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American Author Challenge: Poetry

75 Books Challenge for 2017

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Edited: Mar 31, 2017, 8:45pm Top

In honor of poetry month, we are going to once again, read American poets, for April. This sparked something special, for me last year and I have continued to read poetry. I appreciate the love and support from fellow readers, through 2016. Let's keep this fire burning...

**This is part of our American Author Challenge 2017. These will be read in April. The general discussion thread can be found right here:


Edited: Mar 31, 2017, 7:34pm Top

^This is the poetry I have lined up, for myself. Not sure I will get to it all but since most of these are somewhat short, I should make a healthy dent. Several of these are Joe recommendations, which is no big surprise, since he has been a guiding force for me, for the past year or so.

I hope we have a wide participation again, this year and do not feel shy or intimidated. I still consider myself a rank amateur and I think many of us are in the same boat. If you need recs, just ask.

If you are brand new, I highly suggest something by Mary Oliver or Billy Collins. Good gateways.

Does anyone have anything lined up?

Mar 31, 2017, 8:37pm Top

I've pulled Where the Sidewalk Ends off the shelf for this month. The first poem has always been a favorite of mine:

If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer...
If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

Mar 31, 2017, 9:16pm Top

I'm going to see Ada Limon on Monday evening. Does that count?

Mar 31, 2017, 9:32pm Top

>3 amanda4242: I like the poem, Amanda. Thanks for sharing.

>4 luvamystery65: Hell yeah!! How cool is that. Tell her I was crazy about Bright Dead Things.

Mar 31, 2017, 9:41pm Top

I may read Jimmy Carter's Always a Reckoning. I never realized that President Carter had written a book of poetry. I'm hoping to get a copy from the library.

Mar 31, 2017, 10:00pm Top

My Thingaversary haul book Over the River and Through the Wood: An Anthology of Nineteenth-Century American Children's Poetry fits this category, even if it's a chunkster by comparison to most poetry collections!

Mar 31, 2017, 10:12pm Top

>6 lindapanzo: I am curious if Carter can write poetry. Share something, if it moves you.

>7 thornton37814: Let us know how that volume goes, Lori. Share some gems, as you come across them.

Mar 31, 2017, 10:50pm Top

I have a few books of poetry lined up, although they are not all American writers:

Seamus Heaney, Selected Poems 1966-1987
milk and honey by rupi kaur
Good poems collection by Garrison Keillor
Ordinary Light by Tracy K. Smith (this is her memoir and I read my first book of her poems earlier this year)

Mar 31, 2017, 10:55pm Top

I have a couple lined up - Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman and Thomas and Beulah by Rita Dove.

Apr 1, 2017, 9:16am Top

Also, reposting from my thread....

Pass The Poems, Please
By Jane Baskwill

Pass the poem please
Pile them on my plate
Put them right in front of me
For I can hardly wait
To take each tangy word
To try each tasty rhyme
And when I’ve tried them once or twice
I’ll try them one more time:
So pass the poems please
They just won’t leave my head
I have to have more poems
Before I go to bed.

Apr 1, 2017, 10:00am Top

^ Ha! Nice one, Kim.

Thanks for setting this up, Mark. I'm on a Kim Addonizio kick, and right now I'm reading her Wild Nights: New & Selected Poems.

Edited: Apr 1, 2017, 10:06am Top

I will be reading Ariel by Sylvia Plath this month and will read also A Change of World by Adrienne Rich if I get half a chance.

Edited: Apr 7, 2017, 11:19am Top

Hi - I'm reading SNAKETRAIN/FREIGHTRAIN by Joe Napora (Quelquefois Press in Berkeley)



Here's my poem for April 1st -

O Lord,
I just wanna say -
Please don't let me blow off
another day.


Was the George Bush tweet for real or an early April Fool's?

Either way, I'm still laughing!

Edited: Apr 2, 2017, 8:44am Top

^This is how I kicked off last April. Talk about a door opening. Wow! I want to thank Joe for turning me on to both of these wonderful authors.

Apr 2, 2017, 8:43am Top

>14 m.belljackson: Let us know how the Napora collection goes, Marianne and I LIKE your April 1st poem. Grins...

Edited: Apr 2, 2017, 10:17am Top

Online, Knopf is offering their annual free Poem A Day,
leading off with Robert Lowell's FOR THE UNION DEAD.

Apr 2, 2017, 11:34am Top

>11 Berly: I love that.

I'm not at all sure what I'll read for this month. I also have
Seamus Heaney, Selected Poems 1966-1987 and
milk and honey by rupi kaur
on my shelves but I haven't zoomed in on what I want to read. Yet.

Edited: Apr 3, 2017, 11:03am Top

I just finished milk and honey. Wow.

The poems in this book are divided into four sections: the hurting, the loving, the breaking, and the healing and they cover topics like love, sex, rape, finding your voice, feminism, fathers and daughters, and self-acceptance. milk and honey is deceptive, for there is nothing sweet about this collection of poetry. It is emotional. Raw. At times, I felt exposed. Again, not my typical kind of poetry. Many are two-liners. Punctuation? What's that? And no titles. But, I set out to read just one poem for the day and wound up reading the whole book. How can it not be my kind of poetry if it is powerful, rips me open, and will stay with me forever?

Here's a sampling. These are some of tamer ones FYI. I have numbered them since I can't separate them by pages and I don't want anyone to think they are stanzas. Many of her poems seem like truths.

you cannot leave
and have me too
i cannot exist in
two places at once

- when you ask if we can still be friends

you tell me to quiet down cause
my opinions make me less beautiful
but i was not made with a fire in my belly
so i could be put out
i was not made with lightness on my tongue
so i could be easy to swallow
i was made heavy
half blade and half silk
difficult to forget and not easy
for the mind to follow

people go
but how
they left
always stays

Apr 3, 2017, 8:39am Top

I'll be reading What Work Is by Philip Levine, a poet Mark bright to my attention last year.

Apr 3, 2017, 12:40pm Top

>15 msf59: Oh good, Mark. You're welcome. You're turning me on to a number of poets, and like Caroline in >20 Caroline_McElwee:, you got me to reacquaint with Philip Levine.

A Dream of a Common Language is such a ground-breaking collection. I hope you enjoy it. And the Mary Oliver.

Apr 3, 2017, 2:37pm Top

>19 Berly: that sounds like an interesting volume Kim.

Apr 3, 2017, 3:13pm Top

My plans for this month are to listen to Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, and to read every poem that Knopf sends in their daily poetry email. They probably won't all be American, but I figure a good percentage will be. And if the mood strikes, I'll read one of Donald Hall's memoirs, as he is a favorite poet.

Hopefully, none of this is cheating too much :)

Apr 3, 2017, 7:31pm Top

>19 Berly: I also liked Milk and Honey, Kimmers. Glad it found it's way into your hands.

>21 jnwelch: That photo is from last April, Joe. Those are the first 2 volumes I had read. I do want to read more Rich.

Apr 3, 2017, 7:35pm Top

I have been reading Incendiary Art, by Patricia Smith. I usually have to reread each stanza but she is such a potent poet. Here is the title poem:

Incendiary Art

"The city’s streets are densely shelved with rows
of salt and packaged hair. Intent on air,
the funk of crave and function comes to blows

with any smell that isn’t oil—the blare
of storefront chicken settles on the skin
and mango spritzing drips from razored hair.

The corner chefs cube pork, decide again
on cayenne, fry in grease that’s glopped with dust.
The sizzle of the feast adds to the din

of children, strutting slant, their wanderlust
and cussing, plus the loud and tactless hiss
of dogged hustlers bellowing past gusts

of peppered breeze, that fatty, fragrant bliss
in skillets. All our rampant hunger tricks
us into thinking we can dare dismiss

the thing men do to boulevards, the wicks
their bodies be. A city, strapped for art,
delights in torching them—at first for kicks,

to waltz to whirling sparks, but soon those hearts
thud thinner, whittled by the chomp of heat.
Outlined in chalk, men blacken, curl apart.

Their blindly rising fume is bittersweet,
although reversals in the air could fool
us into thinking they weren’t meant as meat.

Our sons don’t burn their cities as a rule,
born, as they are, up to their necks in fuel."

Patricia Smith, 1955

^The imagery and smells are nearly tangible.

Apr 3, 2017, 7:49pm Top

Here are a couple of excerpts from "The Then Where", from the same collection:

"The desperate stuttering neon of commerce peppers the highway's fringe, preys
on the gluttonous minivan. We are the fretful hue of a shriveling copper wind,
all wobbling toward, a noble, sunstruck end, witnesses to the patient unwinding of a country where the sound of weeping is a prelude to sleep."

"Wowed by caffeine and donuts dipped in snow, we hum stanzas praising,
hailing the whole sweet muddled everywhere of it. The calendar flips, here where
murder strums its bloated belly, picks its teeth with the edges of maps. And happens."

Apr 4, 2017, 3:54pm Top

>26 msf59: Very evocative! I've been there!

I'm reading Forever Words: The Unknown Poems by Johnny Cash and joining in a shared read of Always a Reckoning by Jimmy Carter for the "non-traditional poets" challenge of "Take It or Leave It" for April - http://www.librarything.com/topic/253640 (challenge #15, if you're interested).

Karen O.

Edited: Apr 4, 2017, 5:06pm Top

>27 klobrien2: I read Forever Words a few months ago, Karen. I was impressed, although not surprised. Perfect AAC choice.

Apr 4, 2017, 8:16pm Top

Not American but I'm sharing anyway. :-)

Final Faith

Is it possible that we are so twisted
there is no salvation for any of us,
and that ideas have become wingless
in an age of winged rockets?

Is it possible that a crippled birch,
bending over to the last river,
will see the last man
in its boiling water?

Is it possible there’ll be no Big Ben,
Saint Basil’s, or Notre Dame
and that neutron foam will gush
over our final steps?

But that planet, cherry trees,
birds, and children will perish,
I don’t believe. This disbelief
is my final faith.

Skull after skull will not
be piled up in towers again.
The final Nuremberg approaches us
before, not after the war.

And the last soldier on earth
will throw his shoulder strap in a stream,
and watch how peacefully
dragonflies sit on it.

All rascality will end.
All people will understand-we are a family.
The last government
will abolish itself.

The last exploiter,
opening his toothless mouth,
will gobble the last money
furtively like a delicacy.

The last cowardly editor
will be doomed forever
to read from the stage in sequence
everything that he destroyed.

So that the last bureaucrat
can rest and be silent,
his gullet will be stuffed in payment
with the last rubber stamp.

And the earth will turn
without fear of the last years,
there never will be born
the last great poet.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko, RIP

Apr 5, 2017, 1:53pm Top

>29 EBT1002: Love it! Thanks, Ellen. We can make him an honorary American this month.

Apr 5, 2017, 5:11pm Top

Apr 5, 2017, 11:21pm Top

Just for fun - Lucille Clifton reading her own homage to my hips


I am reading Life on Mars: Poems by Tracy K. Smith. I may also pick up another Mary Oliver later on in the month.

Apr 7, 2017, 1:09am Top

>29 EBT1002: Love that one, Ellen.

Apr 7, 2017, 9:02pm Top


Though dated (for violence, drugs and the reality of work),
these poetic letters from the late 1960s still have power:

"I have just realized that the stakes are myself
I have no other
ransom money, nothing to break or barter but my life
my spirit measured out, in bits, spread over
the roulette table..."

The days of The Weathermen have thankfully gone,
yet where is the world
of Love and Peace and Kindness and Sharing that was dreamed of?

When will the protests give a lasting change of evil for Good?

Apr 9, 2017, 7:38am Top

>29 EBT1002: "Final Faith" is excellent, Ellen. Sorry I missed it the first time around. Perfect for our current political environment.

>32 nittnut: Hope you are enjoying Life on Mars: Poems, Jenn. One of my favorites.

>34 m.belljackson: Thanks, Marianne. A bit dated but remains potent.

Apr 9, 2017, 7:41am Top

The Gatekeeper’s Children

"This is the house of the very rich.
You can tell because it’s taken all
The colors and left only the spaces
Between colors where the absence
Of rage and hunger survives. If you could
Get close you could touch the embers
Of red, the tiny beaks of yellow,
That jab back, the sacred blue that mimics
The color of heaven. Behind the house
The children digging in the flower beds
Have been out there since dawn waiting
To be called in for hot chocolate or tea
Or the remnants of meals. No one can see
Them, even though children are meant
To be seen, and these are good kids
Who go on working in silence.
They’re called the gatekeeper’s children,
Though there is no gate nor—of course—
Any gatekeeper, but if there were
These would be his, the seven of them,
Heads bowed, knifing the earth. Is that rain,
Snow, or what smearing their vision?
Remember, in the beginning they agreed
To accept a sky that answered nothing,
They agreed to lower their eyes, to accept
The gifts the hard ground hoarded.
Even though they were only children
They agreed to draw no more breath
Than fire requires and yet never to burn."

-Philip Levine

Edited: Apr 9, 2017, 7:48am Top

Wild Geese

"You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things."

by Mary Oliver

Apr 9, 2017, 12:56pm Top

> 36 msf The Gatekeeper's Children

I was with him until the last two lines, then > ???

Apr 9, 2017, 2:26pm Top

I'm reading Scriptorium by Melissa Range, thanks to you warblers (you know who you are, guys). Wonderful stuff. I ordered two copies and sent one to my favorite medievalist, and surrogate child, Holly Wendt, who I hoped would love it. She did, and I'm chuffed, because it's not often I get to introduce someone like her to a new voice.

I'm also dipping into May Sarton's A Private Mythology collection, which contains poems written as Sarton traveled around the world in celebration of her 50th birthday. The Japanese selections are particularly fine. Just f'rinstance:

On the Way to Lake Chuzen-ji

We regretted the rain,
Until we saw the mists
Floating the moutains
On their dragon tails.

or this excerpt from Seen from a Train:

How sad the thatch,
Abandoned, a mass of holes!
The peasant in each of us
Mourns the absence of smoke.

Apr 9, 2017, 5:42pm Top

>36 msf59: and >38 m.belljackson: Lost me, too.

But I love >37 msf59:.

I also love the excerpt from On the Way to Lake Chuzen-ji in >39 laytonwoman3rd:.

Apr 9, 2017, 9:41pm Top

>40 EBT1002: That's the entire poem, Ellen. The second Sarton selection is just an excerpt.

Apr 9, 2017, 9:54pm Top

>39 laytonwoman3rd: I have never read Sarton, Linda. Looks like I should. Glad you are enjoying Scriptorium. I also have it waiting nearby, after Joe's warbling.

Edited: Apr 28, 2017, 6:55am Top

Trust the Hours (Wait)

"Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?"

-excerpt from Galway Kinnell Has anyone here read him?

Edited: Apr 10, 2017, 9:31am Top

Today's delivery from the Knopf Poem-a-Day...

We’ve come a long way toward getting nowhere
by Bob Hicok

My obsession with Jews is an obsession
with one Jew. I look at her walking
and wonder what anyone could have
against Jews, at her sleeping
or hunting for her keys in the morning,
which she does often, lose her keys
when she has to go to work, suggesting
she doesn’t want to, and maybe this
is the problem with Jews:
they don’t want to leave. Or they eat
lots of chicken. Or worry the black
of their skirts doesn’t match the black
of their tops. Or like children more
than babies. Or fret over their mothers.
My Jewish problem is figuring out
why America in 2016 has a dab
of 1930s German Fascism to it—
people at political rallies
yelling crap about the Jews.
If I thought it would do any good,
I’d go to Topeka or wherever
and bring Eve with her troubled wardrobe
and her love of chicken and fascination
with children between two and thirteen,
when they can talk but before
they’ve begun planning the murder
of their parents, bring her face-to-face
with the screamers and ask, So these
are the freckles you hate? I would—we have
a lot of Amex points and I’ve never been
to Topeka or wherever, and I’m sure wherever
is very nice. And whenever we travel
to wherever, whatever people say
and however they say it, Eve’s freckles
will be the same, kind of cute
and kind of Jewish,
just like all her other parts
that do and do not have freckles,
in an inventory I alone
get to take, though trust me—
after repeated inspection, I can attest
that underneath it all, she, like many
of the people you know or are,
is ticklish, wrinkly, sexy, scarred—
since Jews really are relentless
when it comes to being human.

Apr 11, 2017, 7:41pm Top

^For the AAC and for April poetry month, I finished the collections Incendiary Art: Poems & There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé. I really enjoyed both of these but the Smith collection was truly amazing- quite a gut-punch on the current state of race in this country. You will smile, frown and cry, throughout. The Parker collection was somewhat overshadowed but she is also a fine poet and I want to thank Joe for putting her on my radar.

"This is no movie,
In cinematic oceans, white people flail,
pray upward,
shop for late-breaking religions.
Their histories trail listlessly
behind them as credits roll. But here
in Jersey, we go hard.
No otherwordly light,
no storyline beyond this."

-Patricia Smith

Apr 11, 2017, 7:43pm Top

>44 katiekrug: I am glad you shared this one, Katie. I saw it in my email. Good stuff.

Apr 12, 2017, 12:03am Top

>41 laytonwoman3rd: Even better.

Apr 12, 2017, 12:05am Top

>44 katiekrug: I LOVE that poem!
It's enough to make me sign up for Knopf's Poem-a-day.

Apr 12, 2017, 12:05am Top

I Shall Not Be Moved by Maya Angelou

This small collection of poems was uneven for me; some I found myself reading twice, others left me untouched. The brilliant and beautiful "Our Grandmothers" is included. I heard Maya Angelou do a poetry reading when I was in graduate school in Illinois and I think hearing her read any of these poems would supply them with tremendous power.

Apr 12, 2017, 12:24am Top

Our Grandmothers

She lay, skin down on the moist dirt,
the canebrake rustling
with the whispers of leaves, and
loud longing of hounds and
the ransack of hunters crackling the near branches.

She muttered, lifting her head a nod toward freedom,
I shall not, I shall not be moved.

She gathered her babies,
their tears slick and oil on black faces,
their young eyes canvassing mornings of madness.
Momma, is Master going to sell you
from us tomorrow?

Unless you keep walking more
and talking less.
Unless the keeper of our lives
releases me from all commandments.
And your lives,
never mine to live,
will be executed upon the killing floor of innocents.

Unless you match my heart and words,
saying with me,

I shall not be moved.

In Virginia tobacco fields,
leaning into the curve
on Steinway
pianos, along Arkansas roads,
in the red hills of Georgia,
into the palms of her chained hands, she
cried against calamity,
You have tried to destroy me
and though I perish daily,

I shall not be moved.

Her universe, often
summarized into one black body
falling finally from the tree to her feet,
made her cry each time in a new voice.
All my past hastens to defeat,
and strangers claim the glory of my love,
Iniquity has bound me to his bed,

yet, I must not be moved.

She heard the names,
swirling ribbons in the wind of history:
nigger, nigger bitch, heifer,
mammy, property, creature, ape, baboon,
whore, hot tail, thing, it.
She said, But my description cannot
fit your tongue, for
I have a certain way of being in this world,

and I shall not, I shall not be moved.

No angel stretched protecting wings
above the heads of her children,
fluttering and urging the winds of reason
into the confusion of their lives.
They sprouted like young weeds,
but she could not shield their growth
from the grinding blades of ignorance, nor
shape them into symbolic topiaries.
She sent them away,
underground, overland, in coaches and
When you learn, teach.
When you get, give.
As for me,

I shall not be moved.

She stood in midocean, seeking dry land.
She searched God's face.
she placed her fire of service
on the alter, and though
clothed in the finery of faith,
when she appeared at the temple door,
no sign welcomed
Black Grandmother. Enter here.

Into the crashing sound,
into the wickedness, she cried,
No one, no, nor no one million
ones dare deny me God. I go forth
alone, and stand as ten thousand.

The Divine upon my right
impels me to pull forever
at the latch on Freedom's gate.

The Holy Spirit upon my left leads my
feet without ceasing into the camp of the
righteous and into the tents of the free.

These momma faces, lemon-yellow, plum-purple,
honey-brown, have grimaced and twisted
down a pyramid of years.
She is Sheba and Sojourner,
Harriet and Zora,
Mary Bethune and Angela,
Annie to Zenobia.

She stands
before the abortion clinic,
confounded by the lack of choices.
In the Welfare line,
reduced to the pity of handouts.
Ordained in the pulpit, shielded
by the mysteries.
In the operating room,
husbanding life.
In the choir loft,
holding God in her throat.
On lonely street corners,
hawking her body.
In the classroom, loving the
children to understanding.

Centered on the world's stage,
she sings to her loves and beloveds,
to her foes and detractors:

However I am perceived and deceived,
however my ignorance and conceits,
lay aside your fears that I will be undone,

for I shall not be moved.

~~Maya Angelou

Apr 12, 2017, 12:24am Top

^ with apologies. I didn't realize how long it is, but once I got typing, I couldn't stop!
Anyway, I think it's a beautiful poem.

Apr 12, 2017, 12:29pm Top

>50 EBT1002: Yes, a powerful one. I am especially in awe of the first half or so, before it spreads out to include others. The grandmother is so specific. The opening lines are breathtaking.

Edited: Apr 12, 2017, 4:33pm Top

>50 EBT1002: Wow. Thanks, Ellen. Great poem.

I'm liking all the others, too. Katie's in >44 katiekrug: really got me. Timely, too. The resurgence in anti-Semitism is so disturbing. But I guess just one more facet in our time of intolerance.

>36 msf59: I had the same problem as everyone else with the Philip Levine poem. I love it up to the last two lines, and the last two lines sound great, but I don't understand them either.

>43 msf59: I've read a ton of Galway Kinnell, although not recently. He's a good 'un.

>25 msf59: As discussed, we love Patricia Smith. She's a major figure in Chicago. I'm going to track down this collection. Thanks, Mark.

P.S. >39 laytonwoman3rd: I'm chuffed that you and your medievalist friend/surrogate child had a chuffsome time with Scriptorium, Linda. Isn't it great? I hope the word keeps spreading.

Apr 12, 2017, 4:27pm Top

"The Bear" is one of Galway Kinnell's most famous poems, as far as I know. It sure gets me.

The Bear

In late winter
I sometimes glimpse bits of steam
coming up from
some fault in the old snow
and bend close and see it is lung-colored
and put down my nose
and know
the chilly, enduring odor of bear.

I take a wolf's rib and whittle
it sharp at both ends
and coil it up
and freeze it in blubber and place it out
on the fairway of the bears.

And when it has vanished
I move out on the bear tracks,
roaming in circles
until I come to the first, tentative, dark
splash on the earth.

And I set out
running, following the splashes
of blood wandering over the world.

At the cut, gashed resting places
I stop and rest,
at the crawl-marks
where he lay out on his belly
to overpass some stretch of bauchy ice
I lie out
dragging myself forward with bear-knives in my fists.

On the third day I begin to starve,
at nightfall I bend down as I knew I would
at a turd sopped in blood,
and hesitate, and pick it up,
and thrust it in my mouth, and gnash it down,
and rise
and go on running.

On the seventh day,
living by now on bear blood alone,
I can see his upturned carcass far out ahead, a scraggled,
steamy hulk,
the heavy fur riffling in the wind.

I come up to him
and stare at the narrow-spaced, petty eyes,
the dismayed
face laid back on the shoulder, the nostrils
flared, catching
perhaps the first taint of me as he

I hack
a ravine in his thigh, and eat and drink,
and tear him down his whole length
and open him and climb in
and close him up after me, against the wind,
and sleep.

And dream
of lumbering flatfooted
over the tundra,
stabbed twice from within,
splattering a trail behind me,
splattering it out no matter which way I lurch,
no matter which parabola of bear-transcendence,
which dance of solitude I attempt,
which gravity-clutched leap,
which trudge, which groan.

Until one day I totter and fall --
fall on this
stomach that has tried so hard to keep up,
to digest the blood as it leaked in,
to break up
and digest the bone itself: and now the breeze
blows over me, blows off
the hideous belches of ill-digested bear blood
and rotted stomach
and the ordinary, wretched odor of bear,

blows across
my sore, lolled tongue a song
or screech, until I think I must rise up
and dance.
And I lie still.

I awaken I think.
reappear, geese
come trailing again up the flyway.

In her ravine under old snow the dam-bear
lies, licking
lumps of smeared fur
and drizzly eyes into shapes
with her tongue.
And one
hairy-soled trudge stuck out before me,
the next groaned out,
the next,
the next,
the rest of my days I spend
wandering: wondering
what, anyway,
was that sticky infusion, that rank flavor of blood, that
poetry, by which I lived?

from Body Rags, Galway Kinnell (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1967).

Apr 12, 2017, 4:30pm Top

> 53 jnwelch

Not sure what to do about all the openly expressed hatreds >

What if on the 2nd (?) day of each month we all wore a Yellow Star of David and veiled our faces?

Would the great "they" start to get it?

Apr 12, 2017, 5:36pm Top

I should've noted the details when I first spotted it but, on FB yesterday, there was a poetry giveaway from Knopf Poetry and Everyman's Library. Beyond the contest, Knopf is sending out a daily poem every day in April. Today's was William Blake's Nurse's Song.

I still haven't gotten to my Jimmy Carter poetry yet. In fact, I haven't done much reading at all this month.

Apr 12, 2017, 8:38pm Top

Tracy K. Smith is imaginative and eloquent. Her poetry is striking, but not a huge favorite for me, I think. Of this collection, The Good Life was my favorite.

The Good Life

When some people talk about money
They speak as if it were a mysterious lover
Who went out to buy milk and never
Came back, and it makes me nostalgic
For the years I lived on coffee and bread,
Hungry all the time, walking to work on payday
Like a woman journeying for water
From a village without a well, then living
One or two nights like everyone else
On roast chicken and red wine.

Apr 13, 2017, 11:58am Top

I've been trying to include a few children's classics in my reading the last couple years. Ones that I enjoyed as a child, ones I enjoyed with my children, and even ones I never read but should have. My first thought on poetry thus was to find one of our Dr Seuss books. I truly love a few of those. But then I thought Shel Silverstein and so I've been nibbling away this past week at Falling Up. This is a rather large collection of poems and I don't want to rush through it. But here's an interesting one I just read, that I remember reading long ago...


I'll share your toys, I'll share your money,
I'll share your toast, I'll share your honey,
I'll share your milk and your cookies too-
The hard part's sharing mine with you.

At least half the reason one reads a Silverstein book, or a Seuss, is for the illustrations. This one is full of zany pen and ink drawings. When I bought this 20 years ago the kids were past the stage where I read to them - I'm not sure how much they ever read it, although my daughter keeps this on one of her bookshelves where I swiped it from - it turned out to be a book for me.


Apr 13, 2017, 11:07pm Top

>54 jnwelch: Beautiful.

Apr 14, 2017, 2:27pm Top

Resharing from my thread:

I don't usually have the patience to read poetry, but today's Knopf Poem-a-Day really got to me as a mom - and gave me another way to look at the Daylight Savings time change (in autumn, at least). (I've always hated Spring Forward but loved Fall Back and thought of it as an extra hour of sleep.)

Daylight Savings

There was the hour
when raging with fever
they thrashed. The hour
when they called out in fright.
The hour when they fell asleep
against our bodies, the hour
when without us they might die.
The hour before school
and the hour after.
The hour when we buttered their toast
and made them meals
from the four important food groups—
what else could we do to ensure they’d get strong and grow?
There was the hour when we were spectators
at a recital, baseball game,
when they debuted in the school play.
There was the silent hour in the car
when they were angry. The hour
when they broke curfew. The hour
when we waited for the turn of the lock
knowing they were safe and we could finally
close our eyes and sleep. The hour
when they were hurt
or betrayed and there was nothing we could do
to ease the pain.
There was the hour
when we stood by their bedsides with ginger-ale
or juice until the fever broke. The hour
when we lost our temper and the hour
we were filled with regret. The hour
when we slapped their cheeks and held
our hand in wonder.
The hour when we wished for more.
The hour when their tall and strong bodies,
their newly formed curves and angles in their faces
and Adam’s apple surprised us—
who had they become?
Hours when we waited and waited.
When we rushed home from the office
or sat in their teacher’s classroom
awaiting the report of where they stumbled
and where they excelled, the hours
when they were without us, the precious hour
we did not want to lose each year
even if it meant another hour of daylight.

From The Players by Jill Bialosky

Apr 15, 2017, 12:54am Top

Theories of Time and Space

You can get there from here, though
there's no going home.

Everywhere you go will be somewhere
you've never been. Try this:

head south on Mississippi 49, one-
by-one mile markers ticking off

another minute of your life. Follow this
to its natural conclusion -- dead end

at the coast, the pier at Gulfport where
rigging of shrimp boats are loose stitches

in a sky threatening rain. Cross over
the man-made beach, twenty-six miles of sand

dumped on the mangrove swamp -- buried
terrain of the past. Bring only

what you must carry -- tome of memory,
its random blank pages. On the dock

where you board the boat for Ship Island
someone will take your picture:

the photograph -- who you were --
will be waiting for you when you return.

~ Natasha Trethewey

Edited: Apr 15, 2017, 12:57am Top

>60 Storeetllr: I need to sign up for the Knopf's poem a day. This is the second one that deeply touched me.

eta: although I love springing forward because, even though it means that my weekend is an hour shorter, I love the long light evenings, especially in the Pacific Northwest of the US where twilight can go on forever as we move into May and June.

Apr 15, 2017, 12:59am Top

I now know that the Knopf poem a day is in April only but I signed up. I'll receive half a month's worth of poems!

Apr 15, 2017, 9:57am Top

>62 EBT1002:, >63 EBT1002: And every year from now on you will get a poem a day each April! Good deal, huh!? Glad you liked that poem. It touched me too. I even cried a bit, weirdo that I am, because I it made me recall memories from when my daughter was a child.

Apr 15, 2017, 8:10pm Top

>64 Storeetllr: Not weird. Sweet.

Edited: Apr 15, 2017, 9:43pm Top

>36 msf59: I made a remark today about this poet's character, but it didn't feel right to me. I was thinking of Phillip Larkin, not Phillip Levine.

Apr 15, 2017, 11:53pm Top

I am also reading May Sarton's poetry. The collection I have is The Silence Now, a collection of some of her earlier poems. I particularly like this one:


It was always there,
The great white pine,
Shelter and sold comfort.
From the second floor
I could watch red squirrels
Play, nuthatches lead
Their compulsive lives
In its ample branches.

From the third floor
I could turn away
From the glittering ocean
And rest my eyes
On the thick soft green.
In all seasons wind
Murmured through it.
It was always present.
We lived along together.

Until a winter hurricane
Brought it, shuddering,
Down against the house,
Until that quiet strength
Was broken by force.

On the second floor
The windows are empty
And here on the third
Ragged firs
And formless bits of sky
Are only an irritation.
The air is silent.

Must we lose what we love
To know how much we loved it?

It is always there now,
That absence, that awful absence.

Edited: Apr 16, 2017, 4:54pm Top

>66 ffortsa: so I've been investigating Levine a little. Found this appreciation from the NY TIMES 2/15/2015


Apr 17, 2017, 12:30pm Top

My favorite newspaper columnist is the Chicago Tribune's Mary Schmich. Today, on her Facebook page, she posted the following poem. As I noticed nature suddenly unfolding today, I thought this was an appropriate poem for today.

By Phillip Larkin

The Trees

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.
Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.
Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Apr 17, 2017, 10:02pm Top

I've finished Where the Sidewalk Ends, which I love now just as much as I did when I was a kid. The poems are:


My Beard
My beard grows to my toes,
I never wears no clothes,
I wraps my hair
Around my bare,
And down the road I goes.

and irreverent

Chester come to school and said,
"Durn, I growed another head."
Teacher said, "It's time you knowed
The word is 'grew' instead of '"growed.'"

and occasionally very wise

Just Me, Just Me
Sweet Marie, she loves just me
(She also loves Maurice McGhee).
No she don't, she loves just me
(She also loves Louise Dupree).
No she don't, she loves just me
(She also loves the willow tree).
No she don't, she loves just me!
(Poor, poor fool, why can't you see
She can love others and still love thee.)

Edited: Apr 18, 2017, 5:29am Top

Ariel by Sylvia Plath

Date of Publication : 1965
Pages : 81 pp
American Author Challenge April 2017

Collected for publication by her husband Ted Hughes in 1965 two years after her death at her own hand. I can think of no better way to review this troubled collection on death, loss, despair and bees than by scribbling my own verse review in homage to a flame that burned bright but fleetingly.

To Sylvia

You dug deep into soiled earth
And raised totems to the stars, the stars, the stars;
Only to cast them down in slewing syllables
Deeper and lower than emotion is wont to go.

Frailties laid bare when
A confession less belated
May have saved you from the suffocating airs.

Our Queen Bee
Who used your sting to shock us, shock us, shock us,
And - sting drawn - expired.
Unable to breathe through the sticky, despairing splendour
Of honeyed words.

Apr 18, 2017, 1:47pm Top

Storm Warnings

The glass has been falling all the afternoon,
And knowing better than an instrument
What winds are walking overhead, what zone
Of gray unrest is moving across the land,
I leave the book upon a pillowed chair
And walk from window to closed window, watching
Boughs strain against the sky

And think again, as often when the air
Moves inward toward a silent core of waiting,
How with a single purpose time has traveled
By secret currents of the undiscerned
Into this polar realm. Weather abroad
And weather in the heart alike come on
Regardless of prediction.

Between foreseeing and averting change
Lies all the mastery of elements
Which clocks and weatherglasses cannot alter.
Time in the hand is not control of time,
Nor shattered fragments of an instrument
A proof against the wind; the wind will rise,
We can only close the shutters.

I draw the curtains as the sky goes black
And set a match to candles sheathed in glass
Against the keyhole draught, the insistent whine
Of weather through the unsealed aperture.
This is our sole defense against the season;
These are the things that we have learned to do
Who live in troubled regions.

~~ Adrienne Rich
From A Change of World

Apr 19, 2017, 12:44am Top

This Hour and What Is Dead
By Li-Young Lee

Tonight my brother, in heavy boots, is walking
through bare rooms over my head,
opening and closing doors.
What could he be looking for in an empty house?
What could he possibly need there in heaven?
Does he remember his earth, his birthplace set to torches?
His love for me feels like spilled water
running back to its vessel.

At this hour, what is dead is restless
and what is living is burning.

Someone tell him he should sleep now.

My father keeps a light on by our bed
and readies for our journey.
He mends ten holes in the knees
of five pairs of boy’s pants.
His love for me is like his sewing:
various colors and too much thread,
the stitching uneven. But the needle pierces
clean through with each stroke of his hand.

At this hour, what is dead is worried
and what is living is fugitive.

Someone tell him he should sleep now.

God, that old furnace, keeps talking
with his mouth of teeth,
a beard stained at feasts, and his breath
of gasoline, airplane, human ash.
His love for me feels like fire,
feels like doves, feels like river-water.

At this hour, what is dead is helpless, kind
and helpless. While the Lord lives.

Someone tell the Lord to leave me alone.
I’ve had enough of his love
that feels like burning and flight and running away.

Apr 19, 2017, 6:58pm Top

QUIET AS MOSS, Thirty-six Poems by Andrew Young, selection by Leonard Clark. 1959.

Evocative title and beautiful woodcuts capture the fine rhythms of nature through the seasons.

"And birds perch on the boughs, silent as cones."

Andrew Young (Scottish vicar, 1885-1971) writes poems often interwoven with ghosts and death.

Though many rhymes may now seem ordinary or even stilted, his treatment of snails, moles, and the world through field-glasses is enlightening.

Apr 21, 2017, 1:04pm Top

Today's stunning poem from Knopf, with a short introduction which makes it all the more incredible:

Today, a brief poem by C. P. Cavafy (1863-1933), who, the translator Daniel Mendelsohn writes in his introduction to Complete Poems, lived in a seemingly dull and ordinary fashion: “The cluttered, déclassé surroundings, the absence of aesthetic distinction, the startlingly conventional, to say nothing of middlebrow, taste: Cavafy’s apartment, like his job, gave little outward sign of the presence of a great artistic mind—the place from which the poetry really came.”

In the Same Space

House, coffeehouses, neighborhood: setting
that I see and where I walk; year after year.

I crafted you amid joy and amid sorrows:
out of so much that happened, out of so many things.

And you’ve been wholly remade into feeling; for me.

Apr 21, 2017, 1:40pm Top

I haven't really felt compelled to dive into this poetry challenge. But I ran across this collection just the other day. It may be just right.

Apr 21, 2017, 2:35pm Top

>60 Storeetllr: Oh, I liked that one!! And next year I will have to sign up for the Knopf's poem a day.

After finishing two poetry collections, including Life on Mars, I have now switched gears and I am reading the author Tracy K. Smith's memoir Ordinary Light, which I am enjoying very much.

Apr 21, 2017, 2:44pm Top

>76 weird_O: Must find a copy of that! You unearth the best stuff, Bill.

Apr 21, 2017, 3:50pm Top

>76 weird_O: I agree! Unfortunately, my library doesn't have Smart Ways to Use Poetry in a Street Fight -- I'll have to look further afield.

Karen O.

Edited: Apr 21, 2017, 7:14pm Top

“I will wake you up early
with my heavy heartbeat.
You will say, Can't we just sleep in, and I will say,
No, trust me. You don't want to miss a thing. “

"Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s swept away."

“ I love hands like I love people. They are the maps and
compasses with which we navigate our way through life,
feeling our way over mountains passed and valleys crossed;
they are our histories.
Some people read palms to tell you your future,
I read hands to tell your past. Each scar makes a story worth telling. Each callused palm
each cracked knuckle, is a broken bottle, a missed punch...”

^These excerpts are from No Matter the Wreckage, by the young New York poet, Sarah Kay. I really fell hard for this collection. I am still finding my way in poetry, so not everything speaks to me, of course, but then you are hit with a lovely beacon of light and this one easily qualifies.

Edited: Apr 21, 2017, 7:20pm Top

I shared these videos with Joe. They feature Sarah Kay doing spoken word poetry. She is such a natural.

"When Love Arrives" by Sarah Kay & Phil Kaye.


This is one called "Hands", which is included in the collection I just read. She was only 18 at the time:


Apr 21, 2017, 7:34pm Top

I really appreciate all the poetry postings. I love sharing this stuff, plus I discover new poets. Please continue and let's keep sharing these beautiful words on the 75 Poetry Thread, once this wraps up.

>72 EBT1002: I love Storm Warnings, Ellen and it reminds me that I NEED to read more Rich.

>73 banjo123:

"At this hour, what is dead is restless
and what is living is burning."

This Hour and What Is Dead is very good, Rhonda. Was this from a collection?

Apr 21, 2017, 8:25pm Top

My time is up on the Jimmy Carter poetry book and I think I'll have to return it, unread. However, I picked up a couple of the Everyman Library poetry books and will start leafing through those. I got the one with poetry about the seasons and the other one is poetry about New York City.

Apr 22, 2017, 10:04am Top

Just saw a NYTimes article on the protest poetry that includes a number of poems. I read only one of the poems so far, and that quickly, but thought others might be interested. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/21/books/review/poltical-poetry-sampler.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0

Apr 22, 2017, 1:45pm Top

Who can name this famous American poet? Ezra Pound, shown here in Venice, where he lived for many years. Harder question: who has read any of his poetry?

Apr 22, 2017, 2:05pm Top

Ezra Pound? Yes! And yes!

Here's a beautiful short one.

In a Station of the Metro

Ezra Pound, 1885 - 1972

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Edited: Apr 22, 2017, 2:08pm Top

>81 msf59: Thanks, Mark. As you know, I really like those. On your rec, I've requested No Matter the Wreckage from the library. (I'm #6 for the one copy they have in the system - I'm thinking they should get at least one more copy!) I also passed the links on to Debbi.

Apr 22, 2017, 4:23pm Top

Last night I watched a documentary on Robert Bly, who seems to still be alive, according to Wikipedia. I was quite surprised. Has anyone read any of his work?

Apr 22, 2017, 5:28pm Top

>85 weird_O: I recognised the old wastrel.

Apr 22, 2017, 5:52pm Top

> weird_O

Sure isn't Walt Whitman!

Yes, poetry read with no pretension to deciphering it all...
I gave up on him (checked the Spoiler) after many sources
recorded his virulent anti-Semitic feelings.

Edited: Apr 22, 2017, 7:09pm Top

>88 ffortsa: I've read a ton of Robert Bly, Judy, and saw him live, many years ago. His poetry tends to be spare and (to my mind) influenced by the Japanese and Chinese poets, although he has experimented with the Islamic ghazal form and who knows what else. His Silence in the Snowy Fields was a big influence on me when I was a kid.

Just pretend his Iron John days never happened. That's what I do. (Truth be told, I never read that big seller, but the whole thing turned me off).

>90 m.belljackson: Yes, he was a racist idiot.

But he did a great job of editing Eliot's The Waste Land (il miglior fabbro, says Eliot in the dedication), and I really like that poem that's covered by a spoiler. That's the only poem of his I can say that about, I realized.

Apr 22, 2017, 10:04pm Top

>85 weird_O: Controversial fellow. Read plenty of his stuff and some of it was top notch. Dense, obscure but hugely influential on modern poetry.

Edited: Apr 23, 2017, 1:51pm Top

Sitting in the Syracuse airport, listening to the podcast, "On Being," in which Krista Tippett interviewed poet Naomi Shihab Nye. It is SO wonderful! I will be reading more of her poetry.

I know that I didn't love 19 Varieties of Gazelle (I gave it 3 stars) but I am going to give her work another try.

Apr 23, 2017, 2:46pm Top

SNAKETRAIN.FREIGHTRAIN, written by Joe Napora, is a beautifully executed poem within four playing cards. It was inspired by both a Jim Morrison song,"The train is a snake 7 miles long,"
and the poem "Snake Train" by Velemir Khlebnikov.

Dedicated to Texcatlipoca, the Aztec god of eternal youth, it begins with the Jack O'Diamonds
and a horrific hummingbird image to evoke: Silence.

The Diamond is echoed in red on the front cover which shows a deceptively subtle silver Snake
shining on a light blue background. It has halfway swallowed another snake.

A bewildering sequence > guru-gun-Buddhists-train-snake swallowing its own tail-assassin-
Moscow-Kandinsky-slaughter-gold-Fire-"A thousand bodies into ringlets of coiled serpents"

Apr 23, 2017, 2:49pm Top

emerges. Snake guarded end NOTES offer Jack O'Diamonds as avant-garde artists including Kandinsky.

(((Not sure why the complete review got cut off - I'll continue it later)))

Edited: Apr 23, 2017, 3:09pm Top

King of Clubs moves to the '68 Olympic Games in Mexico City, more gold, skulls, and the murder
of rebels:

"against the wall and shot
Fire hot blood melts through the layers of history,"
all aligning with the Equinox.

The "...jaws of the dragon..." Cortez murdered the last Aztec ruler, Cuauhtemoc, at Tlatelolco,
which eventually became Mexico City.

King of Clubs ends with Cuauhtemo people chanting "Uncle Cortez must die."

Apr 23, 2017, 3:01pm Top

Queen of Hearts contrasts the slaughter of the rebels with the ongoing Games, then gives a vivid
and compelling description of "passion filled bodies," which could be either the competing athletes or the Aztec priest victims.

The image where Cuauhtemoc "opens his body" is another indelible one.

Ace of Spaces offers:

"The song
is distinguished
from the night by being blacker."

Later still come the black gloves of Tommy Smith and John Carlos.

Edited: Apr 23, 2017, 3:10pm Top

I'm still struggling to understand and take in all the haunting and powerful words.
It would be good to know the symbolism of the chosen cards, as well as what the author thinks about Aztec sacrifices -
cultural relativity, horror, or ???

End NOTES are followed by a COLOPHON with a plea for NO WAR IN THE GULF!

The book was hand sewn, designed, and set in print on beautiful thick handmade embossed cream-colored paper by M.L.Laird of Quelquefois Press, Berkeley, California, in a run of 150
copies of which this is my lucky 104th.

Apr 24, 2017, 12:42am Top

>73 banjo123: >82 msf59: It's from his collection The City in Which I Love You. Some of the poems worked better than others, but definitely an interesting writer.

Apr 26, 2017, 9:03am Top

>36 msf59: I haven't forgotten my promise to discuss The Gatekeeper's Children with my poetry mentor here in NYC. We had a good discussion on Monday, and she left me some notes that I'll organize and post a little later. It's not an easy poem, is it?

Apr 26, 2017, 12:23pm Top

I read the "People" portion of Jimmy Carter's book of poetry. Not bad but not all that great either. I'll carry on with Places, Politics, and the last portion.

Apr 26, 2017, 8:33pm Top

>99 banjo123: I will have to look into that one, Rhonda. Thanks.

>100 ffortsa: Looking forward to hearing your poetry mentor's comments, Judy. Is she a fan of Levine?

>101 lindapanzo: Hope the rest of it is better, Linda.

Edited: Apr 26, 2017, 8:41pm Top

^This is a quote from "Flat as a Fritter", which is featured in Scriptorium, a collection I just finished. That quote is my favorite. Joe is a big fan of this collection. I liked it but it didn't resonate with me, the way I hoped and I am sure that is due to my inexperience and not her talent. I did like the way she combined theology with her Appalachian lyricism.

"God takes on flesh and thinks he’ll smother.
Reeling, obsessed, his heart a wilderness,
God’s a mess, suffering in me as I suffer

over a torn leaf, a tore-up man, the others
I’ve tried to love, shorn to the bone and luckless
as the Son..."

^This one is from "Ashburnham”.

Edited: Apr 27, 2017, 4:51pm Top

>100 ffortsa: about The Gatekeeper's Children

The Gatekeeper’s Children

"This is the house of the very rich.
You can tell because it’s taken all
The colors and left only the spaces
Between colors where the absence
Of rage and hunger survives. If you could
Get close you could touch the embers
Of red, the tiny beaks of yellow,
That jab back, the sacred blue that mimics
The color of heaven. Behind the house
The children digging in the flower beds
Have been out there since dawn waiting
To be called in for hot chocolate or tea
Or the remnants of meals. No one can see
Them, even though children are meant
To be seen, and these are good kids
Who go on working in silence.
They’re called the gatekeeper’s children,
Though there is no gate nor—of course—
Any gatekeeper, but if there were
These would be his, the seven of them,
Heads bowed, knifing the earth. Is that rain,
Snow, or what smearing their vision?
Remember, in the beginning they agreed
To accept a sky that answered nothing,
They agreed to lower their eyes, to accept
The gifts the hard ground hoarded.
Even though they were only children
They agreed to draw no more breath
Than fire requires and yet never to burn."

-Philip Levine

My mentor, VinniMarie D'Ambrosio, and I spent a very interesting afternoon talking about this poem, and I’ll try to capture ourdiscussion here.

1. Who is speaking? The entire poem is a quotation, so someone is speaking, but the speaker is not identified. It makes the poem more intimate, I think, or more sinister, as if the speaker is right next to us. Vinnie wondered if it was the Devil – that ties in to her ideas about religion in the poem.

2. We are immediately placed in exile, outside the house of the rich, who have ‘taken all the colors’ – made the rest of the world drab. The poet is setting up a great contrast.

3. ‘the spaces
between colors where the absence of rage and hunger survives’

What does that mean? Perhaps that only the abnegation remains? Directly after that, the poet presents very hostile images – embers (red) that would burn, beaks (yellow) that would jab back – as if the rage and hunger had been destroyed and all that was left were these artifacts. And then, the sacred blue that only ‘mimics’ heaven. So this is a pretend heaven. Vinnie thought the colors were reminiscent of the church, especially because of the blue. It feels like all vivacity and joy were destroyed in those embers.

4. Then we meet the children. They are working and waiting for scraps and a little warmth. And they are invisible, at the back of the house. Maybe the house is between them and any who might see them. Easily ignored.

5. What is meant by ‘the gatekeeper’s children’? Why seven? Vinnie and I looked for the term gatekeeper, and found a reference in the Bible, in Ezra. In some versions, there were seven families of gatekeepers, in some more. There do seem to be seven things to be guarded, the four gates to the Temple in Jerusalem, and three places inside the gates as well. Maybe there are other references to 7 of something that will strike you. Seven sins? In Revelation, there are seven angels. If we are dealing with religion, is the gatekeeper God? If so, we know immediately that there is no god: ‘there is no gate nor – of course – any gatekeeper’. The sky is empty of any answers – any hope.

6. The children’s heads are bowed, they are ‘knifing’ the earth, and their vision is blurred – perhaps with tears? We are told that they had long ago agreed to be meek, lower their eyes, ‘accept the gifts that the hard ground hoarded’. Is this referring to the expulsion from Eden?

And then, of course, that killer ending. ‘never to burn’. Never to complain? Revolt? Regain their passion?

As you can see, we were substantially puzzled. But it does seem to refer to the meek inheriting the earth, that is, the dirt, that is the curse of Adam, defined as the poor, underfed, invisible children.

And that fits with Levine’s overarching interests. According to a bio of him on the Poetry Foundation site:

Noted for his interest in the grim reality of blue-collar work and workers, Levine resolved “to find a voice for the voiceless” while working in the auto plants of Detroit during the 1950s. “I saw that the people that I was working with … were voiceless in a way,” he explained in Detroit Magazine. “In terms of the literature of the United States they weren’t being heard. Nobody was speaking for them. And as young people will, you know, I took this foolish vow that I would speak for them and that’s what my life would be. And sure enough I’ve gone and done it. Or I’ve tried anyway.”

I hope this is helpful. It’s quite a wonderful poem. Any other ideas?

Apr 27, 2017, 7:01pm Top

Aha! I found this thread!

Ok, while I am the first to admit that poetry is not my genre, I decided to go outside my comfort zone and give it a try for this month. I will copy and paste the reviews here, from my own thread. Please don't hold it against me, my lame attempts and reviews:

1) While I used to write it myself, in my younger years, poetry has just never been a genre that I read comfortably. Don't know why but it just doesn't draw me in as easily as prose does, in general. So, to venture out of my comfort zone a bit, I thought I'd ask my friend to lend me one of her many books by Mary Oliver, who has one poem I do know and like, Wild Geese. She lent me Dream Work and though I really tried, I have to conclude, yet again, that this just isn't my genre. Oh well....

2) I also dipped into a slim volume of Emily Dickinson Selected Poems. I was familiar with what are probably her two most famous poems, Hope, and A Book. But other than the fact that I noticed she doesn't deviate much from the *melody* and cadence pattern in just about every poem, I also noticed that she is quite obsessed with death (though not in these two).

A Book

There is no frigate like book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!


Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chilliest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.


These were the two I knew, and frankly, the two I still liked best, in this book. Moving on...

Apr 27, 2017, 8:47pm Top

>104 ffortsa: Thank you for that, Judy! I wish we could break down all the poems like that. LOL. The Gatekeeper’s Children is a dense, powerful poem and her comments definitely made me appreciate it more. I did not have a problem with the last 2 lines but now I have a pretty good idea, what it means. Tell, your mentor, we really appreciate her comments.

Apr 27, 2017, 8:49pm Top

>105 jessibud2: Thanks for sharing the Dickinson, Shelley. I hope you can stop by again and discover some accessible poetry. Oliver is a very good place to start. She was one of my very first.

Edited: Apr 28, 2017, 6:56am Top


They say brave but I don’t want it.
Who will we mourn today. Or won’t we.

Black all the windows. Lower
down the afternoon. I barricade

all my belonging. I am mostly never real
American or anything

availing. But I do take. And take
what’s given. The smell of blood.

I breathe it in. The dirt so thick with our good
fortune. And who pays for it. And what am I

but fear, but wanting. I’ll bite
the feeding hand until I’m fed

and buried. In the shining day.
All deadly good

intentions. A catalogue of virtues.
This is how I’ll disappear.

-Camille Rankine

from Poem-A-Day

Edited: Apr 28, 2017, 10:27am Top

I'm so enjoying this thread. I had a little conversation with Paul a while back and he said he typically reads a collection of poetry a month. I now have a very respectable little collection of poetry, um, collections in my TBR stacks and I plan to keep reading poetry throughout the year (not just during Poetry Month).

Thanks, Mark, for creating this opportunity and impetus for some of us to dip our big toes into the water of a new and unknown pond.

Apr 28, 2017, 10:27am Top


was what they called you in high school
if you tripped on a shoelace in the hall
and all your books went flying.

Or if you walked into an open locker door,
you would be known as Einstein,
who imagined riding a streetcar into infinity.

Later, genius became someone
who could take a sliver of chalk and square pi
a hundred places out beyond the decimal point,

or a man painting on his back on a scaffold,
or drawing a waterwheel in a margin,
or spinning out a little night music.

But earlier this week on a wooded path,
I thought the swans afloat on the reservoir
were the true geniuses,

the ones who had figured out how to fly,
how to be both beautiful and brutal,
and how to mate for life.

Twenty-four geniuses in all,
for I numbered them as Yeats had done,
deployed upon the calm, crystalline surface --

forty-eight if we count their white reflections,
or an even fifty if you want to throw in me
and the dog running up ahead,

who were at least smart enough to be out
that day -- she sniffing the ground,
me with my head up in the bright morning air.

-- Billy Collins, in The Trouble with Poetry

Apr 29, 2017, 6:41pm Top

Thanks for this Billy Collins poem - one of the best ever.

Today is the birthday (1885) of Andrew Young, author of Quiet as Moss.

Here are two excerpts -

from The Swallows:

All day -- when early morning shone
With every dewdrop its own dawn
And when cockchafers were abroad
Hurtling like missiles that had lost their road --

The Swallows twisting here and there
Round unseen corners of the air
Upstream and down so quickly passed
I wondered that their shadows flew as fast.

from The Track:

Trodden by man and horse
Tracks change their course
As rivers change their bed;
And this that I now tread
Where the lean roots obtrude
Was not the first track through the wood.

(sounds like a precursor to Stopping by Woods)

Apr 29, 2017, 7:55pm Top

The Trouble with Poetry

The trouble with poetry, I realized
as I walked along a beach one night --
cold Florida sand under my bare feet,
a show of stars in the sky --

the trouble with poetry is
that it encourages the writing of more poetry,
more guppies crowding the fish tank,
more baby rabbits
hopping out of their mothers into the dewy grass.

And how will it ever end?
unless the day finally arrives
when we have compared everything in the world
to everything else in the world,

and there is nothing left to do
but quietly close our notebooks
and sit with our hands folded on our desks.

Poetry fills me with joy
and I rise like a feather in the wind.
Poetry fills me with sorrow
and I sink like a chain flung from a bridge.

But mostly poetry fills me
with the urge to write poetry,
to sit in the dark and wait for a little flame
to appear at the tip of my pencil.

And along with that, the longing to steal,
to break into the poems of others
with a flashlight and a ski mask.

And what an unmerry band of thieves we are,
cut-purses, common shoplifters,
I thought to myself
as a cold wave swirled around my feet
and the lighthouse moved its megaphone over the sea,
which is an image I stole directly
from Lawrence Ferlinghetti --
to be perfectly honest for a moment --

the bicycling poet of San Francisco
whose little amusement park of a book
I carried in a side pocket of my uniform
up and down the treacherous halls of high school.

-- Billy Collins

Apr 29, 2017, 7:57pm Top

>111 m.belljackson: Those are wonderful excerpts from Andrew Young. And you've reminded me that I would like to read a poem or two by Robert Frost.

Apr 29, 2017, 8:26pm Top

To celebrate the end of this Month of Poetry, I am again reading the 113 posts - very powerful!

Apr 30, 2017, 8:01am Top

Killing Methods

Outside, after grieving for days,
I’m thinking of how we make stories,
pluck them like beetles out of the air,

collect them, pin their glossy backs
to the board like the rows of stolen
beauties, dead, displayed at Isla Negra,

where the waves broke over us
and I still loved the country, wanted
to suck the bones of the buried.

Now, I’m outside a normal house
while friends cook and please
and pour secrets into each other.

A crow pierces the sky, ominous,
clanging like an alarm, but there
is no ocean here, just tap water

rising in the sink, a sadness clean
of history only because it’s new,
a few weeks old, our national wound.

I don’t know how to hold this truth,
so I kill it, pin its terrible wings down
in case, later, no one believes me.

-Ada Limon

^I am such a fan of her work. This was published in January.

May 1, 2017, 12:55am Top

>115 msf59: Wonderful. She is one of my favorites.

May 1, 2017, 11:22am Top

Edward Hopper and the House by the Railroad (1925)

Out here in the exact middle of the day,
This strange, gawky house has the expression
Of someone being stared at, someone holding
His breath underwater, hushed and expectant;

This house is ashamed of itself, ashamed
Of its fantastic mansard rooftop
And its pseudo-Gothic porch, ashamed
Of its shoulders and large, awkward hands.

But the man behind the easel is relentless.
He is as brutal as sunlight, and believes
The house must have done something horrible
To the people who once lived here

Because now it is so desperately empty,
It must have done something to the sky
Because the sky, too, is utterly vacant
And devoid of meaning. There are no

Trees or shrubs anywhere—the house
Must have done something against the earth.
All that is present is a single pair of tracks
Straightening into the distance. No trains pass.

Now the stranger returns to this place daily
Until the house begins to suspect
That the man, too, is desolate, desolate
And even ashamed. Soon the house starts

To stare frankly at the man. And somehow
The empty white canvas slowly takes on
The expression of someone who is unnerved,
Someone holding his breath underwater.

And then one day the man simply disappears.
He is a last afternoon shadow moving
Across the tracks, making its way
Through the vast, darkening fields.

This man will paint other abandoned mansions,
And faded cafeteria windows, and poorly lettered
Storefronts on the edges of small towns.
Always they will have this same expression,

The utterly naked look of someone
Being stared at, someone American and gawky.
Someone who is about to be left alone
Again, and can no longer stand it.

~~ Edward Hirsch

May 1, 2017, 11:23am Top

Is there a more enduring Poetry thread to which I should turn my attention now that April is over?

May 2, 2017, 5:12pm Top

Inquiring minds would like to know . . .

Edited: May 2, 2017, 7:36pm Top

Okay, poetry readers, should we just shift over to the 75 poetry thread or keep this one active? It is up to YOU!

Vote: Continue on 75 Poetry Thread?.

Current tally: Yes 0, No 3
*I am not voting right away, I want to see how everyone else feels about it, but I do not have a problem with continuing the AAC thread.

May 2, 2017, 7:58pm Top

I'd like to see it continue here, but either works as long as it continues. :-)

May 2, 2017, 8:09pm Top

We did well last year, Joe, by continuing it here. I just don't want to hog the limelight away from the 75 thread, but then again it has been a ghost town over there...

May 3, 2017, 10:29am Top

If the other thread is really not being used, I'd prefer to stay here. One conversation is best, I think.

May 3, 2017, 2:35pm Top

>122 msf59:, >123 ffortsa: I didn't realize it was a ghost town over there. All the more reason to stay here.

May 3, 2017, 6:33pm Top

Afternoon on a Hill

I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one.

I will look at cliffs and clouds
With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass,
And the grass rise.

And when lights begin to show
Up from the town,
I will mark which must be mine,
And then start down!

-Edna St. Vincent Millay

^From Poem-A-Day

I tried a collection of Millay and despite her strong bond with nature, I did not connect with much of it but I like this one.

May 4, 2017, 9:55am Top

Yeah, she's never been a favorite of mine either. You found a good one.

May 5, 2017, 9:43pm Top

I'm voting to stay here.

May 12, 2017, 7:22pm Top

Wait. Where did everyone go? Did we go somewhere else for the poetry conversation?

Anyway, a friend mentioned David Whyte's poetry to me. Wondering if anyone is familiar with his work....

Happy Friday!!

May 14, 2017, 7:03am Top

My Mama moved among the days

My Mama moved among the days
like a dreamwalker in a field;
seemed like what she touched was hers
seemed like what touched her couldn’t hold,
she got us almost through the high grass
then seemed like she turned around and ran
right back in
right back on in

-Lucille Clifton

From Poem-A-Day

Edited: May 14, 2017, 7:13am Top

For My Mother

Once more
I summon you
Out of the past
With poignant love,
You who nourished the poet
And the lover.
I see your gray eyes
Looking out to sea
In those Rockport summers,
Keeping a distance
Within the closeness
Which was never intrusive
Opening out
Into the world.
And what I remember
Is how we laughed
Till we cried
Swept into merriment
Especially when times were hard.
And what I remember
Is how you never stopped creating
And how people sent me
Dresses you had designed
With rich embroidery
In brilliant colors
Because they could not bear
To give them away
Or cast them aside.
I summon you now
Not to think of
The ceaseless battle
With pain and ill health,
The frailty and the anguish.
No, today I remember
The creator,
The lion-hearted.

-May Sarton, 1912 - 1995

May 14, 2017, 10:14am Top

Wonderful, Mark, thanks.

I can't resist posting Billy Collins' The Lanyard today.

The Lanyard

by Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that's what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I , in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

May 14, 2017, 2:14pm Top

>130 msf59: Oh, so beautiful! I took that one to heart as being about my mother. I love this thread!

Karen O.

May 15, 2017, 11:55am Top

From Julia's thread.... I just love this poem.

Good Bones
by Maggie Smith (not Dame Maggie Smith, in case you're wondering)

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I've shortened mine
in a thousand delicious ways, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I'll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that's a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

May 15, 2017, 6:05pm Top

>133 EBT1002: This one is fierce. So gentle, until that last sentence.

Edited: May 15, 2017, 7:15pm Top

>131 jnwelch: Thanks for sharing The Lanyard, Joe. A good one.

>133 EBT1002: Thanks for sharing Good Bones over here, Ellen. This one has bite and I like it.

Edited: May 15, 2017, 7:17pm Top

Instructions on Not Giving Up

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf

-Ada Limón

She is easily one of my favorite working poets! Her work speaks to me. Edgy but with deep feeling and a profound understanding of life in general.

May 16, 2017, 9:59am Top

>136 msf59: Really good, Mark. thanks

May 16, 2017, 4:23pm Top

>136 msf59: I LOVE that poem. I have only read one of her collections but it made my top-reads-of-2016 list. I need to seek out more of her work.

May 16, 2017, 4:26pm Top


I just started Dana Gioia's 99 Poems, and so far so good.

May 16, 2017, 6:00pm Top

>138 EBT1002: >139 jnwelch: I think Bright Dead Things: Poems made us instant fans. I still have to buy that collection for my keeper shelves.

>139 jnwelch: I hope you find something of Gioia's collection to share.

May 16, 2017, 7:37pm Top

>140 msf59: Yeah, I haven't been very good about that (sharing poems). I'm sure I can. I wanted to with Incendiary Art, but so many of her good ones in that collection are really long.

May 16, 2017, 7:46pm Top

Sometimes I can find the poem online. That is the easiest way. The newer stuff is harder to find. If it is short enough, if can be typed but the long ones, are tough. I am not a typist. LOL.

May 16, 2017, 11:00pm Top

No one has yet bitten on my inquiry about David Whyte. Anyone know of him?

May 18, 2017, 7:59am Top

>143 EBT1002: I have not heard of Whyte, Ellen. Have you started reading it?

May 18, 2017, 8:01am Top

Dear Exile

Never step back Never a last
Scent of plumeria

When my parents left
You knew it was for good

It’s a herd of horses never
To reclaim their steppes

You became a moth hanging
Down from the sun

Old river Calling to my mother
Kept spilling out of her lungs

Ridgeline vista closed
Into the locket of their gaze

It’s the Siberian crane
Forbidden to fly back after winter

You marbled my father’s face
Floated him as stone over the sea

Further Every minute
Emptying his child years to the land

You crawled back in your bomb

It’s when the banyan must leave
Relearn to cathedral its roots

-Mai Der Vang

This is the poet's thoughts about the poem:

“My parents came to this country as Hmong refugees from Laos after the country collapsed and the Vietnam War ended. I wrote this poem for them, who were so viciously uprooted and ripped away from their landscape of belonging, all of which had been prompted by a government’s political agenda. I grieve for a country that I know they can never truly return to.”

Edited: May 20, 2017, 7:07am Top


In America, I stopped to listen for God.
What about these men with their wolf tongues
and the war with its quick deaths and how vast
death is and how nothing fits in it.
Let the blood wet the ashes,
let the semen wet the mouth.
This man tonight is going inside
himself and let him stay there because
I could kill faster than any war would, God.

-Alex Dimitrov

I finished the debut collection, Begging For It. It is strong, edgy poetry, steeped in male sexuality and the restless spirit. I will be seeking out more of his work. Here is an excerpt from "Lush"-

"A burst of birds shooting up the morning--

a slow parting, A hiss
A stranger's mouth that once pinned

its brief message-unread letters
spilled on the bed.

And the plane overhead takes no one away."

Edited: May 20, 2017, 12:02pm Top


Now I begin again

Rising in summer sun

Wrapping life in words

Layering words in light

Now I begin again

-- Donna Carnes

May 21, 2017, 1:56pm Top

John Henry

By TJ Jarrett

If you believe what you hear, he was everywhere
from Virginia to Alabama just beyond every holler.

Which is to say he was everywhere and everywhere
he was, he was unwanted. In one story, they say it

happened because if a white man said it happened,
then it happened. In another, he was a prisoner which

is more plausible because only a man who lives in darkness
can be felled by the light. But if it happened that often,

there had to be more than one, or maybe it was everyone
or all of us and maybe he stood down there at the cold face

shoulders stooped and begged a mountain move
which we all have done some time or another. Maybe he

prayed for strength to move it as we do some time or
another. But this we can say is true: the world sent

a man down into the earth one day—the same world
who fixed his shackles, closed each door, the world

which said no, and no, and no like so many stones.
The world sent a man into the earth one day to leave

him. That man emerged from the earth with one word
that the earth had been holding, and in that moment

he broke the earth, stumbled out into the chilly air
before he fell, he brought this one word to us. Liar.

About This Poem

“I’d been thinking about work and what women and persons of color endure. I thought of John Henry who (after a short Google search) appeared to have been in every town and died a thousand times for the singular crime of excellence.”
—TJ Jarrett

TJ Jarrett is the author of Zion (Southern Illinois University Press, 2014). She works as a software developer and lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

May 24, 2017, 7:20pm Top

>148 jnwelch: Good poem, Joe. A lot to chew on there.

Edited: May 24, 2017, 7:22pm Top


This morning
two mockingbirds
in the green field
were spinning and tossing

the white ribbons
of their songs
into the air.
I had nothing

better to do
than listen.

-Mary Oliver

May 25, 2017, 10:09am Top

>133 EBT1002: I love that one too---stole it to post on FB yesterday. All is fair, right?

May 28, 2017, 1:19pm Top

>150 msf59: I recognize that one! Glad you liked it.

Jun 3, 2017, 1:27am Top

>151 laytonwoman3rd: All is indeed fair!

Jun 8, 2017, 6:38am Top

Leave Something Quiet in Shell of My Ear

in the backseat a
portion of our music is
mucus flying into stillness
at what point do we submit
to the authority of flowers
at what point after it enters
the mouth is it no longer in the
mouth but the throat the colon
making sumptuous death of the world
this is what crossing the line gains
no need to pretend we
are the people we
want to be in
the next life
bone under
tongue drives
taste of snow to metal
sorry I threw up at your wedding
it wasn’t from drinking it was from
thinking on mountain all night waking
tangled in spirits of morning light
our planet floats on emptiness
the undisclosed mirror
held to flame
pushed it into
a pile of ash
a trail of ash
leading us
toe to toe
with wild sides
what’s emerging is
a grip we’ve been
reaching for please
grab hold with us


From Poem-A-Day. Here is what the poet has to say:

“This is a poem I dedicate to the great Margaret Randall and it was written from a ritual I did where I studied pollinators, especially the sphinx moth, pollinating cherry blossoms in Marfa, Texas. After a sphinx moth or bee pollinated a blossom I would pluck it and let it dissolve on my tongue while writing.”

Not sure I understand, a lot of the poem but it resonates with imagery.

Edited: Jun 12, 2017, 6:56am Top

Kin to Sorrow

Am I kin to Sorrow,
That so oft
Falls the knocker of my door—
Neither loud nor soft,
But as long accustomed,
Under Sorrow’s hand?
Marigolds around the step
And rosemary stand,
And then comes Sorrow—
And what does Sorrow care
For the rosemary
Or the marigolds there?
Am I kin to Sorrow?
Are we kin?
That so oft upon my door—
Oh, come in!

Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1892 - 1950

From Poem-a-Day.

Edited: Jun 14, 2017, 6:58am Top

^This is from the collection, Tell Me: Poems. Joe was kind enough to lend me this volume. There were some very good poems here. She has a terrific voice.

Jun 16, 2017, 1:42pm Top

Not an American poet, but perfect for June days with light and gentle breezes...


Against these turbid turquoise skies
The light and luminous balloons
Dip and drift like satin moons
Drift like silken butterflies

Reel with every windy gust
Rise and reel like dancing girls
Float like strange transparent pearls
Fall and float like silver dust


Jun 17, 2017, 7:10am Top

>157 m.belljackson: Good one, Marianne. Perfect one for June.

Jun 17, 2017, 11:47am Top

>156 msf59: Good Addonizio pick, Mark. I'm glad you've enjoy her poems like I have.

I like that saying, too.

>157 m.belljackson:, >158 msf59:. Oscar Wilde! Who knew.

Edited: Jun 17, 2017, 12:06pm Top

I finished 99 Poems: New & Selected by Dana Gioia. I had liked some of his poems in The New Yorker, and this collection definitely has some standouts. He's adept with rhyme and form. But in general I found too much of his poetry a little too bloodless. When he gets passionate, it really works - I wish that happened more often.

I liked this turnabout of Frost's The Road Less Taken:


By Dana Gioia

He sometimes felt that he had missed his life
By being far too busy looking for it.
Searching the distance, he often turned to find
That he had passed some milestone unaware,
And someone else was walking next to him,
First friends, then lovers, now children and a wife.
They were good company - generous, kind,
But equally bewildered to be there.

He noticed then that no one chose the way -
All seemed to drift by some collective will.
The path grew easier with each passing day,
Since it was worn and mostly sloped downhill.
The road ahead seemed hazy in the gloom.
Where was it he had meant to go, and with whom?

Jun 17, 2017, 12:05pm Top

This is an excerpt from a long one of his called "Homecoming". I love the realization.

I finally summoned courage to stand up,
and - just like that - the startled bird flapped off.
At first I was embarrassed. How had I
become so terrified of that small creature?
But then I had to laugh. I realized
how many of the things I feared in life
were likely just as much afraid of me.

Edited: Jun 21, 2017, 9:28pm Top

>161 jnwelch:

Reminds me of Dr. Seuss' "Pale Green Pants..."

Edited: Jun 18, 2017, 4:38pm Top

I recently finished reading A Change of World, Adrienne Rich's debut collection, originally published in 1951. The rhyming patterns took some time to get used to but in the end I gave the collection 4 stars. Here is one illustrative poem and an excerpt from one of my favorites.


This handless clock stares blindly from its tower,
Refusing to acknowledge any hour.
But what can one clock to do stop the game
When others go on striking just the same?
Whatever mite of truth the gesture held,
Time may be silenced but will not be stilled,
Nor we absolved by any one's withdrawing
From all the restless ways we must be going
And all the rings in which we're spun and swirled,
Whether around a clockface or a world.



It takes a late and slowly blooming wisdom
To learn that those we marked infallible
Are tragi-comic stumblers like ourselves.
The knowledge breeds reserve. We walk on tiptoe,
Demanding more than we know how to render.
Two-edged discovery hunts us finally down;
The human act will make us real again,
And then perhaps we come to know each other.

Let us return to imperfection's school.
No longer wandering after Plato's ghost,
Seeking the garden where all fruit is flawless,
We must at last renounce that ultimate blue
And take a walk in other kinds of weather.
The sourest apple makes its wry announcement
That imperfection has a certain tang.
Maybe we shouldn't turn our pockets out
To the last crumb or lingering bit of fluff,
But all we can confess of what we are
Has in it the defeat of isolation --
If not our own, then someone's, anyway.

Edited: Jun 21, 2017, 10:18am Top

Have been "curating" some old correspondence brought down from the attic--found this Adrienne Rich poem sent to us in the late '70's by a friend from my husband's Coast Guard days. I had no idea who Rich was then, and she didn't come to my attention again until I heard her mentioned here in recent years. Sometimes the coincidence of things like this just astounds me.

You can read the poem without going blind here.

Jun 21, 2017, 7:03pm Top

>164 laytonwoman3rd: Thank you for the link!

Here's a later Adrienne Rich poem I like.


By Adrienne Rich

In the old, scratched, cheap wood of the typing stand
there is a landscape, veined, which only a child can see
or the child’s older self, a poet,
a woman dreaming when she should be typing
the last report of the day. If this were a map,
she thinks, a map laid down to memorize
because she might be walking it, it shows
ridge upon ridge fading into hazed desert
here and there a sign of aquifers
and one possible watering-hole. If this were a map
it would be the map of the last age of her life,
not a map of choices but a map of variations
on the one great choice. It would be the map by which
she could see the end of touristic choices,
of distances blued and purpled by romance,
by which she would recognize that poetry
isn’t revolution but a way of knowing
why it must come. If this cheap, mass-produced
wooden stand from the Brooklyn Union Gas Co.,
mass-produced yet durable, being here now,
is what it is yet a dream-map
so obdurate, so plain,
she thinks, the material and the dream can join
and that is the poem and that is the late report.

October/November 1987

Jun 21, 2017, 7:12pm Top

>162 m.belljackson: Nice. I didn't know his "Pale Green Pants", and had to look it up. That fits all right. Gioia's takes a darker turn, that I respected but didn't like. I'm glad to know the upbeat Dr. Seuss one now.

Jun 22, 2017, 10:00am Top

>166 jnwelch:

My daughter (now 41) and I have loved this since she was a child:
every year I still hang a pair of Pale Green Pants
out on a tree limb just before Halloween, hoping for new or other fans!

You Tube has a great version of Kathleen Cooley reading this.

Edited: Jun 30, 2017, 6:41pm Top

“We were a stolen people in a stolen land”

“This is a bar of broken survivors, the club of shotgun, knife wound, of poison by culture. We who were taught not to stare drank our beer. The players gossiped down their cues. Someone put a quarter in the jukebox to relieve despair.”

“...So I look at the stars in this strange city, frozen to the back of the sky, the only promises that make sense.”

“...It, too, is a morning
made of blood, but it is sunlight
on a scarlet canyon wall in
early winter.
It does not scatter the heart
but gathers the branches tenderly
into a slender, dark woman.”

^These excerpts are from my current collection,In Mad Love and War by Joy Harjo. She is Native American and a very strong poet, IMHO.

Jun 30, 2017, 6:46pm Top

>165 jnwelch: I LOVE this one! I NEED to read more Rich.

Jul 1, 2017, 6:38am Top

Post-Factual Love Poem

I’m thinking of the boiling sea
and the dream in which
all the fish were singing.
I want to wake up with my heart
not aching like death,
but I am always falling
in to terror. I’m a good person.
I grieve to appropriate degrees.
I mourn this season. This moment.
I mourn for the polar bear
drifting out of history
on a wedge of melting ice.
For the doughnut shop
which reached an end
yesterday, after decades and decades.
I’m thinking of the light
at dawn. Of the woman
in Alabama who ordered
six songbirds from a catalog because
she was lonely. Or
heartbroken. I’m thinking
of the four that came
dead in the box, mangled.
Of the two that are
missing. I want to tell you
that they were spotted
in the humid air
winging above a mall.
I want to tell you a story
about the time leaves fell from
the trees all at once. I am
thinking of cataclysm.
More than anything, I want to tell you
this. I want to disappear
in the night. I want
the night to vanish from memory.
I want to tell you
how this happened.

-Paul Guest

-This is from Poem-A-Day. I thought it was very fitting, due to our current political environment.

Edited: Jul 1, 2017, 4:21pm Top

>167 m.belljackson: Nice! I love having shared book history with our kids. What a wonderful tradition.

>168 msf59: That's an excellent collection of her poems, Mark, and I enjoyed the excerpts.

>169 msf59: You'll love Adrienne Rich even more the more you read her, Mark. She's one of those special ones.

>170 msf59: I saw this on Poem-A-Day, and also liked it. That clever title really works, doesn't it.

Jul 2, 2017, 3:38pm Top

Tell Me

I am going to stop thinking about my losses now
and listen to yours. I'm so sick of dragging them

with me wherever I go, like children up too late
who should be curled in their own beds

under the only blanket that warms them.
I am going to send them home while I stay

at this party all night with the loud music pumping
and the dancers moving gracelessly under the lights

and the drinkers spilling their scotches on their sleeves.
I am going to join them. I'm going to drink until

I'm so wasted I forget I have children, I'll dance
until I ache, until I make a spectacle of myself.

So tell me. Tell me how you hurt
even though I can't help you. Tell me

their ages, how they keep you up nights,
how sometimes you wish they were dead

but keep finding yourself gazing at them
tenderly while they sleep. Then, please, dance with me,

hold me while we fool ourselves
they aren't out there, pressing their damp

hollow faces to the windows. Tell me
that if we kiss a new one won't start to slip

from each of us, tell me you can't already feel
the little hole burning in your side

or hear the others moving over to make room,
shrieking and clapping with joy.

-Kim Addonizio

^I LOVE this poem from Tell Me: Poems. Thanks again to Mr. Joe, for putting it on my radar.

Jul 3, 2017, 12:47pm Top

To Celebrate The 4th of July,

here's a poem from Anne Bradstreet, America's first ((of European heritage)) poet -

Silent alone, where none or saw or heard,
In pathless paths I lead my wand'ring feet,
My humble eyes to lofty skies I reared
To sing some song, my mazed Muse thought meet,
My great Creator I would magnify,
That nature had thus decked liberally
But Ah, and Ah, again, my imbecility!

(Yet not only America's first poet,
but - in her last line - a prophet
of current political tweets...)

Jul 4, 2017, 7:44am Top

I Hear America Singing,

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand
singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning,
or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work,
or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

-Walt Whitman

From Poem-A-Day

Jul 4, 2017, 7:45am Top

>173 m.belljackson: I like it. Thanks for sharing Marianne.

Edited: Jul 9, 2017, 10:22pm Top

As Mark knows, I was bowled over by the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry winner, Olio by Tyehimba Jess. (My review's on the book page). Here's one of his "Jubilee" poems, this one for Minnie Tate, born in 1857:

Here we are, strapping voice to scripture
so the world might love Black breaths livin' free.
Now, I've never been a slave, but I'm sure
close enough to have felt its searing ways. See,
mother was freed when she was a girl. Went
to school with whites - chose to school me at home.
When she sent me to Fisk, she never meant
for me to roam with a choir on the road.
But I've learned things here I might've never
known. Like the time a train station mob
of mad whites swarmed. We didn't know whether
we'd live or be killed . . . so we just did our job:
hushed them to shame by hymning on Divine Will
till they wept like 'Zekiel under that blazin' wheel.

Jul 9, 2017, 12:15pm Top

>176 jnwelch: Whoa. That's so strong. Now, of course, I must seek out Olio.

Jul 9, 2017, 10:24pm Top

>127 EBT1002: Isn't it, Linda? Please do! Olio is remarkable, IMO.

Edited: Jul 10, 2017, 2:53pm Top

>176 jnwelch: >177 laytonwoman3rd: I'm waiting for it to land on the mat.

Jul 11, 2017, 8:12am Top

>176 jnwelch: I love this one, Joe. I better get off my duff and request Olio. I hope you enjoyed the author talk.

Edited: Jul 11, 2017, 10:44am Top

Eagle Poem

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

-Joy Harjo

I recently finished In Mad Love and War. It is a terrific collection and one I highly recommend.

Here is another excerpt, this one from Rainy Dawn:

"...And when you were born I held you wet and unfolding, like a butterfly newly born from the chrysalis of my body. And
breathed with you as you breathed your first breath. The was your promise to
take it on like the rest of us, this immense journey, for love, for rain."

Jul 11, 2017, 5:46pm Top

>181 msf59: Lovely, Mark. I'm another fan of that volume.

Edited: Jul 11, 2017, 5:52pm Top

Here's what I posted about the Tyehimba Jess author appearance at Volumes Book Cafe in Chicago. It's hard to express what he did, but I loved it. Maybe my favorite author appearance so far.

"The reading with Tyehimba Jess was amazing. I don't think I can do it justice. He projected the poems on a screen behind him, and told us about the undperpinnng history and the writing process. (The poems in the Pulitzer-winning Olio generally all relate to black musicians and artists from about the 1850s to the first World War - as you may remember from my review, this isn't a collection, it's a cohesive whole).

I hadn't fully appreciated how much formalism was involved - I had mentioned the "side-by-side two column poems" in my review, which can be read separately and together. What I hadn't realized is many are sonnets - what he called "syncopated sonnets", that interlink with one another. In other words, they follow the ABAB CDCD EFEF GG rhyme scheme, with three quatrains (four lines in a group) and a closing couplet (two rhymed lines), and a new idea in the closing that grows out of what precedes. Not easy to do a good one. How about interlocking two of them in a way that makes sense read separately and together?

Then he pointed out that the lines in the poems could be dramatically read in different order, and up as well as down, and proceeded to do just that. People started laughing and applauding, it was so outrageously good.

(pics from the internet, not this Chicago appearance)

There are pullouts in the book, with writing on both sides. The one he used had a poem one side about two black comedians in the era whose goal was to transform the 2-dimensional minstrel show, with white men in blackface, into a 3d show featuring real black performers and depth, rather than superficiality. On the other side of it was a real life set of instructions of how to black up your white face and put on a successful minstrel show, from an "encyclopedia" of the time. He showed you could take the pullout, and turn it from 2D to 3D, by curving it into a tube, a torus, a moebius, and read it that way, with the text running together in variations. He also showed us a set of poems he'd done about conjoined slave twins who'd been taken as exhibits in a freak show, with the poems taking the shape of being joined at the hip, as they were.

The brilliance of all this, to me, was mind-blowing.

He talked about all the research that went into it, and said he revised it all "about a hundred times." When I said I was amazed by what he'd done, even with seven and a half years to do it, he joked that, "alcohol helped".

It was a good, fill-the-bookstore, turnout. One of his colleagues there pointed out that it's rare for Pulitzer winners to do an author appearance like this, "they normally disappear when they win it", so we were lucky.

It was all very inspiring."

Edited: Jul 19, 2017, 9:32pm Top

Ah, I should really read this thread more often. Lovely poems here! Thanks.

An acquaintance sent me this link of poetry and photography. I thought it belonged here:

here is the link

edited to correct the link

Edited: Jul 17, 2017, 1:02pm Top

>184 ffortsa:

Thank you, ffortsa, what an inspiring treasure that site of poems and photographs is!

Jul 18, 2017, 9:27pm Top

I've ordered three books of American poetry today...by Rita Dove, Natasha Trethewey and Tyehimba Jess. Is there an award for that? (I know there's REward....reading them when they arrive!)

Edited: Jul 19, 2017, 9:04am Top

Edited: Jul 19, 2017, 9:23am Top

>187 jnwelch: Thanks, Joe! (If you're going to start passing out reading awards around here, though, you better be getting a wholesale deal on the stickers!)

Jul 19, 2017, 5:31pm Top

I just posted this on my thread but thought I would share it here, as well. If you're not familiar with this work, I highly recommend it!

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

This is a novel in verse, written from the perspective of a schoolboy coming to terms with poetry. It's a delightful exploration of the process of developing a relationship with poetry as a form of expression. It's also a sweet story of a boy's relationship with his teacher and his dog. Wonderful! I'm keeping this and reading it again and again.

Jul 19, 2017, 8:13pm Top

>189 EBT1002: I understand she also wrote a book called Hate That Cat....these intrigue me, and I will have to seek them out.

Jul 20, 2017, 7:55am Top

>190 laytonwoman3rd: If she wrote a book with that title, I have no desire to read anything she wrote! ;-)

Jul 20, 2017, 8:19am Top

>191 thornton37814: I believe a little boy changes his mind about cats, in a positive way, Lori. You might reconsider!

Jul 20, 2017, 3:44pm Top

>188 laytonwoman3rd: LOL! I think you deserve special recognition for that group, Linda.

>189 EBT1002: As I mentioned over on your thread, Ellen, our family loves Love that Dog, too. What a charmer.

Jul 20, 2017, 7:38pm Top

^Glad to see folks posting over here and keeping this baby going. I think this is a great way to spread the word on poetry. I do not have many sources in RL.

>186 laytonwoman3rd: Yes, you deserve all those Reading Award badges, Linda. Please let us know how those collections are.

>189 EBT1002: Looks like I better request Love That Dog.

Jul 20, 2017, 7:44pm Top

You Like to Give and Watch Me My Pleasure

You like to give and watch me my
pleasure. Machete me in two.
Take for the taking what is yours.
This is how you like to have me.

I’m as naked as a field of cane,
as alone as all of Cuba
before you.

You could descend like rain,
destroy like fire
if you chose to.

If you chose to.

I cold rise like buracan.
I could erupt as sudden as
a coup d’etat of trumpets,
the sleepless eye of the ocean,

a sky of black urracas.
If I chose to.

I don’t choose to.
I let myself be taken.

This power is my gift to you.

Sandra Cisneros

^ I recently finished Loose Woman and it is a terrific collection. Has anyone else read Cisneros?

She is also the author of The house on Mango Street. I prefer her poetry.

Jul 21, 2017, 9:25am Top

>195 msf59: Good one, and thanks for the tip on Loose Woman; I added it to the WL.

Jul 21, 2017, 1:51pm Top

>195 msf59: I read Cisneros's Caramelo pre-LT, or at least before I was logging my reading here. I don't recall much about it other than a vague "that was OK" feeling. One of these days I will try her poetry. I like the example you've posted.

Jul 23, 2017, 8:11am Top

"...This weight
on the other side of the bed
is only books, not you. What
I said I loved more than you.
Though these mornings
I wish books loved back."

-excerpt from Loose Woman:Poems. 4.3 stars

Jul 23, 2017, 8:12am Top

Waiting for a Lover

And what if you don’t arrive?
And what if you do?
I’m so afraid
I cross my fingers,
make a wish,

You’re new.
You can’t hurt me yet.
I light the candles.
Say my prayers.
Scent myself with mangoes.

I like the possibility of anything,
the little fear I feel
when you enter a room.
I haven’t a clue of the who of you.

And what if you do like me?
And what if you do?
I can’t think.
Dress myself in slinky black,
my 14-karat hoops and my velvet spikes.
Smoke two cigars.
I’m doing loopity loops.

Listen - cars roar by. All night.
I’m waiting for the one that stops.
All my life. Listen -
Hear that?

by Sandra Cisneros. From Loose Woman

Jul 23, 2017, 8:06pm Top

>199 msf59: Love that one. In fact, both.

Jul 26, 2017, 5:06pm Top

Ditto, Mark.

Jul 28, 2017, 3:16pm Top

>190 laytonwoman3rd: and >191 thornton37814: I have been assured that, even as a huge cat lover, I will adore Hate That Cat.

Edited: Jul 30, 2017, 9:34am Top

“I don't remember the last time police
sirens didn't feel like gasping for air.
I don't remember what it means not
to be considered something meant
to flounder, to flap against
the surface while others watch you
until the flailing.......stops.”

“When the sixth cab passes you,
imagine yourself a puddle
existing as both transparency
& filth. Something that won't be there
by the afternoon.”

“...We've got to protest
on these pages. This ink be our picket line.
How can we write about
the soil and not the blood?
How can we write about the tree
and not talk about the noose?”

-These excerpts are from Counting Descent. It is a powerful collection, addressing the racial issues that continue to plague
our country. Highly recommended.

Jul 31, 2017, 6:44pm Top

>203 msf59: "Like"

Thanks, Mark. I added Counting Descent to the WL.

Edited: Aug 4, 2017, 6:58am Top

>183 jnwelch: Joe, it was so outrageously good. Wow, those are special events. My copy finally came into land. I'm saving it for a clear weekend to read it, maybe in a couple of weeks time.

Aug 4, 2017, 1:11pm Top

>205 Caroline_McElwee: Olio is such an amazing piece of work, Caroline. I'm glad you got your hands on it.

Aug 4, 2017, 7:50pm Top

Kevin Coval was on "The Daily Show" and talked about A People's History of Chicago and his other poetry projects. He is a really sincere, very nice poet and teacher, with strong beliefs, and I am a real fan after reading this book.

The history of Chicago is presented as a series of poems, interspersed with some terrific drawings of the people who are written about. The poems require the reader's careful attention, but reward with both a history lesson and a squeeze of the heart and tears in the eyes (I love Chicago!)

So hard to pick a favorite poem, but maybe it's this one:

Dia de Las Madres (May 13, 2001)

After they sang "Las Mananitas" in church
after King David whispered to his beloved
Dawn. after the children gave recuerdos
to their mothers & the husbands rushed
to 26th Street to get last-minute roses, after
all the tamales & elotes & champurrados
were laid out on the nice tablecloth
eaten one last time this sweet sunup,
fourteen abuelitas y madres walked
into an open field at 31st & Kostner
in La Villita/Little Village, South
Lawndale on the West Side & started
a hunger strike on mothers day.
they sought from the city what the city
promised: a school on par with white ones
in white neighborhoods where white kids
learn. the mothers want the same, want
what's fair, want Chicago/america
to treat their hijos with dignity & equity too.

the field was so big you could forget you were
in the city. for nineteen days there was no food.
tents & chairs, wooded tables & song. art made
under the prairie sky. poems & music left at the feet
of the fourteen who suffered for the future,
who starved for honor long enough to win
honors classes, long enough for the school
to be named Social Justice. proof goliath's weak
his name daley & vallas & the blueprint
for privatized corporate education could
topple from the empty stomachs
of women in solidarity.

dawn has come.
rise up, my darling
sunlight is here

tbe mothers have won.

Aug 4, 2017, 8:05pm Top

"And you said that
Mr. Robert Frost
who wrote
about the pasture
was also the one
who wrote about
those snowy woods
and the miles to go
before he sleeps--
I think Mr. Robert Frost
has a little
on his

"My brain was pop-pop-popping
when I was looking at those poems.
I never knew a poet person
could do that funny
kind of thing."

^I am finally on the Love That Dog bandwagon. My LT peeps never let me down.

Aug 4, 2017, 8:36pm Top

>208 msf59: Great book, Mark, and nice pick.

>207 klobrien2: We saw Kevin Coval at the Poetry Foundation Wednesday night. He's a mensch, besides being quite a poet. He's the Artistic Director at Young Chicago Authors, and has affected a lot of youth in the city - including Chance the Rapper (another mensch) who does the intro for A People's History of Chicago.

We have APHOC, but I've got to wait for my wife to finish it.

Aug 5, 2017, 7:03am Top

>207 klobrien2:

"dawn has come.
rise up, my darling
sunlight is here

the mothers have won."

^This is a beauty, Karen. Thanks for sharing.

Edited: Aug 5, 2017, 7:06am Top

Things I Will Tell My Children About Destiny

You remind them
of weighted tumbleweeds,
hen-egg brown. Don’t let
them take the rag-
time beneath your skin.
It stirs earth’s curvature
and a choir
of frogs
when you enter
or leave a room. Don’t
leave a swallow of juice
or milk in the fridge.
A body grieved
is a whole new body.
Give your shadow a name
big as a star, see
yourself out loud.
Pick wild irises the best gifts
roll under a ribcage, leave
open mouths splendid.

I like your smile unpenned.

Keep your bird-
song close, imagine
an hourglass full
of architects and dreamers,
the first taste of fresh
scooped ice cream.
You will learn to master
camouflage among ordinary things—
men who spill words
not thoughts, trigger fingers
to brand loose.

-Cynthia Manick

About This Poem

“‘Things I Will Tell My Children About Destiny’ is a poem about fanciful and practical wishes for children not yet born. We all want them to be happy and whole, but we also want them to be safe and alive—to walk in the world aware of danger. But in the quest for safety, let’s not lose ourselves and forget the joy of life either.”

-From Poem-A-Day

Aug 5, 2017, 12:01pm Top

>210 msf59:

"dawn has come.
rise up, my darling
sunlight is here

the mothers have won."

Isn't that gorgeous?! It brought me to tears at the end of that poem.

Karen O.

Aug 6, 2017, 10:06am Top

>212 klobrien2: I am with you, Karen. Wow!

Aug 6, 2017, 10:07am Top

^I want to thank Joe, for putting this on my radar. OMG, is Olio good and so strong and wildly ambitious. I am barely halfway but can tell this is quite an achievement.

Aug 7, 2017, 2:53pm Top

Oh, I think I was hit by a BB! For sure, I was! Going to find a copy of that...


Karen O.

Aug 7, 2017, 6:07pm Top

>215 klobrien2: Joe LOVED it too, Karen, and Ellen is also thoroughly enjoying it. The BBs are piling up, my friend.

Edited: Aug 7, 2017, 6:35pm Top

Wild Geese

"You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things."

-Mary Oliver

^I may have shared this one before but it was the opening page in Refuge and I knew I had to share it again.

Aug 9, 2017, 10:55am Top

Mary Oliver is hard to beat. I miss the geese that flew regularly over our urban jungle when I first moved here, but for some reason, they haven't done for years.

Aug 10, 2017, 4:32pm Top

Love that one, Mark. And the photo.

Here's what I had for leadbelly by Tyehimba Jess over on my thread:

I was impressed by leadbelly by Tyehimba Jess, the author of Olio. It won the National Poetry Series competition. Like Olio, it's based on historical research he did, this time about the influential black American folk and blues singer, and awesome 12 string guitar player, Leadbelly (1889-1949). Leadbelly (or Lead Belly), Huddie William Ledbetter, had fits of temper, and was in and out of prison. He had to deal with the racism of the time, and trying to make a living singing n-word music.

Here are a couple of poems from the book that I liked.

1912: blind lemon jefferson explaining to leadbelly

. . . an' everything gotta be 'live on you son, read the crowd like a fortune
teller's tealeaf, from the plunk of a nickel to the bang of a quarter to the smell of thieves schemin' on a blind man's cash.

see this scar? i was between guitars in san antonio and broke enough to
wrestle men for carnival money. the one that did this had come back
three times for a ass whuppin' only a fool could want again, but when he
pull that shiv outta his boot, didn't nobody say nothin' - had they bets
on how hard i was gonna bleed. that's what the world is, son. desperate
enough to pin a blind man's back to the ground for all the money he
can't never even see. hungry enough to chop him down for takin' what
he's earned. that's what the world is. they lost money that day. an i
squeezed my stella out the pawnbroker's grip one last time.

that's what that box o' strings is, son. your boxcar ticket outta nowhere.
maybe even steak dinner, silk ties, and all the leg you can stroke. but you
gotta wrestle for it, son. you got to . . .

(*"stella" = his guitar)


martha: life's work

after strummin' til the sky bleeds orange, red-

eyed and raw-throated lead stumbles on home

and warms up the cold space on our mattress.

we touch slow for a small while, before

i rise to the mountain of laundry and lye

that every cleaning woman got to climb

without a stop,without gettin' no higher

than a washtub bottom or maybe the tile

i bend my knees into every day

in park avenue apartment buildings.

this is how we keep a living, we pay

on lay-away with spent muscle, stealing

back our flesh between the the twilight and sunrise

so we can own one thing what's got no price.

(* Martha was leadbelly's wife)

Aug 10, 2017, 4:33pm Top

Unfortunately, while it shows stanza breaks in the second one before I post, it doesn't after.

Aug 10, 2017, 6:58pm Top

>219 jnwelch: Hooray for Leadbelly: Poems. Glad you enjoyed the collection, Joe and I liked the poems you selected. I plan on requesting that one soon.

Aug 10, 2017, 10:15pm Top

>219 jnwelch:

Nice coincidence - I've been listening to Folkways "The Original Vision"
featuring both LEADBELLY and WOODY GUTHRIE - impressive combination!

Aug 11, 2017, 9:19am Top

>221 msf59: You'll love Leadbelly, Mark. Really well done.

>222 m.belljackson: Ha! That is impressive. I listened to a whole bunch of Leadbelly yesterday, and I've read that Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan were all fans - as were many other musicians.

Edited: Aug 11, 2017, 5:39pm Top

"What is a coon show, but one poor devil puttin on a mask another devil willin to pay to see?"

"...They couldn't stand
to see us rise up from the plantation dust. How
they must have angered to see me teach again...
We won't stop our music until we're through
tearing down Jericho's walls with our truth."

^Just finished it! Wowza! I know there is a lot of reading left in '17, but this could end up being the book of the year. A monumental achievement. Thanks to Joe, for the nudge. More warblin' to come...

Aug 11, 2017, 6:28pm Top

>224 msf59:. Yes!!!!

Aug 14, 2017, 1:07pm Top

>207 klobrien2: I love to read books about Chicago (lifelong Chicagoland resident) but hadn't heard of Kevin Coval's A People's History of Chicago so I got a copy from the library and am dipping into it every day (and matching you on TIOLI).

Thanks for letting us know about it.

Aug 14, 2017, 4:26pm Top

Robert Penn Warren wrote a book, Audubon: A Vision (1969) that satisfies both bird and poetry fans,
according to a recent RECOMMENDED READING for summer in "The Core."

Aug 15, 2017, 8:29pm Top

>224 msf59: result!!!

Edited: Aug 16, 2017, 9:18am Top

I finished a (to me) disappointing Selected Poems of W.H. Auden; it was interesting, but too many good ones had been left out by selector Edward Mendelson, IMO.

Here's one in it about unrequited love that I really like:

The More Loving One

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

Aug 17, 2017, 7:41am Top


There is no life after death. Why
should there be. What on

earth would have us believe this.
Heaven is not the American

highway, blackened chicken alfredo
from Applebee’s nor the

clown sundae from Friendly’s. Our
life, this is the afterdeath,

when we blink open, peeled and
ready to ache. Years ago

my aunt banged on the steering, she
insisted there had to be a

God, a heaven. We were on our
way to a wedding. I would

have to sit at the same table as the
man who saw no heaven

in me. Today I am thinking about
Mozart, of all people, who

died at 35 mysteriously, perhaps of
strep. What a strange cloth

it is to live. But that we came from
death and return to it, made

different by form, shaped again back
into anti–, anti–. On my run,

I think of Jack Gilbert, who said we
must insist while there is still

time, but insist toward what. Why we
must fill the void with light—

isn’t that our human insistence? But
we drift into a distance of

distance until proximity fails, our
name lifts away with any

future concerns, the past a flattened
coin that cannot spin. I am

matter spun from death’s wool—and
I bewilder the itch, I who am

I am just so happy to go.

-Natalie Eilbert

From Poem-A-Day

Aug 17, 2017, 7:43am Top

>230 msf59: I like that Auden selection Joe and it seems to go well with the poem in #231.

Aug 17, 2017, 10:19am Top

>232 jnwelch: Agreed, Mark. I saw >231 msf59: and it gets to me.

Aug 20, 2017, 11:43am Top

From The Wellspring: Poems by Sharon Olds, a worthwhile collection.

The Swimming Race

Noon, Orinda Park Pool, three girls
in rubber caps sculpted with rubber
roses, and they had put our fathers
at the far ends of our lanes. We curled
our toes over the edge, the gun went off---
they dove cleanly, as I jumped. By the time
I had surfaced, and started to dog-paddle, they had
finished the race, their fathers had drawn them up
dripping and were handing them sateen ribbons with
rosettes, a red and a cobalt blue,
I held up my head as he'd taught me, and swam
like a dog toward his end of the pool. The day
was temperate and cloudless, live-oaks
in a sharp cluster full of yellow-jackets to my left,
the lawn to my right, and there before me,
at the end of my lane --- black lines
on the bottom of the pool, where the drowned would lie---
was my father. I paddled, I felt myself approach him,
I was grinning because of the prize I would win
for coming in third, a Big Hunk bar---
the milk and honey on the other side---
and because my father was getting bigger,
leaning toward me, his arms open.
He pulled me out, and held my hand
up by the wrist. My sister sneered, she said
Why did you lift Shary's fist
when she was last?
and he smiled, a smile almost
without meanness, one of the last
times we saw him smile, he said
I thought she was the winner of the next race, and his
face flushed with pleasure and the shade of the yardarm.

Aug 21, 2017, 1:25pm Top

>235 Love this one, and I'm a big Sharon Olds fan.

Aug 22, 2017, 6:36am Top

>234 jnwelch: LIKE! Thanks, for sharing the Olds, Ellen.

Edited: Aug 22, 2017, 6:40am Top


I love the whir of the creature come
to visit the pink
flowers in the hanging basket as she does

most August mornings, hours away
from starvation to store
enough energy to survive overnight.

The Aztecs saw the refraction
of incident light on wings
as resurrection of fallen warriors.

In autumn, when daylight decreases
they double their body weight to survive
the flight across the Gulf of Mexico.

On next-to-nothing my mother
flew for 85 years; after her death
she hovered, a bird of bones and air.

-Robin Becker

Aug 22, 2017, 11:03am Top

>237 klobrien2: Beautiful!

Karen O.

Aug 22, 2017, 12:02pm Top

I finished A People's History of Chicago by Kevin Coval. Just ok for me.

Edited: Aug 22, 2017, 1:29pm Top

I'm listening to Krista Tippett's interview with poet and philosopher David Whyte. Here is a quote:

"I’ve written poetry since I was very small. I had very powerful experiences with poetry where I felt literally abducted, taken away by poetry, and — just like a hawk had come down and taken me in its claws and carried me off. And I remember reading Ted Hughes when I was young — and he must’ve been young then, too — and having that feeling, a very powerful feeling, that this was language that adults had written who had not forgotten the primary visions and insights of childhood."

And I've put Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words on hold at the library.....

Edited: Aug 22, 2017, 1:42pm Top

(extending the magic of The Eclipse...)

The soul is light, the mind is light, and the body
is light -- light of different grades;
and it is this relation which connects man with
the planets and stars.

-- Hazrat Inayat Khan

Aug 22, 2017, 3:54pm Top

Edited: Aug 28, 2017, 8:02am Top

"We are perfect because of our imperfections,
We must stay hopeful,
We must be patient;

When they excavate the modern day
They’ll find us,
The Brand New Ancients.

All that we have here
Is all that we’ve always had."

"there’s always been greed
and heartbreak and ambition.
jealousy, love,
trespass and contrition,

we’re the same beings that began,
still living,
in all of our fury and foulness and friction.
Everyday odysseys.
Dreams vs decisions.
The stories are there if you listen.

The stories are here.

The stories are you
and your fear and your hope is as old
as the language of smoke,
the language of blood,
the language of languishing love,

the Gods are all here.
Because the Gods are in us."

-Brand New Ancients

Edited: Aug 28, 2017, 8:04am Top

^^A big shout-out to Joe, for lending me his copy of Brand New Ancients. This is more a story-poem than a straight poetry collection but the story or stories are all compelling and her prose is beautiful.

Here is Kate Tempest reading a section of this work: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=brand+new+ancients-+kate+tempest&&view=detail&mid=B2859A665B3AE14DB3B6B2859A665B3AE14DB3B6&FORM=VRDGAR

Aug 28, 2017, 8:34am Top

>243 msf59:, >244 jnwelch: So glad you had a good time with Brand New Ancients, Mark. I'm intrigued by the high quality of that video.

Aug 28, 2017, 8:37am Top

I'm a Sharon Olds fan, and her Pulitzer-winning Stag's Leap left me agog, love that word, agog at how honest, brave and good it is. Here's one from it:

The Flurry

When we talk about when to tell the kids,
we are so together, so concentrated.
I mutter, “I feel like a killer.” “I’m
the killer”—taking my wrist—he says,
holding it. He is sitting on the couch,
the old indigo chintz around him,
rich as a night sea with jellies,
I am sitting on the floor. I look up at him,
as if within some chamber of matedness,
some dust I carry around me. Tonight,
to breathe its Magellanic field is less
painful, maybe because he is drinking
a wine grown where I was born—fog,
eucalyptus, sempervirens—and I’m
sharing the glass with him. “Don’t catch
my cold,” he says, “—oh that’s right, you want
to catch my cold.” I should not have told him that,
I tell him I will try to fall out of
love with him, but I feel I will love him
all my life. He says he loves me
as the mother of our children, and new troupes
of tears mount to the acrobat platforms
of my ducts and do their burning leaps.
Some of them jump straight sideways, and, for a
moment, I imagine a flurry
of tears like a whirra of knives thrown
at a figure, to outline it—a heart’s spurt
of rage. It glitters, in my vision, I nod
to it, it is my hope.

Aug 28, 2017, 10:38pm Top

From my thread ~~~~

75. milk and honey by rupi kaur

A blend of poetry and platitudes, this collection is divided into four sections: the hurting, the loving, the breaking, and the healing. My flags started collecting in the third section. For example:

did you think i was a city
big enough for a weekend getaway
i am the town surrounding it
the one you've never heard of
but always pass through
there are no neon lights here
no skyscrapers or statues
but there is thunder
for i make bridges tremble
i am not street meat i am homemade jam
thick enough to cut the sweetest
thing your lips will touch
i am not police sirens
i am the crackle of a fireplace
i'd burn you and you still
couldn't take your eyes off me
cause i'd look so beautiful doing it
you'd blush
i am not a hotel room i am home
i am not the whiskey you want
i am the water you need
don't come here with expectations
and try to make a vacation out of me

And ....

people go
but how
they left
always stays

Were I still practicing psychotherapy, I would be recommending this collection to my college student clients, especially the women. The melodramatic flavor of many of the pieces would resonate for adolescents and young adults still trying to come to terms with their singularity, the necessity of loving oneself if one is ever to love another. So, two of my favorites from the healing section:

the next time he
points out the
hair on your legs is
growing back remind
that boy your body
is not his home
he is a guest
warn him to
never outstep
his welcome


are your own
soul mate

Just so.

Aug 29, 2017, 8:51am Top

>247 jnwelch: Those are good, Ellen. I can see the appeal to adolescents and young adults. The melodrama of her collection was a bit too much for me, but I'm old and crochety.

Here's one that appeared today from Poem-a-Day that I liked:

Old Selves

Ira Sadoff

Ok, I no longer want them,
the many selves I had to manage

that once exhausted friends. I believed

in angels then, thought I might be
an angel—that was me, flying off

on a tangent, just so we could land
on one of my many balconies

so we could look down on everyone.

Copyright © 2017 Ira Sadoff. Used with permission of the author.

About This Poem

“When I was younger I believed in that Arthurian quest for self, as if—with sufficient consciousness—I might arrive at some place authentic and fixed. But of course, over time, we have many selves with as many false endings as Beethoven’s Eroica symphony. Every certainty is accompanied by a contingency, a misjudgment, a defensive self-deception, a transformative relationship, a mutable epiphany. So I see ‘Old Selves’ as a tribute to humility, the great gift of time.”
—Ira Sadoff

Sep 3, 2017, 8:31am Top

Lighthouse in the Night

The sky a black sphere,
the sea a black disk.

The lighthouse opens
its solar fan on the coast.

Spinning endlessly at night,
whom is it searching for

when the mortal heart
looks for me in the chest?

Look at the black rock
where it is nailed down.

A crow digs endlessly
but no longer bleeds.

-Alfonsina Storni

Sep 4, 2017, 9:46am Top

America has lost one of its most important poets. Time to read John Ashbery again.

Edited: Sep 9, 2017, 7:02am Top


I never thought God had any form.
Absolute his life, absolute his rule.
He never had eyes, watches with stars.
He never had hands, punches with seas.
He never had a tongue, talks with thunderbolts.
I will tell you, do not startle;
I know He has parasites: things and men.

-Alfonsina Storni

^I had never heard of this poet but really enjoyed My Heart Flooded With Water. Find the Orlando Ricardo Menes translation. This one is the "bomb".

Alfonsina Storni was born in 1892. She was one of the most important Argentine and Latin-American poets of the modernist period. Storni was born in Sala Capriasca, Switzerland, to Italian-Swiss parents.

Sep 15, 2017, 9:00pm Top

Just finished The Trouble with Poetry by Billy Collins which is very much typical of his style and work. This is the title poem:

The trouble with poetry, I realized
as I walked along a beach one night --
cold Florida sand under my bare feet,
a show of stars in the sky --

the trouble with poetry is
that it encourages the writing of more poetry,
more guppies crowding the fish tank,
more baby rabbits
hopping out of their mothers into the dewy grass.

And how will it ever end?
unless the day finally arrives
when we have compared everything in the world
to everything else in the world,

and there is nothing left to do
but quietly close our notebooks
and sit with our hands folded on our desks.

Poetry fills me with joy
and I rise like a feather in the wind.
Poetry fills me with sorrow
and I sink like a chain flung from a bridge.

But mostly poetry fills me
with the urge to write poetry,
to sit in the dark and wait for a little flame
to appear at the tip of my pencil.

And along with that, the longing to steal,
to break into the poems of others
with a flashlight and a ski mask.

And what an unmerry band of thieves we are,
cut-purses, common shoplifters,
I thought to myself
as a cold wave swirled around my feet
and the lighthouse moved its megaphone over the sea,
which is an image I stole directly
from Lawrence Ferlinghetti --
to be perfectly honest for a moment --

the bicycling poet of San Francisco
whose little amusement park of a book
I carried in a side pocket of my uniform
up and down the treacherous halls of high school.

Edited: Sep 17, 2017, 1:44pm Top

Scarecrow overhears himself thinking

I love crows, so midnight at noon. Me,
a suit stuck on sticks
that no longer suits your life. As if this aways
who you are, your self-imposed
supposes: suppose this is it -- this field,
this light? What does, anyway, fill you
if not sun up or down, if not harvest,
yield? We should switch, I'll hop off
and gimp around, you'll hang
among scavengers for company,
for keeps, your straw-thoughts pecked
by wind. Are you me alive or am I you
dead? I lied: I hold my arms wide
not to shoo but greet, to say
to plunder, "feel free, dig in."

-Bob Hicok

I finished Elegy Owed, a collection Joe recommended. Thanks, Joe. I think many of these poems went deeper than my little mind could fathom but there were quite a few that I found stirring and profound.

Sep 17, 2017, 1:46pm Top

>252 msf59: LIKE! I am itching for a Collins collection, so thanks, Paul.

Sep 19, 2017, 4:34pm Top

>252 msf59: Ha! I get a kick out of that one, Paul. As you know, I'm a Collins fan. I want to pick up his new collection.

>253 msf59: Nice one, Mark.

I actually haven't read this collection! I'd read Bob Hicok poems in the New Yorker and liked them, and wondered whether you'd read any of his books. So I'll follow your trailblazing on this one. :-)

Sep 19, 2017, 4:36pm Top

I'm loving Danez Smith's NBA longlisted collection, dont call us dead. Here's one from it.

Dinosaurs in the Hood

By Danez Smith

Let’s make a movie called Dinosaurs in the Hood.
Jurassic Park meets Friday meets The Pursuit of Happyness.
There should be a scene where a little black boy is playing
with a toy dinosaur on the bus, then looks out the window
& sees the T. Rex, because there has to be a T. Rex.

Don’t let Tarantino direct this. In his version, the boy plays
with a gun, the metaphor: black boys toy with their own lives,
the foreshadow to his end, the spitting image of his father.
Fuck that, the kid has a plastic Brontosaurus or Triceratops
& this is his proof of magic or God or Santa. I want a scene

where a cop car gets pooped on by a pterodactyl, a scene
where the corner store turns into a battle ground. Don’t let
the Wayans brothers in this movie. I don’t want any racist shit
about Asian people or overused Latino stereotypes.
This movie is about a neighborhood of royal folks —

children of slaves & immigrants & addicts & exiles — saving their town
from real-ass dinosaurs. I don’t want some cheesy yet progressive
Hmong sexy hot dude hero with a funny yet strong commanding
black girl buddy-cop film. This is not a vehicle for Will Smith
& Sofia Vergara. I want grandmas on the front porch taking out raptors

with guns they hid in walls & under mattresses. I want those little spitty,
screamy dinosaurs. I want Cicely Tyson to make a speech, maybe two.
I want Viola Davis to save the city in the last scene with a black fist afro pick
through the last dinosaur’s long, cold-blood neck. But this can’t be
a black movie. This can’t be a black movie. This movie can’t be dismissed

because of its cast or its audience. This movie can’t be a metaphor
for black people & extinction. This movie can’t be about race.
This movie can’t be about black pain or cause black people pain.
This movie can’t be about a long history of having a long history with hurt.
This movie can’t be about race. Nobody can say nigga in this movie

who can’t say it to my face in public. No chicken jokes in this movie.
No bullets in the heroes. & no one kills the black boy. & no one kills
the black boy. & no one kills the black boy. Besides, the only reason
I want to make this is for that first scene anyway: the little black boy
on the bus with a toy dinosaur, his eyes wide & endless

his dreams possible, pulsing, & right there.

Sep 19, 2017, 9:24pm Top

>254 jnwelch: & 255 I will also read more of his collections. You know I don't place him highly in the pantheon of world poets but he would be close to the very top in terms of the most enjoyable to read!

Sep 23, 2017, 7:04am Top

>256 PaulCranswick: I LOVE this! Those closing lines are awesome. I plan on getting to this collection very soon.

Edited: Sep 23, 2017, 7:11am Top


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

-Naomi Shihab Nye

^I heard this poem read on a book podcast yesterday! I wish we could get our world leaders and everyone else to read and understand these words.

Sep 29, 2017, 9:08am Top

>259 jnwelch: Love that one!

Here's one from today's Poem-A-Day that has some punch to it:

September 29, 2017


Kelli Russell Agodon

If we never have enough love, we have more than most.
We have lost dogs in our neighborhood and wild coyotes,
and sometimes we can’t tell them apart. Sometimes
we don’t want to. Once I brought home a coyote and told
my lover we had a new pet. Until it ate our chickens.
Until it ate our chickens, our ducks, and our cat. Sometimes
we make mistakes and call them coincidences. We hold open
the door then wonder how the stranger ended up in our home.
There is a woman on our block who thinks she is feeding bunnies,
but they are large rats without tails. Remember the farmer’s wife?
Remember the carving knife? We are all trying to change
what we fear into something beautiful. But even rats need to eat.
Even rats and coyotes and the bones on the trail could be the bones
on our plates. I ordered Cornish hen. I ordered duck. Sometimes
love hurts. Sometimes the lost dog doesn’t want to be found.

Copyright © 2017 Kelli Russell Agodon. Used with permission of the author.

About This Poem

“During long walks I kept finding fawn bones on my favorite trail. I had also been considering how sometimes when we mean to help, we make things worse, even when we are trying our best. I wanted this poem to live in that gray area.”
—Kelli Russell Agodon

Kelli Russell Agodon is the author of Hourglass Museum (White Pine Press, 2014). She lives in the Seattle area and is the cofounder of Two Sylvias Press.

Oct 1, 2017, 10:47am Top


O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes' sake, if the were all,
Whose elaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes' sake along the all.

-Robert Frost

Oct 1, 2017, 10:47am Top

>260 msf59: I liked this one too, Joe. Glad you shared it over here.

Oct 1, 2017, 4:48pm Top

Great to see some Robert Frost, Mark, and a good time of year for that one.

Oct 24, 2017, 5:37pm Top

I just read Billy Collins' most recent collection, The Rain in Portugal. I didn't think it was quite up to the level of Sailing Alone Around the Room or Aimless Love, but it was still very good. And, as usual, there were some that really stood out. Here's one, "Only Child".

Only Child

I never wished for a sibling, boy or girl.

Center of the universe,

I had the back of my parents’ car

all to myself. I could look out one window

then slide over to the other window

without any quibbling over territorial rights,

and whenever I played a game

on the floor of my bedroom, it was always my turn.

Not until my parents entered their 90s

did I long for a sister, a nurse I named Mary,

who worked in a hospital

five minutes away from their house

and who would drop everything,

even a thermometer, whenever I called.

“Be there in a jiff” and “On my way!”

were two of her favorite expressions, and mine.

And now that the parents are dead,

I wish I could meet Mary for coffee

every now and then at that Italian place

with the blue awning where we would sit

and reminisce, even on rainy days.

I would gaze into her green eyes

and see my parents, my mother looking out

of Mary’s right eye and my father staring out of her left,

which would remind me of what an odd duck

I was as a child, a little prince and a loner

who would break off from his gang of friends

on a Saturday and find a hedge to hide behind.

And I would tell Mary about all that, too,

and never embarrass her by asking about

her nonexistence, and maybe we

would have another espresso and a pastry

and I would always pay the bill and walk her home.

Oct 24, 2017, 5:50pm Top

Those familiar with T.S. Eliot's Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock may get a kick out of this one. I did!


I just dared to eat
a really big peach
as ripe as it could be

and I have on
a pair of plaid shorts
and a blue tee shirt with a hole in it

and little rivers of juice
are now running down my chin and wrist
and dripping onto the pool deck.

What is your problem, man?

Oct 24, 2017, 9:23pm Top

Oct 24, 2017, 9:35pm Top

>266 jnwelch:. LOL!! Great, right?!

Oct 25, 2017, 9:42pm Top

>267 m.belljackson:

The perfect reply that's been coming for all these years ...

Oct 29, 2017, 12:44pm Top

Nov 1, 2017, 9:43pm Top

This from a post on my own thread: Jim and I have taken to attending the Boston Book Festival with some other LT folks. This time my favorite session was 'Reading like a Writer:Poetry'. Three poets had selected a poem of theirs to discuss, and we were handed the texts when we walked in. Each read their poem out loud and we analyzed it in discussion. It was great.

'Ghazal of Wreckage' by Myronn Hardy, from his book Radioactive Starlings: Poems, which I think is about to be published. I won't type it here because the arrangement on the page is important, and I don't think I can duplicate it, but it is interesting to know that the term Ghazal refers to an ancient form of poem composed of couplets in which a word or short phrase repeats, and the way he breaks the form corresponds to the breakage he is writing about.

'Saudade' by Erika Sanchez, from her book Lessons on Expulsion

In the republic of flowers I studied
the secrets of hanging clothes I didn't
know if it was raining or someone
was frying eggs I held the skulls
of words that mean nothing you left
between the hour of the ox and the hour
of the rat I heard the sound of two
braids I watched it rain through
a mirror am I asking to be spared
or am I asking to be spread your body
smelled like cathedrals and I kept
your photo in a bottle of mezcal
semen-salt wolf's teeth you should have
touched my eyes until they blistered
kissed the skin of my instep for thousands
of years sealed honey never spoils
won't crystallize I saw myself snapping
a swan's neck I needed to air out
my eyes the droplets on a spiderweb
and the grace they held who gave me
permission to be this person to drag
my misfortune on this leash made of gold,

Sanchez read this straight through, barely taking a breath, deliberately avoiding punctuation. She told us she wrote it while in Portugal, living there as a gift of sorts after the breakup of a relationship.

'Ice for the Ice Trade' by Stephen or Stephanie Burt (it varies), from her book Advice from The Lights

Everyone wants a piece of me.

I have been weighted and measured,
tested and standardized,
throughout my young life. It happens to everyone
or to everyone with my ability.

Now I live quietly
and mostly in the dark, amid sawdust and sheer
or streaky wooden surfaces. My role,
when I reach maturity,
may be to help people behave
more sociably, and reduce
the irritations of summer,
or else to make it easier to eat.

For reasons I cannot fathom, I weep when it rains.
My handlers keep me wrapped in awkward cloth.
They will not let me touch my friends
or show any curves. They have taught me how to shave.

A few twigs and dragonfly wings got caught
near the center of me long ago; they serve
to distinguish me from others of my kind,
along with some bubbles of air.

I am worth more when I am clear.
When I am most desirable
you should be able to see yourself through me.

Some of my distant relatives
will probably never go far,
because they are too irregular, or opaque.
Many of us will end on a cart.

I, on the other hand, have had my work
cut out for me by so many gloves
and tongs, pallets and barges, poles and planks
that I am sure I will go to New York;
there people who own
the rights to me will give elaborate thanks
to one another, and go on to take me apart.

She is quite a character, reminding me a little of a cross between Arnold Stang and Jerry Lewis, but very good at reading and discussing her work. I think she teaches at Princeton.

Nov 12, 2017, 8:04am Top


When the pantheon crumbles, does gravity still work?
What happens to the arcing satellites? What do you do
when the high priests have hung up their mitres, when
the shepherd crooks have all gone straight, when the
curtain is torn, the covenant broke, the tithes spilled all
across the tiles? Which parishes do you frequent, whose
statutes do you study, whose name is on your lips when
you self-flagellate? To whom do you whisper your death
bed confession, alone in the dark, lying atop a certain hill,
bleeding on a certain throne of thorns? What do you do
when the sky opens? There are books about this, but
none written from experience. Like how a baby’s first word
isn’t really its first word, just the first one that’s understood.
The process of rapprochement happens slowly, then all
at once. Just like the apocalypse, which is unevenly
distributed, but speeding up. Here we go. Into the breach.

- Alex Manley (From Poem-A-Day)

^I have been seriously slacking on sharing any poetry but I have been reading it.

Nov 12, 2017, 12:00pm Top

>271 m.belljackson:
Is Poem-a-Day online or in print?

thank you.

Nov 15, 2017, 6:42am Top

>272 msf59: Online, Marianne. Easy to sign up and they drop one a day into your email.

Edited: Nov 15, 2017, 6:45am Top

Night of Sleepless Love

High night for us both and full moon
I began to cry and you were laughing
Your scorn was a god and my laments
were moments and doves in chains

Low night for us both sorrow crystal
you cried for the deep distances
and my pain was a heap of dying
on your weak heart of sand

Dawn entangled us in bed
mouths pressing on the icy flow
of endlessly spilling blood

Sun streaked through the shuttered
and the coral of life unfurled its branch
above my shrouded heart

Federico García Lorca

Nov 15, 2017, 6:58am Top

^^Has anyone read Lorca? He is new to me.

Nov 15, 2017, 9:07am Top

I have read Lorca, but it's been a long time, Mark. It's good to be reminded of his passionate writing.

Nov 15, 2017, 9:53am Top

>274 msf59:

Strong images, though I could do without the kissing endless blood - thoughts on this?

Nov 23, 2017, 12:49pm Top


Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.

-Joy Harjo

Nov 23, 2017, 8:27pm Top

>278 klobrien2: Ohmigosh, I love that poem! I'm sure I've read Joy Harjo before; I need to go back and read more. Thanks for posting!

Karen O.

Edited: Nov 25, 2017, 6:47am Top

The Driest Place on Earth

I watched in horror as the man hung
half a pig by a hook in the window.

Nearby, the sea shone or something.
Nearby, the wingspan of a hawk cast an elongated shadow.

I listened with horror to the words I was missing.
A wrongness was growing in the living moon.

& nearby, the sea rolled endlessly.
Nearby, the saw grass peered through the grit & preened.

I’ve never been to Florida. Louisiana however
is second skin of mind, a habit-habitat.

& Texas on the way there, the red soil
& black boars, the frankly haunted pines

lone men in pickups fishing
for nothing they intend to catch.

& nearby, the sea froths over the edge.
& nearby, the sea.

Nearer & nearer
the obliterating sea

-Shanna Compton

-From Poem-A-Day

Nov 25, 2017, 6:43am Top

>279 msf59: I loved In Mad Love and War and want to read more of Harjo's poetry.

Nov 27, 2017, 5:52pm Top

>281 jnwelch: Ditto, Mark. I'm glad you posted that one.

Dec 5, 2017, 11:46am Top

Woo, I'm loving everything I'm reading by new-to-me poet Victoria Chang. I've ordered her Barbie Chang collection. Here's one based on an Edward Hopper painting.

Edward Hopper Study: Room in New York

by Victoria Chang

The woman's finger hangs

above the F key. She always

wears the same red dress.

The man's hands cup

the newspaper edge, his face

ashen, half-edible.

The woman's back

to the man, head down,

her arm, dairy and bloated,

long before men preferred

peeling brown shoulders,

the midriff. She can't leave him,

doesn't know how.

How many times have you

heard this? You will hear it

again and again , like the F key

that in a moment will

glaze the room with its

throbbing mouth.

Dec 10, 2017, 7:45am Top

>283 msf59: LIKE! I will have to seek her out.

Dec 10, 2017, 7:46am Top


Planes arc like arrows through the highest sky,
ducks V the ducklings across a puckered pond;
Providence turns animals to things.
I roam from bookstore to bookstore browsing books,
I too maneuvered on a guiding string
as I execute my written plot.
I feel how Hamlet, stuck with the Revenge Play
his father wrote him, went scatological
under this clotted London sky.
Catlike on a paper parapet,
he declaimed the words his prompter fed him,
knowing convention called him forth to murder,
loss of free will and license of the stage.
Death’s not an event in life, it’s not lived through.

-Robert Lowell (1917-1977)

From Poem-A-Day

I have not read Lowell. Anyone?

Edited: Dec 10, 2017, 4:14pm Top

As I mentioned over on your thread, Mark, I have read Robert Lowell. His Life Studies is his best, IMO. I may have posted it here before, but I love his "Skunk Hour" poem:

Skunk Hour

By Robert Lowell

(For Elizabeth Bishop)

Nautilus Island’s hermit
heiress still lives through winter in her Spartan cottage;
her sheep still graze above the sea.
Her son’s a bishop. Her farmer
is first selectman in our village;
she’s in her dotage.

Thirsting for
the hierarchic privacy
of Queen Victoria’s century,
she buys up all
the eyesores facing her shore,
and lets them fall.

The season’s ill—
we’ve lost our summer millionaire,
who seemed to leap from an L. L. Bean
catalogue. His nine-knot yawl
was auctioned off to lobstermen.
A red fox stain covers Blue Hill.

And now our fairy
decorator brightens his shop for fall;
his fishnet’s filled with orange cork,
orange, his cobbler’s bench and awl;
there is no money in his work,
he’d rather marry.

One dark night,
my Tudor Ford climbed the hill’s skull;
I watched for love-cars . Lights turned down,
they lay together, hull to hull,
where the graveyard shelves on the town. . . .
My mind’s not right.

A car radio bleats,
“Love, O careless Love. . . .” I hear
my ill-spirit sob in each blood cell,
as if my hand were at its throat. . . .
I myself am hell;
nobody’s here—

only skunks, that search
in the moonlight for a bite to eat.
They march on their soles up Main Street:
white stripes, moonstruck eyes’ red fire
under the chalk-dry and spar spire
of the Trinitarian Church.

I stand on top
of our back steps and breathe the rich air—
a mother skunk with her column of kittens swills the garbage pail
She jabs her wedge-head in a cup
of sour cream, drops her ostrich tail,
and will not scare.

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