poem

No Rest for the Writer

the-day-after-1895

weary reader rest
not for too long when you pick
your head up rejoice

****

In celebration of National Poetry Month and in response to Time For Poetry, a haiku by this tired writer and reader who is trying to muster up some stamina for two book reviews that are due to editors soon (books I still haven’t finished reading) and trying to look at my own manuscript with its final 10,000-20,000 words being narrowed in on. I can’t help but feel like this perfect Edvard Munch painting.

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World Poetry Day – “Blurbs” by Julianna Baggott

Today is World Poetry Day according to UNESCO,

Poetry reaffirms our common humanity by revealing to us that individuals, everywhere in the world, share the same questions and feelings…UNESCO recognizes the unique ability of poetry to capture the creative spirit of the human mind.

There are so many great poems out there, both published and spoken, lost and remembered, but today I choose “Blurbs” by Julianna Baggott because it hits on the desire that many of us have: we want to be embraced by our audience, even if it is just one person; we don’t want to be labelled with broad, pedestrian strokes. “Blurbs” appears in Baggott’s poetry collection, This Country of Mothers. According to her website, this “collection of poems…arose from the betrayal of motherhood.” Also, I very highly recommend her collection, Lizzie Borden in Love, a collection that “often focus on a particular moment in life: Katherine Hepburn discovers the dead body of her brother in an attic, or painter Mary Cassatt mourns the failure of her eyesight.”

Blurbs

I don’t want to be a national treasure,
too old-codgery, something wheeled out
of a closet to cut ribbon. I prefer
resident genius, or for the genius
to be at least undeniable.
I’d like to steer away from the declaration
by far the best. Too easily I read,
the predecessors were weary immigrant stock.
The same goes for working at the height
of her powers, as if it’s obvious
I’m teetering on the edge of senility.
I don’t want to have to look things up:
lapidary style? I’d prefer not to be a talent;
as if my mother has dressed me
in a spangled leotard, tap shoes,
my hair in Bo-Peep pin curls.
But I like sexy, even if unearned.
I like elegance, bite. I want someone
to confess they’ve fallen in love with me
and another to say, No, she’s mine.
And a third to just come out with it:
she will go directly to heaven.


**The photo and book covers are from Goodreads.

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e.e. cummings on valentine’s day

I admit that I’m a bit of a curmudgeon and cringe at those saccharinely-sweet jewelry ads that pound the television this time of year. Today, I would much prefer to binge watch the new season of House of Cards than to eat another stale slice of red velvet cake, but with that all said, I do love me some e.e. cummings poetry.

This past issue of Vanity Fair features as an excellent excerpt from Susan Cheever’s new book about the poet, who was also a friend of her father, novelist John Cheever. E.E. Cummings wrote some of our best modern love poetry. I share with you one of his most well-known and a personal favorite.

***

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                 i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
***
further reading…

Variation on the Word Sleep by Margaret Atwood

“Variation on the Word Sleep” by Margaret Atwood is one of those poems that every time you read it, it’s like reading it for the first time. Last night, I felt inclined to pick up my copy of 180 more: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day selected by Former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins. I read the poem last night before I went to sleep and again this morning; I’m reading it now in between the sentences that I write here.

With each word lulling forward into each new sentence and stanza, the movement feels dreamy and fluid, but somehow still provides vivid images. Atwood has captured that altered state of movement one feels in dreams (are we in our own bodies or floating above them?; how fast can I run from one point to the other?; it feels like ages but I’ve walked two feet). The images she describes are so perfectly constructed. They are very specific and unique, but we can all imagine these moments happening in a dream.

I once had a Shakespeare professor in college say to the class, “If you have no poetry in your life, you have no life!” So, without further ado, I share this poem with you to start your week off right.

Variation on the Word Sleep
by Margaret Atwood

 

I would like to watch you sleeping,
which may not happen.
I would like to watch you,
sleeping. I would like to sleep
with you, to enter
your sleep as its smooth dark wave
slides over my head

and walk with you through that lucent
wavering forest of bluegreen leaves
with its watery sun & three moons
towards the cave where you must descend,
towards your worst fear

I would like to give you the silver
branch, the small white flower, the one
word that will protect you
from the grief at the center
of your dream, from the grief
at the center I would like to follow
you up the long stairway
again & become
the boat that would row you back
carefully, a flame
in two cupped hands
to where your body lies
beside me, and as you enter
it as easily as breathing in

I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary.

(courtesy of poets.org)

a poem [anonymous]

 

Here is another translation I did of a small medieval German poem from my old verse book. I’m becoming a little more comfortable reading and understanding this type of German. The words are either identical or nearly identical to high German and when read aloud, sound a lot like English. There was no information about the writer of this poem.

[Anonymen]

Dû bist mîn, ich dîn:
des solt dû gewis sîn.
Dû bist besloʐʐen
in mînem herzen;
verlorn ist daʐ slüʐʐelîn:
dû muost immer drinne sîn.
Wær diu werlt alliu mîn
von dem mere unz an den Rîn,
des wolt ih mih darben,
daʐ diu künegîn von Engellant
læge an mînem arme.

[Anonymous]

You are mine, I am yours:
you must be sure.
You are locked away
in my heart;
the key mislaid:
and you are inside of it always.
If I owned the world
from the ocean to the Rhine,
if I could have
the Queen of England
resting in my arms.