Thursday, December 30, 2010

WikiLeaks are reinvented as haikus

For months now the revelations on WikiLeaks have embarrassed governments and threatened international relations.

Who'd have thought they would have spawned poetry.

The leaks, a mere 1830 of them, so far, have now become the source of haiku poetry.

A site called HaikuLeaks used a computer algorithm to find 65 different haikus within the WikiLeaks documents. Admittedly haikus such as...

It remains to be

seen how Lugovoy’s new role will affect
LDPR’s election prospects.

do not make for the most classic lines in poetry. But at least they're topical. See more at...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Prisoner wins poetry competition

A prisoner from Northern Ireland who had to make do with jail rather than bail has won a poetry competition by writing about how he misses home.

To be fair an inmate of some way, shape or form was likely to win this one as the competition was run by the Northern Ireland Prison Ombudsman.

The winner wasn't named but here's the poem and a link to the Belfast Telegraph story.

Happy Christmas, hope you're doing well

I wish you joy from my prison cell
I'm sorry I can't be by your side
But I'll be there for next yuletide
My heart is with you I hope you know
I long to meet you by the mistletoe
The sparkles, the spangles, the tinsel, the tree
The presents, the turkey, the carols, no me
But I've learned a lesson it's true to tell
I'm sober, I'm drug free and I'm doing well
My present to you is I've changed my life
Happy Christmas my parents, my children, my wife

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Verse of the Day - Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Snowstorm - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,

Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven,
And veils the farmhouse at the garden's end.
The sled and traveler stopped, the courier's feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.
Come see the north wind's masonry.
Out of an unseen quarry evermore
Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer
Curves his white bastions with projected roof
Round every windward stake, or tree, or door.
Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work
So fanciful, so savage, nought cares he
For number or proportion. Mockingly,
On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths;
A swan-like form invests the hidden thorn;
Fills up the farmer's lane from wall to wall,
Maugre the farmer's sighs; and, at the gate,
A tapering turret overtops the work.
And when his hours are numbered, and the world
Is all his own, retiring, as he were not,
Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art
To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone,
Built in an age, the mad wind's night-work,
The frolic architecture of the snow.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Verse of the Day - WH Auden

Auden captured the desolate mood of winter perfectly in his tribute to one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century, William Butler Yeats.

In Memory of W.B. Yeats by WH Auden

He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
The snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.
Far from his illness
The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,
The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;
By mourning tongues
The death of the poet was kept from his poems.
But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
An afternoon of nurses and rumours;
The provinces of his body revolted,
The squares of his mind were empty,
Silence invaded the suburbs,
The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers.

Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
To find his happiness in another kind of wood
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living.
But in the importance and noise of to-morrow
When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse,
And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed,
And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom,
A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.


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


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

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Verse of the Day - William Carlos Williams

This one's appropriate for all those folks buried in snow back home in England.

Blizzard - William Carlos Williams

Snow falls:
years of anger following
hours that float idly down --
the blizzard
drifts its weight
deeper and deeper for three days
or sixty years, eh? Then
the sun! a clutter of
yellow and blue flakes --
Hairy looking trees stand out
in long alleys
over a wild solitude.
The man turns and there --
his solitary track stretched out
upon the world.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Verse of the Day - Walter de la Mare

Mistletoe a Christmas Poem by Walter de la Mare

Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Some one came, and kissed me there.

Tired I was; my head would go
Nodding under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
No footsteps came, no voice, but only,
Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,
Stooped in the still and shadowy air
Lips unseen - and kissed me there.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pamela Anderson pens a poem

Pamela Anderson appearing on the cover of Playboy is hardly remarkable. Her picture on the front of this month's is her 13th.

But Pamela uses this occasion to highlight a previously unknown talent, that of writing poetry. The word "talent" is up for debate as Pammi's verse proves to be about as scant as the outfits she wears and is unlikely to challenge Wordsworth's legacy any time soon.

To save all you poetry addicts rushing out to buy a copy of Playboy here's Pammi's contribution to world literature.

"Our best isn't good enough - right now our eyes are far-reaching. Please let's show the good in us... The brilliance... The wonderful... It's abundant - it's just not tapped as it should be," she writes

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Seafarer

The Seafarer was one of the first poems I taught to a disaffected and disinterested 12th graders in my short and unsuccessful stint as an English teacher. Still it stands the test of time. The poem was told almost 2,000 yeara ago and passed on by word of mouth in the mead halls of the Anglo Saxons.
It's a long poem but here's the first quarter.

The Seafarer

This tale is true, and mine. It tells
How the sea took me, swept me back
And forth in sorrow and fear and pain,
Showed me suffering in a hundred ships,
In a thousand ports, and in me. It tells
Of smashing surf when I sweated in the cold
Of an anxious watch, perched in the bow
As it dashed under cliffs. My feet were cast
In icy bands, bound with frost,
With frozen chains, and hardship groaned
Around my heart. Hunger tore
At my sea-weary soul. No man sheltered
On the quiet fairness of earth can feel
How wretched I was, drifting through winter
On an ice-cold sea, whirled in sorrow,
Alone in a world blown clear of love,
Hung with icicles. The hailstorms flew.
The only sound was the roaring sea,
The freezing waves. The song of the swan
Might serve for pleasure, the cry of the sea-fowl,
The death-noise of birds instead of laughter,
The mewing of gulls instead of mead.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New verse by jailed Chinese poet is published in the US

Poetry by imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo (lee-OO' show-BOH') is coming out in the U.S, according to the Associated Press.

Graywolf Press announced Thursday that "June Fourth Elegies" will be published in 2012. It is a bilingual edition of verse by the 54-year-old Chinese dissident and literary critic.

Liu is serving an 11-year prison sentence for subversion handed down last year after he co-authored an appeal for human rights and political reform.

Needless to say his book hasn't been published in China. It refers to the 1989, suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations at Tiananmen Square.

Here's an extract from his writing.

Experiencing Death

From a wisp of smoke to a little heap of ash
I’ve drained the drink of the martyrs, sense spring’s
about to break into the brocade-brilliance of myriad flowers

Deep in the night, empty road
I’m biking home
I stop at a cigarette stand
A car follows me, crashes over my bicycle
some enormous brutes seize me
I’m handcuffed eyes covered mouth gagged
thrown into a prison van heading nowhere

Friday, December 3, 2010

Verse of the Day - Sylvia Plath

I can rely on Sylvia Plath for a happy verse to celebrate a hard day's Friday night...

The Dead by Sylvia Plath

Revolving in oval loops of solar speed,
Couched in cauls of clay as in holy robes,
Dead men render love and war no heed,
Lulled in the ample womb of the full-tilt globe.

No spiritual Caesars are these dead;
They want no proud paternal kingdom come;
And when at last they blunder into bed
World-wrecked, they seek only oblivion.

Rolled round with goodly loam and cradled deep,
These bone shanks will not wake immaculate
To trumpet-toppling dawn of doomstruck day :
They loll forever in colossal sleep;
Nor can God's stern, shocked angels cry them up
From their fond, final, infamous decay.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Tom Waits to publish book of poetry

Tom Waits, a singer whose appearance often resembles someone who forages trash cans for a living, is to publish his first book of poetry.

The Guardian reports Waits is to publish his first book of verse, in collaboration with photographer Michael O'Brien. Hard Ground is described as a portrait of homelessness, combining Waits's words with images of people who "live on the hard ground".

This is a publishing debut for Waits, a songwriter who, after 40 years, dozens of film appearances and about 20 albums, has noticeably avoided committing himself to print. In a 1975 interview, according to TwentyFourBit, he said "poetry is a very dangerous word". "I don't like the stigma that comes with being called a poet," he said.

"So I call what I'm doing an improvisational adventure or an inebriational travelogue."

See -

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A poem for Thanksgiving

Pied Beauty

Gerard Manley Hopkins

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Monday, November 8, 2010

To Autumn - John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tara Powell

Tara Powell finds it hard to contain her excitement. She has been writing poems for as long as she can remember from her schooldays in Elizabeth City to her adulthood in academia at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, but her new book “Physical Science” is her first free-standing publication and a milestone in her development as a poet.

Although her career has taken her south, her roots and family remain in Elizabeth City. On Saturday she hosted a book signing at Page after Page.

Powell is an Assistant Professor of English and Southern Studies in her sixth year at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. She sees the effect of poetry on her students on a daily basis, and believes it can play an important part in their lives.

“My teacher Alan Shapiro once told me that poetry couldn’t undo the Holocaust or bring his brother back to life, but that what it could do was be a tool for helping him to live in the world in which those things had happened to the people he cared about,” Powell said, referring to the professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

While some students struggle with poetry, it was an organic process for Powell.

“I can’t tell you when I started writing poems because I don’t remember when I wasn’t doing it,” she said.

When she started writing in Elizabeth City in the early 1980s, her parents and teachers quickly recognized her talent.

“I’m pretty sure I was presenting them to my teachers at JC Sawyer from as soon as I knew my letters,” she said. Her poetry developed at Northeastern High School.

“My high school English teacher in Elizabeth City, Judy Boyer, gave me a book called ‘Wildwood Flower’ to read by this wonderful poet Kathryn Stripling Byer who later became the North Carolina Poet Laureate,” Powell recalled.

“Those poems weren’t high-sounding flowery stuff about a world way away from the one I lived in, but they were these incredible poems in the voice of a mountain woman, just telling about her life, the way I had known real people talk about real life,” Powell said.

The work of Byer helped her discover poetry wasn’t just about Wordsworth and Blake. “I realized that poetry wasn’t just trying to sound like people from 200 years ago, but it was right now, in our every day life, in finding the music in the people’s voices around us and in our own lives,” she said.

She has been avidly reading poets from the Carolinas ever since as she moved to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and on to Columbia.

“Physical Science” is a chapbook, a small manuscript of stories or poems, about half the length of a regular-sized book of poems. “It’s a little book in terms of size, but it means a lot to me,” said Powell.

In best traditions of the metaphysical poets, “Physical Science” draws on principles of physics and natural science in a thoroughly modern setting.

Powell says it’s about relationships between men and women and “all the mistakes you go through to figure out what’s really worth having and is going to work for your life, and how it’s not about what works for others, but what works for you, and that’s OK.”

“A lot of the poems in it are inspired by principles of physics and natural science and how the rules of how we relate to each other turn out to be a little like the rules of the universe, far more mysterious than we wish they were,” she said.

The collection is the culmination of a decade of work.

“Some of the poems have a lot of me in them and others are mostly imagined experiences, but either way they reflect some of the issues of coming of age as a modern woman and figuring out how love fits into my life,” Powell said.

The little book is “tightly knit around that idea of science becoming a way of exploring human relationships,” Powell said.

“The sequence just seemed most powerful standing alone. I was thrilled when the editors of Finishing Line Press thought so, too..”

Powell’s poems are intense and full of a bittersweet energy and tension between the sexes. In Growing Season she writes. “One morning soon, she will kiss his lips, then gouge—like rain—his eyes.”

And homely Carolina themes are woven in with darker allusions to subjects such as original sin.

“Before butter or flour, there was stolen fruit,” Powell writes in “Evolution.”

And there is science and sex interwoven as in the powerful metaphor at the start of Chrysanthemums. “A CAT scan is like that, riding a hot, sexy rush into a grave.”

One of Powell’s more complex poems is called “Poincaré’s Conjecture” and refers to a mathematical theorem about the characterization of the three dimensional sphere.

“Math tells us what takes shape is just material, that the sphere of my life is just like yours, emerging on one horizon and rolling across the Carolina blue to sink into the other,” she writes.

And “Love Song for Stephen W. Hawking” is a break from the meters of many of Powell’s other poems, a dark and earthy piece that seems on the face of it, to have little to do with the British scientist who argued the Big Bang, rather than a divine being, created the universe.

It all started with a quote by Hawking, Powell explained. The scientist had said chocolate and love made life worth living.

At 34-years-old, Powell is hopeful she has more collections of poetry ahead of her. She has another book of prose about contemporary southern writing coming out next year, has published many essays and poems in journals and newspapers and online magazines over the past 15 years.