Friday, January 28, 2011

Verse of the Day - Elizabeth Bishop

Sandpiper by Elizabeth Bishop

The roaring alongside he takes for granted,
and that every so often the world is bound to shake.
He runs, he runs to the south, finical, awkward,
in a state of controlled panic, a student of Blake.

The beach hisses like fat. On his left, a sheet
of interrupting water comes and goes
and glazes over his dark and brittle feet.
He runs, he runs straight through it, watching his toes.

- Watching, rather, the spaces of sand between them
where (no detail too small) the Atlantic drains
rapidly backwards and downwards. As he runs,
he stares at the dragging grains.

The world is a mist. And then the world is
minute and vast and clear. The tide
is higher or lower. He couldn't tell you which.
His beak is focussed; he is preoccupied,
looking for something, something, something.
Poor bird, he is obsessed!
The millions of grains are black, white, tan, and gray
mixed with quartz grains, rose and amethyst.

Monday, January 24, 2011

poems about sex, elephants and Lady Gaga

I wouldn't say I'm a numbers junkie but it after two years on this earth it strikes me that this blog, Rhyme and Reason, isn't catching fire any time soon.

Admittedly it doesn't aim to be humorous and irreverent in the same way as Brits in the USA.  It's aimed at lovers of poetry.

Still when the most hits any post has mustered is 10, you have to wonder where all those supposed fans of poetry are.

They are one of three possible places; elsewhere, elsewhere or elsewhere.

To use a metaphor from what's arguably the best film of the last three decades, Twins, this blog is Danny DeVito, to Brits' Arnie. (you know I'm not serious about the film right?).

So I followed the Yellow Brick Road and I spoke to a small man in a dirty raincoat behind a big screen about how to increase my numbers. I don't think he was Elton John.

"Publish some sex poems and mention Lady Gaga a couple of times," the dirty little man told me. "You can't go wrong with Lady Gaga."

I agonized for a nano second. "Willl I lose my heart and have to go on a quest for it?" I asked.

"Not if you also mention elephants," the small man said.

So just maybe this is how you can bring some magic to your blog; sex, elephants and Lady Gaga.

Without further ado here's a poem about elephants having sex by D.H. Lawrence. I have no idea where Lady Gaga fits into the equasion.

The Elephant is Slow to Mate by D. H. Lawrence

The elephant, the huge old beast,

is slow to mate;
he finds a female, they show no haste
they wait

for the sympathy in their vast shy hearts
slowly, slowly to rouse
as they loiter along the river-beds
and drink and browse

and dash in panic through the brake
of forest with the herd,
and sleep in massive silence, and wake
together, without a word.

So slowly the great hot elephant hearts
grow full of desire,
and the great beasts mate in secret at last,
hiding their fire.

Oldest they are and the wisest of beasts
so they know at last
how to wait for the loneliest of feasts
for the full repast.

They do not snatch, they do not tear;
their massive blood
moves as the moon-tides, near, more near
till they touch in flood.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Scotland appoints Liz Lochhead as its Poet Laureate

Scotland has appointed a new Poet Laureat. Kevin McKenna, writing in the Observer, seems rather excited about it.

Liz Lochhead, he writes, is a beautiful, sesitive and brilliant lady whose verse has done wonders for Scotland for the last 30 years.

I can't say I know too much about Lochhead, but there's always time to find out.  Certainly Lochhead alludes to a universal truth in her poem Hell for Poets. Futons are indeed hard. This is something society has been slow to acknowledge.

Hell for Poets by Liz Lochhead

It's Hell for the poet arriving for the gig
Off the five thirty three to meet the organiser
Who claps her in a car that reeks enough of dog to make her gag,
Tells her he's looked at her work but he was none the wiser.
Call him old fashioned, but in the 'little mag
He edits for his sins' stuff rhymes – oh, he's no sympathiser
With this modern stuff! Is it prose? What is it?
Perhaps the poet can enlighten him this visit?

– For which his lady-wife's made up a futon hard as boulders
In the boxroom. 'So much friendlier than a hotel!'
Will anyone turn up tonight? Shrug of his shoulders.
'Even for McGough or Carol Ann Duffy tickets have not been going well…'
Meanwhile: here's his stuff, each ode encased in plastic in three folders.
Publication? Perhaps she'll advise him where to sell
Over a bottle of home-made later? Oh shit. She can tell
This is going to be The Gig From Hell…

But it's real hell for real poets when love goes right
When the war is over and the blood, the mud, the Muse depart
Requited love, gratified desire 'write white'
And suffering's the sweetest source for the profoundest art.
Blue skies, eternal bliss, bland putti – Heaven might
Not be the be all and end all…? For a start
Hell itself's pure inspiration to the creatively driven.
Hell was (f'rinstance) Dante's idea of Hog Heaven.
Hell's best! Virgil knew it too before him. Heigh ho!
Man calls himself a poet? St Peter'll bounce him
(Unless he's maybe Milton – it's Who You Know.)
Could I end up in Hell with Burns (his rolling r's announce him)?
End up with Villon, Verlaine, the Rabelaisian Rimbaud,
With Don Juan, Don Whan – however you pronounce Him –
Bunked up with Byron, still so mad, so bad, and so delic-
iously dangerous to know? Not a snowball's chance, but oh, I wish.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Verse of the Day - Stephen Spender

The Room Above the Square by Stephen Spender

The light in the window seemed perpetual
When you stayed in the high room for me;
It glowed above the trees through leaves
Like my certainty.
The light is fallen and you are hidden
In sunbright peninsulas of the sword:
Torn like leaves through Europe is the peace
That through us flowed.

Now I climb up alone to the high room
Above the darkened square
Where among stones and roots, the other
Unshattered lovers are.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Remembering Steve Orlen

The University of Arizona's Steve Orlen, a writing professor and poet who died of cancer, is to be remembered with a memorial service on, Saturday, the Arizona Daily Wildcat reports. He is remembered not only for his work but for the many people he inspired as a professor and friend.

In honor of Orlen's life and his poetry, the UA Poetry Center is hosting a memorial service, "A Tribute to Steve Orlen," this Saturday, Jan. 22 from 3 – 5 p.m.

Monkey Mind by Steve Orlen

When I was a child I had what is called an inner life.

For example, I looked at that girl over there
In the second aisle of seats and wondered what it was like
To have buck teeth pushing out your upper lip
And how it felt to have those little florets the breasts
Swelling her pajama top before she went to sleep.
Walking home, I asked her both questions
And instead of answering she told her mother
Who told the teacher who told my father.
After all these years, I can almost feel his hand
Rising in the room, the moment in the air of his decision,
Then coming down so hard it took my breath away,
And up again in that small arc
To smack his open palm against my butt.
I’m a slow learner
And still sometimes I’m sitting here wondering what my father
Is thinking, blind and frail and eighty-five,
Plunged down into his easy chair half the night
Listening to Bach cantatas. I know he knows
At every minute of every hour that he’s going to die
Because he told my mother and my mother told me.
I didn’t cry or cry out or say I’m sorry.
I lay across his lap and wondered what
He could be thinking to hit a kid like that.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Verse of the Day - Deborah Ager

Santa Fe In Winter by Deborah Ager

The city is closing for the night.
Stores draw their blinds one by one,
and it's dark again, save for the dim

infrequent streetlight bending at the neck
like a weighted stem. Years have built
the city in layers: balustrades filled in

with brick, adobe reinforced with steel,
and the rounded arches smoothed
with white cement. Neighborhoods

have changed the burro trails
to streets, bare at night—
no pedestrians, no cars, no dogs.

With daylight, the houses turned galleries
and stores turned restaurants open—
the Navajos wrapped in wool

crowd the Palace of the Governors plaza
to sell their handmade blankets,

silver rings, and necklaces
to travelers who will buy jewelry
as they buy everything—
another charming history for themselves.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Verse of the Day - George Meredith

Winter Heavens - George Meredith

Sharp is the night, but stars with frost alive

Leap off the rim of earth across the dome.
It is a night to make the heavens our home
More than the nest whereto apace we strive.
Lengths down our road each fir-tree seems a hive,
In swarms outrushing from the golden comb.
They waken waves of thoughts that burst to foam:
The living throb in me, the dead revive.
Yon mantle clothes us: there, past mortal breath,
Life glistens on the river of the death.
It folds us, flesh and dust; and have we knelt,
Or never knelt, or eyed as kine the springs
Of radiance, the radiance enrings:
And this is the soul’s haven to have felt.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Verse of the Day - Tatamkhulu Afrika

It's a strange phenomemon but on my main blog Brits in the USA and this one I don't think anyone has ever visited from Africa. The continent remains Conrad's Heart of Darkness, in my blogisphere at least.

So, I thought I'd highlight some African poetry. Dark where Loneliness Hides is a poem from Tatamkhulu Afrika, a South African poet.

Dark where Loneliness Hides

Cat’s small child cries
in the dark where loneliness hides.
Cat’s small child beats
its breast in the soft
furriness of its need.

Cats don’t beat their breasts,
cats yell with lust
in the dark where loneliness hides?
Is it I, then, that cries,
mad child running wild?

Is it I that lies
in the dark where loneliness hides,
that listens as the wild geese wing
past short of the stars,
rime my roof with their dung?

Cat’s mewling, sky’s
sibilances, these
are the thieves of my ease?
What else waits
in the dark where loneliness hides?

My song has a crooked spine.
Should I break a bone
as I straighten it?
Or birth its crookedness in
the dark where loneliness hides?

Poetry-only bookshop opens in Colorado

In an era when bookshops in general are closing, it's interesting, brave and some would say foolhardy for Brian Buckley and his wife Kate Hunter to open a poetry only bookshop in Boulder, Colorado.

Let's just say there isn't a huge demand for such a venture.

In fact this is just the third to open in the whole country.

See -

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Verse of the Day - Ralph Burns

Fishing in Winter - Ralph Burns

A man staring at a small lake sees
His father cast light line out over
The willows. He's forgotten his
Father has been dead for two years
And the lake is where a blue fog
Rolls, and the sky could be, if it
Were black or blue or white,
The backdrop of all attention.

He wades out to join the father,
Following where the good strikes
Seem to lead. It's cold. The shape
Breath takes on a cold day is like
Anything else--a rise on a small lake,
The Oklahoma hills, blue scrub--
A shape already inside a shape,
Two songs, two breaths on the water.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Maya Angelou compares cooking to poetry

Cooking  is compared to poetry by Maya Angelou in her new book of recipes, Great Food, All Day long.

Angelou told the Washington Post's Express Night out: "Yes, cooking is like writing poetry, but it's also like building a house. You want the best ingredients. When you're writing a poem, you hope to have a good vocabulary, and to choose the nouns and pronouns and verbs carefully.

"The way you put them together will determine how they affect another person. And it's really because you've been careful in the choice of your ingredients and respectful of how they work together. That's true of all the efforts in life."

See -