poetry

Hilltop Rain and Robert Frost.

california rain

In California where it rained all weekend. [a view last evening from the rainy hills]

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Final stanza from Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”

 

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The Blind Woman Who Sees Rain

I had full intentions of writing about some lovely flash fiction today, but then, last night, I watched this video that accompanied an NPR story about a Scottish woman who became blind at the age of 29 due to a stroke and sometime afterward started to realize she could see movement. She could see rain tumbling down and the swish of her daughter’s ponytail, but faces, they stay in the shadows. The video is a fascinating artistic rendering of what the blind woman can see. To complete this post, after the video, I’ve included a rain themed poem by Shelley.

 

The Fitful Alternations Of The Rain 
by Percy Bysshe Shelley

The fitful alternations of the rain,
When the chill wind, languid as with pain
Of its own heavy moisture, here and there
Drives through the gray and beamless atmosphere

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.

National Poetry Month – To Roanoke With Johnny Cash by Bob Hicok

April is National Poetry Month in the US, which is meant to illuminate the importance of poetry in our culture. Below is my selection to add to this month of poem appreciation: “To Roanoke with Johnny Cash” by Bob Hicok. I am particularly taken with the odd rhythm produced by the enjambment and the final line, even though left unpunctuated, is a stark punctuation to the entire poem. Are there any poems that are your favorites? For a few more selections, check out what other poems have been posted here in the past.

Johnny-Cash_1972

 

To Roanoke with Johnny Cash

Mist became rain became fog was mist
reborn every few miles on a road
made of s and z, of switchback

and falling into mountains of night
would have been easy and who
would have been known until flames

and nobody, even then. I played his life
over and over, not so  much song
as moan of a needle and the bite,

the hole it eats through the arm
and drove faster to the murmur
of this dead and crow-dressed man,

voice of prison and heroin and the bible
as turned by murdering hands.
And the road was the color of him


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**Top photo from Wikipedia.

 

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)

Federico García Lorca, Poet in New York

lorcaYou still have two days left to see the fantastic and free exhibition at the New York Public Library dedicated to Spanish poet Federico García Lorca’s time he spent in NYC in 1929. Since April, a celebration of the writer has been going on in NYC. If you are unable to visit the exhibition, the Lorca in NY website is a plethora of illuminating images and information (the interactive map is worth a click alone but prepared to be distracted from any other business you were conducting–you were warned!).

The Lorca exhibition focuses on his time spent in NYC. He initially came to the US to study English at Columbia University but soon gave that up to work on his book of poetry. He communicated either in Spanish or in a less than stellar French. What I found most interesting about the exhibition was the fact that Lorca was so enthralled by Harlem. Usually, when reading works about Manhattan during this time period the lower part of the island gets the limelight with the upper neighborhoods being confined to the Harlem Renaissance. Lorca was a European who lived in a dormitory on Columbia’s campus. He was a hop, skip, and a jump a way from Harlem, a neighborhood that butts up against the university. He found friendship and inspiration from the people of Harlem and the neighborhood itself.

lorca2Besides having his words inspired by the city, the exhibition also exhibits Lorca’s artwork. It definitely had that Spanish Surrealism quality about it with its drooping figures and looping lines. Prior to his trip to NYC, Lorca was friends with Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel who had criticized his earlier poetry as being too traditional.

The exhibition is a lovely mash of Lorca’s letters to his family in Granada, artwork, information about his time spent at Columbia and NYC in general, his friendships with different writers in the city, and the overall influence New York had on him.

The exhibition is titled, “Back Tomorrow.” When handing in his manuscript for Poet in New York, Lorca left a note with these words to his Madrid publisher. Unfortunately, “he never returned. Weeks later, at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, he was brutally murdered by fascist elements in Granada, his body thrown into an unmarked mass grave.” Like all book blurbs these day, the entire exhibition was haunting. I think this was due to the surreal portraits he created and his enthusiasm and longing for the city mixed with his unfortunate and brutal death. If you’re able to see it, go immediately before the exhibition closes!

Translating Dead German Poets

Translations of Dead German Poets.So what happens when you’ve been super busy, not responding to emails, getting back to people or being a suitable human? Procrastinate, of course. I’ve decided to collect my three previous translations I’ve posted to this blog and create a new project. I have already put up the originally three and some new ones are coming soon.

Some people squish stress balls in their hands, others clean their whole home. I choose to translate poems by dead and forgotten (at least, forgotten in the US) German-language poets to refocus and forget about everyday stresses. So without further ado…

TRANSLATIONS OF DEAD GERMAN POETS

Anne Carson has been showing her face lately

Anne Carson’s black and white visage has been popping up a bit lately. Yesterday, I caught her on the front page of the New York Times website and now, today on the train, I was catching up on the double issue of New York magazine that included an article on Carson’s new book, Red Doc>.

Carson is one of those people who has slashes included in their profession: poet/translator/writer/professor. I really have a soft spot for The Beauty of the Husband, which can fall into the slashie category (is it a poem? a novel? what is it?). Carson, herself, subtitles this book “a fictional essay in 29 tangos.” Is it a dance routine? This book also begs to be reread (which I must do one of these days).

I am happy to see that Anne Carson has been popping up in national publications. With VIDA’s annual report out recently and the big hoopla about the recent NYmag spread on Philip Roth¹, I’ve been on hyper alert about the gender bias in publishing. So, on a normal day, I would probably just think. Anne Carson on the front of the Times website? Fantastic! A whole review (if flawed) of Anne Carson’s newest book in New York? Perfect! I’m just happy that a talented and not quite mainstream writer is getting some spotlight attention.
 
 
 
¹I’m totally on board anytime Alexander Portnoy feels the need to make love to his family’s liver dinner but this spread was a bit blah for my tasteA literary caucus…with James Franco! Come on. If you don’t have the time to read the whole spread, let me sum it up with one featured quote by Keith Gessen when asked if Roth is a misogynist, “Did Roth hate women? What does that mean? If you hated women, why would you spend all your time thinking about fucking them.”  [end scene]