an ardent advocate of socialism and Freudian psychoanalysis, and his later phase in America, when his central preoccupation became Christianity and the theology of modern Protestant theologians. A prolific writer, Auden was also a noted playwright, librettist, editor, and essayist. Generally considered the greatest English poet of the twentieth century, his work has exerted a major influence on succeeding generations of poets on both sides of the Atlantic.

W. H. Auden was a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets from 1954 to 1973, and divided most of the second half of his life between residences in New York City and Austria. He died in Vienna in 1973.

A Selected Bibliography


Poems (privately printed, 1928)
Poems (1930)
The Orators prose and verse (1932)
Look, Stranger! in America: On This Island (1936)
Spain (1937)
Another Time (1940)
The Double Man (1941)
The Quest (1941)
For the Time Being (1944)
The Sea and the Mirror (1944)
Collected Poetry (1945)
The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue (1947)
Collected Shorter Poems 1930-1944 (1950)
Nones (1952)
The Shield of Achilles (1955)
Selected Poetry (1956)
The Old Man's Road (1956)
Homage to Clio (1960)
About the House About the House (1965)
Collected Shorter Poems 1927-1957 (1966)
Collected Longer Poems (1968)
City without Walls (1969)
Academic Graffiti (1971)
Epistle to a Godson (1972)
Thank You, Fog: Last Poems (1974)
Selected Poems (1979)
Collected Poems (1991)


Letters from Iceland (1937)
Journey to a War (1939)
Enchaféd Flood (1950)
The Dyer's Hand (1962)
Selected Essays (1964)
Forewords and Afterwords (1973)


Selected Poems by Gunnar Ekelöf (1972)

Paid On Both Sides (1928)
The Dance of Death (1933)
The Dog Beneath the Skin: or, Where is Francis? (1935)
The Ascent of F.6 (1936)
On the Frontier (1938)

In Memory of W. B. Yeats


He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
And snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

Far from his illness
The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,
The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;
By mourning tongues
The death of the poet was kept from his poems.

But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
An afternoon of nurses and rumours;
The provinces of his body revolted,
The squares of his mind were empty,
Silence invaded the suburbs,
The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers.

Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
To find his happiness in another kind of wood
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living.

But in the importance and noise of to-morrow
When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse,
And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed,
And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom,
A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.

What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.


You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.


Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.

In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;

Intellectual disgrace
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.

Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice;

With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress;

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

National Poetry Month, Day 20

The God Gene

I don't know quite how to think about this....
Somewhere on a sub-molecular level
We are supposed to be hard-wired to Deity....

I hadn't planned on worrying about it.
Life comes at me daily, with the teaching of the moment...

Not sure I like the idea that I am intended to do it all,
Not making my own choices, intuitive, numinous, immediate,
But following what Someone Else's divine intent has planned,
Making me more a vegetable being fertilized and watered
Than a human soul making decisions.

I find that in human connections,
Whether the deep and nurturant bond between spouses
Or the fraternal, sororal, and intended connections among family of choice,
Much room must be left for the individual meme...

Where human interconnection is concerned,
The paths are as important as the junctions.
The old adage goes, "You can lead a horse to water..."
And the drink is definitely on us....

OK, then. I am distracted by the thought of being impelled.
It sends me around another one of those roundabouts of philosophy.

So....we may be hard-wired to believe...
But if God, or Nature, did, can do, that kind of tampering,
That forcing of the Will, that warping of natural process...
What end could justify such unethical means?

Then, if it is so, if it/he/she/they, can do this, has done it... my lexicon, it/he/she/they....are not God.
Because God is greater than to need our forced and compelled belief.

If I can't get there on my own,
It isn't worth the trip.

Aisling the Bard
Winter 2008

National Poetry Month, Day 19

Edna St Vincent Millay

Edna St Vincent Millay was born in Rockland, Maine on 22nd February, 1892. Cora St Vincent Millay raised Edna and her three sisters on her own after her husband left the family home. When Edna was twenty her poem, Renascence, was published in The Lyric Year. As a result of this poem Edna won a scholarship to Vassar.

In 1917, the year of her graduation, Millay published her first book, Renascence and Other Poems. After leaving Vassar she moved to New York's Greenwich Village where she befriended writers such as Floyd Dell, John Reed and Max Eastman. The three men were all involved in the left-wing journal, the Masses, and she joined in their campaign against USA involvement in the First World War.

Millay also joined the Provincetown Theatre Group. Others who wrote or acted for the group included Floyd Dell, Eugene O'Neill, John Reed, George Gig Cook, Susan Glaspell and Louise Bryant. Millay was considered a great success as Annabelle in Floyd Dell's The Angel Intrudes. In 1918 Millay directed and took the lead in her own play, The Princess Marries the Page. Later she directed her morality play, Two Slatterns and the King at Provincetown.

In 1920 Millay published a new volume of poems, A Few Figs from Thistles. This created considerable controversy as the poems dealt with issues such as female sexuality and feminism. Her next volume of poems, The Harp Weaver (1923), was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

Millay married Eugen Boissevain, the widower of Inez Milholland, in 1923. Both were believers in free-love and it was agreed they should have an open marriage. Boissevain managed Millay's literary career and this included the highly popular readings of her work. In his autobiography, Homecoming (1933), Floyd Dell commented that he had "never heard poetry read so beautifully".

In 1927 joined with other artists such as John Dos Passos, Upton Sinclair, Dorothy Parker, Ben Shahn, Floyd Dell in the campaign against the proposed execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. The day before the execution Millay was arrested at a demonstration in Boston for "sauntering and loitering" and carrying the placard "If These Men Are Executed, Justice is Dead in Massachusetts".

Later Millay was to write several poems about the the Sacco-Vanzetti Case. The most famous of these was Justice Denied in Massachusetts. Her next volume of poems, The Buck and the Snow (1928) included several others including Hangman's Oak, The Anguish, Wine from These Grapes and To Those Without Pity.

In 1931 Millay published, Fatal Interview (1931) a volume of 52 sonnets in celebration of a recent love affair. Edmund Wilson claimed the book contained some of the greatest poems of the 20th century. Others were more critical preferring the more political material that had appeared in The Buck and the Snow.

Her next volume of poems, Wine From These Grapes (1934) included the remarkable Conscientious Objector, a poem that expressed her strong views on pacifism. Huntsman, What Quarry? (1939) also dealt with political issues such as the Spanish Civil War and the growth of fascism.

During the Second World War Millay abandoned her pacifists views and wrote patriotic poems such as Not to be Spattered by His Blood (1941), Murder at Lidice (1942) and Poem and Prayer for an Invading Army (1944). Edna St Vincent Millay died in 1950.

The Ballad Of The Harp-Weaver

"Son," said my mother,
When I was knee-high,
"you've need of clothes to cover you,
and not a rag have I.

"There's nothing in the house
To make a boy breeches,
Nor shears to cut a cloth with,
Nor thread to take stitches.

"There's nothing in the house
But a loaf-end of rye,
And a harp with a woman's head
Nobody will buy,"
And she began to cry.

That was in the early fall.
When came the late fall,
"Son," she said, "the sight of you
Makes your mother's blood crawl,—

"Little skinny shoulder-blades
Sticking through your clothes!
And where you'll get a jacket from
God above knows.

"It's lucky for me, lad,
Your daddy's in the ground,
And can't see the way I let
His son go around!"
And she made a queer sound.

That was in the late fall.
When the winter came,
I'd not a pair of breeches
Nor a shirt to my name.

I couldn't go to school,
Or out of doors to play.
And all the other little boys
Passed our way.

"Son," said my mother,
"Come, climb into my lap,
And I'll chafe your little bones
While you take a nap."

And, oh, but we were silly
For half and hour or more,
Me with my long legs,
Dragging on the floor,

To a mother-goose rhyme!
Oh, but we were happy
For half an hour's time!

But there was I, a great boy,
And what would folks say
To hear my mother singing me
To sleep all day,
In such a daft way?

Men say the winter
Was bad that year;
Fuel was scarce,
And food was dear.

A wind with a wolf's head
Howled about our door,
And we burned up the chairs
And sat upon the floor.

All that was left us
Was a chair we couldn't break,
And the harp with a woman's head
Nobody would take,
For song or pity's sake.

The night before Christmas
I cried with cold,
I cried myself to sleep
Like a two-year old.

And in the deep night
I felt my mother rise,
And stare down upon me
With love in her eyes.

I saw my mother sitting
On the one good chair,
A light falling on her
From I couldn't tell where.

Looking nineteen,
And not a day older,
And the harp with a woman's head
Leaned against her shoulder.

Her thin fingers, moving
In the thin, tall strings,
Were weav-weav-weaving
Wonderful things.

Many bright threads,
From where I couldn't see,
Were running through the harp-strings

And gold threads whistling
Through my mother's hand.
I saw the web grow,
And the pattern expand.

She wove a child's jacket,
And when it was done
She laid it on the floor
And wove another one.

She wove a red cloak
So regal to see,
"She's made it for a king's son,"
I said, "and not for me."
But I knew it was for me.

She wove a pair of breeches
Quicker than that!
She wove a pair of boots
And a little cocked hat.

She wove a pair of mittens,
Shw wove a little blouse,
She wove all night
In the still, cold house.

She sang as she worked,
And the harp-strings spoke;
Her voice never faltered,
And the thread never broke,
And when I awoke,—

There sat my mother
With the harp against her shoulder,
Looking nineteeen,
And not a day older,

A smile about her lips,
And a light about her head,
And her hands in the harp-strings
Frozen dead.

And piled beside her
And toppling to the skies,
Were the clothes of a king's son,
Just my size.

Friday, April 17, 2009

National Poetry Month, Day 18

W. B. Yeats

William Butler Yeats was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1865, the son of a well-known Irish painter, John Butler Yeats. He spent his childhood in County Sligo, where his parents were raised, and in London. He returned to Dublin at the age of fifteen to continue his education and study painting, but quickly discovered he preferred poetry. Born into the Anglo-Irish landowning class, Yeats became involved with the Celtic Revival, a movement against the cultural influences of English rule in Ireland during the Victorian period, which sought to promote the spirit of Ireland's native heritage. Though Yeats never learned Gaelic himself, his writing at the turn of the century drew extensively from sources in Irish mythology and folklore. Also a potent influence on his poetry was the Irish revolutionary Maud Gonne, whom he met in 1889, a woman equally famous for her passionate nationalist politics and her beauty. Though she married another man in 1903 and grew apart from Yeats (and Yeats himself was eventually married to another woman, Georgie Hyde Lees), she remained a powerful figure in his poetry.

Yeats was deeply involved in politics in Ireland, and in the twenties, despite Irish independence from England, his verse reflected a pessimism about the political situation in his country and the rest of Europe, paralleling the increasing conservativism of his American counterparts in London, T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. His work after 1910 was strongly influenced by Pound, becoming more modern in its concision and imagery, but Yeats never abandoned his strict adherence to traditional verse forms. He had a life-long interest in mysticism and the occult, which was off-putting to some readers, but he remained uninhibited in advancing his idiosyncratic philosophy, and his poetry continued to grow stronger as he grew older. Appointed a senator of the Irish Free State in 1922, he is remembered as an important cultural leader, as a major playwright (he was one of the founders of the famous Abbey Theatre in Dublin), and as one of the very greatest poets—in any language—of the century. W. B. Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1923 and died in 1939 at the age of 73.

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

The Song of Wandering Aengus

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

National Poetry Month, Day 17

Today's entry is unusual on several levels. As you may have noticed, I have fallen into a thematic fancy (which actually began accidentally but is now deliberate) of alternating between a male and a female poet. Today, we have a female poet, which is correct according to my pattern, who rejoiced in a male name for her entire literary career. She is also a poet who is primarily a novelist, but whose poetry is significant enough that she is listed as both a poet and a novelist. As all of you know, I am myself immersed in conundrums of this kind both in my own life, and my work. So it's fun to have found someone (not the only possibility, either) who slips through all the filters. Enjoy!

George Eliot ~ MARY ANN EVANS

Mary Ann Evans was born at Griff House, England, near Nuneaton, November 22, 1820. Upon reaching womanhood, she married the eminent English author, George H. Lewes. By his suggestion, she commenced to write fiction. Her literary name was George Eliot, and by that name we shall know her in the world of letters. She died in London, December 22, 1880.

Her father, Mr. Robert Evans, was able to give his daughter an exceptionally good education. There were and are so many bad schools for girls that it was a piece of singular good fortune that Mrs. Wellington, at Nuneaton, and afterward Miss Franklin, at Coventry, undertook her education. To Mrs. Wellington, the writer in the "Graphic" thinks that George Eliot owed some of the beauty of her intonation in reading English poetry. Besides the studies at school, she was fortunate in finding a willing instructor in the then head master of Coventry Grammar School, Mr. Sheepshanks; and motherless as she was, she possibly studied more deeply than a mother's care for a delicate daughter's health would have permitted. However this may be, the years that she spent in Coventry, on her father's removal to Foleshill, till his death in 1849, were years of excessive work, issuing in a riper culture than that attained by any other prominent English woman of our age, and only approached by that of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Her first introduction to serious literary work was brought about by Mr. and Mrs. Bray, of Coventry. Mrs. Bray's brother, Mr. Charles Hennell, was interested in a translation of Strauss' "Leben Jesu," which had been entrusted to the lady he was about to marry, and who had performed about one-fourth of the work. When the lady was married, the work of completing the translation was turned over to our author, who performed her duty most acceptably.

On Mr. Evans' death, in 1849, his daughter went abroad with the Brays, and staid behind them at Geneva for purposes of study. Some time after her return to England she became a boarder in the house of Mr. -- now Dr. -- Chapman, who with his wife, was in the habit of receiving ladies into their family. She assisted Mr. Chapman in the editorship of the "Westminster Review," and her literary career in London was fairly begun. Her work on the "Westminster Review" was chiefly editorial. During the years in which she was connected with it she wrote far fewer articles than might have been supposed. The most important of them were the following, written between 1852 and 1859, inclusive: "Women in France," "Madame De Sable;" "Evangelical Teachings" (on Dr. Cumming); "The Natural History of German Life;" "German Wit" (on Heine); "Worldliness and Other Worldliness" (on Young and Cowper).

While in London she formed numerous valuable acquaintances among literary persons, among whom may be mentioned Herbert Spencer, Mr. Pigott, and George H. Lewes. Her acquaintance with Lewes resulted in her marriage to him. These two eminent scholars lived together most happily; and each profited by the companionship of the other.

Her own somewhat somber cast of thought was cheered, enlivened and diversified by the vivacity and versatility which characterized Mr. Lewes. Was the character of Ladislaw, to ourselves one of very great charm, in any degree drawn from George Henry Lewes, as his wife first remembered him? The suggestion that she should try her hand at fiction undoubtedly came from Mr. Lewes. Probably no great writers ever know their real vein. But for this outward stimulation, she might have remained through life the accurate translator, the brilliant reviewer, the thoughtful poet, to whom accuracy of poetic form was somewhat wanting, rather than as the writer of fiction who has swayed the hearts of men as no other writer but Walter Scott has done, or even attempted to do.

In the maturity of her life and intellectual powers she became known as a writer of fiction. There are those who regard the "Scenes of Clerical Life" as her best work. Beautiful as they are, that is not our opinion, and, at any rate, the "Scenes" failed to attract much notice at first. The publication of "Adam Bede," in 1859, however, took the world by storm. Five editions were sold within as many months. Considerable anxiety was manifested as to the authorship of the novel. In this matter, the actual author was greatly complimented, for the popularity of her work induced one Joseph Liggins to copy the entire book, and then, by exhibiting his manuscript, to claim the authorship. The impostor received some money by subscription before the authorship of "Adam Bede" was fully settled. In 1859 also appeared "The Mill on the Floss," a work fully up to the standard of her former production; and in 1861, "Silas Marner" sustained George Eliot's reputation as a powerful writer. In 1863 she published a more ambitious work than any before attempted. It was an historical novel of Italian life in the days of Savonarola, entitled "Romola." By many this is considered her greatest intellectual effort. She published "Felix Holt, the Radical," in 1866; "Middlemarch, a Study of English Provincial Life," 1871-'72; "Daniel Deronda," a story of modern English life, 1876; "The Gypsie Queen," an elaborate dramatic poem, 1868; "Agatha," a poem, 1869. In 1878 her husband died, thus leaving her alone. The loss was deeply felt by her, but she soon commenced to enter society again, when she married Mr. J. W. Cross. Although many of her friends were not favorable to the new union, yet it proved to be a happy one. In company with Mr. Cross, she visited Italy, and her health seemed greatly benefited by that sunny clime. Upon returning to England, however, the severe winter which followed was most unfavorable. She moved to her new home in Chelsea, but from the effects of a severe cold, died within two weeks of the change, and was laid to rest by the side of Mr. George Henry Lewes.

The complete works of George Eliot have been issued in this country, in eight volumes. While she has written some verses of considerable merit, yet her fame rests upon her prose works. There is probably no question but what she is the greatest female novelist England has produced, and a large class of critical writers deem her the greatest that ever lived.

God Needs Antonio

Your soul was lifted by the wings today
Hearing the master of the violin:
You praised him, praised the great Sabastian too
Who made that fine Chaconne; but did you think
Of old Antonio Stradivari? -him
Who a good century and a half ago
Put his true work in that brown instrument
And by the nice adjustment of its frame
Gave it responsive life, continuous
With the master's finger-tips and perfected
Like them by delicate rectitude of use.
That plain white-aproned man, who stood at work
Patient and accurate full fourscore years,
Cherished his sight and touch by temperance,
And since keen sense is love of perfectness
Made perfect violins, the needed paths
For inspiration and high mastery.

No simpler man than he; he never cried,
"why was I born to this monotonous task
Of making violins?" or flung them down
To suit with hurling act well-hurled curse
At labor on such perishable stuff.
Hence neighbors in Cremona held him dull,
Called him a slave, a mill-horse, a machine.

Naldo, a painter of eclectic school,
Knowing all tricks of style at thirty-one,
And weary of them, while Antonio
At sixty-nine wrought placidly his best,
Making the violin you heard today -
Naldo would tease him oft to tell his aims.
"Perhaps thou hast some pleasant vice to feed -
the love of louis d'ors in heaps of four,
Each violin a heap - I've naught to blame;
My vices waste such heaps. But then, why work
With painful nicety?"

Antonio then:
"I like the gold - well, yes - but not for meals.
And as my stomach, so my eye and hand,
And inward sense that works along with both,
Have hunger that can never feed on coin.
Who draws a line and satisfies his soul,
Making it crooked where it should be straight?
Antonio Stradivari has an eye
That winces at false work and loves the true."
Then Naldo: "'Tis a petty kind of fame
At best, that comes of making violins;
And saves no masses, either. Thou wilt go
To purgatory none the less."

But he:
"'Twere purgatory here to make them ill;
And for my fame - when any master holds
'Twixt chin and hand a violin of mine,
He will be glad that Stradivari lived,
Made violins, and made them of the best.
The masters only know whose work is good:
They will choose mine, and while God gives them skill
I give them instruments to play upon,
God choosing me to help him.

"What! Were God
at fault for violins, thou absent?"

He were at fault for Stradivari's work."

"Why, many hold Giuseppe's violins
As good as thine."

"May be: they are different.
His quality declines: he spoils his hand
With over-drinking. But were his the best,
He could not work for two. My work is mine,
And, heresy or not, if my hand slacked
I should rob God - since his is fullest good -
Leaving a blank instead of violins.
I say, not God himself can make man's best
Without best men to help him.

'Tis God gives skill,
But not without men's hands: he could not make
Antonio Stradivari's violins
Without Antonio. Get thee to thy easel."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pagan Paeans Shameless Plug and Even More Shameless Self-Egoboo

Pagan Paeans Shameless Promotion !!
Pre-order your copy now from and be the first to own one!

Pagan Paeans has an IBSN 978-0-9562403-0-9 and can be wholesaled or bought directly...

from May 1st it will be available through (USA, UK and Ireland, Europe, Rest of World) (paypal, postal order, individual sales or wholesale UK and Ireland only )
or teleordering (wholesale only)

Hate Poetry?
Fake it. I don't care :) This is a note of Shameless Celtic Boasting in the grand tradition of our forebears to raise awareness that A) we have an Anthology and B) it's damn fine. PPP Publications are terribly proud of themselves :)And if you're thinking why the giddy hell is she annoying ME with's so you know we have an anthology so yah boo !

Can you help?
Want one? buy one!
Like it? promote it!
Know a bookshop? ask them to take one!

And yes, that is TOO my own poetry in there. Aisling the Bard, at your service....want me to sign that?

National Poetry Month, Day 16

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Born on August 6, 1809, in Somersby, Lincolnshire, England, Alfred Tennyson is one of the most well-loved Victorian poets. Tennyson, the fourth of twelve children, showed an early talent for writing. At the age of twelve he wrote a 6,000-line epic poem. His father, the Reverend George Tennyson, tutored his sons in classical and modern languages. In the 1820s, however, Tennyson's father began to suffer frequent mental breakdowns that were exacerbated by alcoholism. One of Tennyson's brothers had violent quarrels with his father, a second was later confined to an insane asylum, and another became an opium addict.

Tennyson escaped home in 1827 to attend Trinity College, Cambridge. In that same year, he and his brother Charles published Poems by Two Brothers. Although the poems in the book were mostly juvenilia, they attracted the attention of the "Apostles," an undergraduate literary club led by Arthur Hallam. The "Apostles" provided Tennyson, who was tremendously shy, with much needed friendship and confidence as a poet. Hallam and Tennyson became the best of friends; they toured Europe together in 1830 and again in 1832. Hallam's sudden death in 1833 greatly affected the young poet. The long elegy In Memoriam and many of Tennyson's other poems are tributes to Hallam.

In 1830, Tennyson published Poems, Chiefly Lyrical and in 1832 he published a second volume entitled simply Poems. Some reviewers condemned these books as "affected" and "obscure." Tennyson, stung by the reviews, would not publish another book for nine years. In 1836, he became engaged to Emily Sellwood. When he lost his inheritance on a bad investment in 1840, Sellwood's family called off the engagement. In 1842, however, Tennyson's Poems in two volumes was a tremendous critical and popular success. In 1850, with the publication of In Memoriam, Tennyson became one of Britain's most popular poets. He was selected Poet Laureate in succession to Wordsworth. In that same year, he married Emily Sellwood. They had two sons, Hallam and Lionel.

At the age of 41, Tennyson had established himself as the most popular poet of the Victorian era. The money from his poetry (at times exceeding 10,000 pounds per year) allowed him to purchase a house in the country and to write in relative seclusion. His appearance—a large and bearded man, he regularly wore a cloak and a broad brimmed hat—enhanced his notoriety. He read his poetry with a booming voice, often compared to that of Dylan Thomas. In 1859, Tennyson published the first poems of Idylls of the Kings, which sold more than 10,000 copies in one month. In 1884, he accepted a peerage, becoming Alfred Lord Tennyson. Tennyson died in 1892 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known--cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honored of them all,--
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains; but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the scepter and the isle,
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centered in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me,
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads--you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

National Poetry Month, Day 15

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 4, 1928. She grew up in St. Louis and Stamps, Arkansas. She is an author, poet, historian, songwriter, playwright, dancer, stage and screen producer, director, performer, singer, and civil rights activist. She is best known for her autobiographical books: All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986), The Heart of a Woman (1981), Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas (1976), Gather Together in My Name (1974), and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), which was nominated for the National Book Award.

Among her volumes of poetry are A Brave and Startling Truth (Random House, 1995), The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou (1994), Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now (1993), Now Sheba Sings the Song (1987), I Shall Not Be Moved (1990), Shaker, Why Don't You Sing? (1983), Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well (1975), and Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie (1971), which was nominated for the Pulitzer prize.

In 1959, at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Maya Angelou became the northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. From 1961 to 1962 she was associate editor of The Arab Observer in Cairo, Egypt, the only English-language news weekly in the Middle East, and from 1964 to 1966 she was feature editor of the African Review in Accra, Ghana. She returned to the U.S. in 1974 and was appointed by Gerald Ford to the Bicentennial Commission and later by Jimmy Carter to the Commission for International Woman of the Year. She accepted a lifetime appointment in 1981 as Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In 1993, Angelou wrote and delivered a poem, "On The Pulse of the Morning," at the inauguration for President Bill Clinton at his request.

The first black woman director in Hollywood, Angelou has written, produced, directed, and starred in productions for stage, film, and television. In 1971, she wrote the original screenplay and musical score for the film Georgia, Georgia, and was both author and executive producer of a five-part television miniseries "Three Way Choice." She has also written and produced several prize-winning documentaries, including "Afro-Americans in the Arts," a PBS special for which she received the Golden Eagle Award. Maya Angelou was twice nominated for a Tony award for acting: once for her Broadway debut in Look Away (1973), and again for her performance in Roots (1977).

The Rock Cries Out to Us Today

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Mark the mastodon.
The dinosaur, who left dry tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spelling words
Armed for slaughter.
The rock cries out today, you may stand on me,
But do not hide your face.
Across the wall of the world,
A river sings a beautiful song,
Come rest here by my side.
Each of you a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more.
Come, clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I
And the tree and stone were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your brow
And when you yet knew you still knew nothing.
The river sings and sings on.
There is a true yearning to respond to
The singing river and the wise rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew,
The African and Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek,
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the teacher.
They hear. They all hear
The speaking of the tree.
Today, the first and last of every tree
Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the river.
Plant yourself beside me, here beside the river.
Each of you, descendant of some passed on
Traveller, has been paid for.
You, who gave me my first name,
You Pawnee, Apache and Seneca,
You Cherokee Nation, who rested with me,
Then forced on bloody feet,
Left me to the employment of other seekers--
Desperate for gain, starving for gold.
You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot...
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru,
Bought, sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am the tree planted by the river,
Which will not be moved.
I, the rock, I the river, I the tree
I am yours--your passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage,
Need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.
Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts.
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.
The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out upon me,
The rock, the river, the tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes,
Into your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.