Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Verse of the Day - Robert Hayden

Full Moon by Robert Hayden

No longer throne of a goddess to whom we pray,

no longer the bubble house of childhood's
tumbling Mother Goose man,

The emphatic moon ascends--
the brilliant challenger of rocket experts,
the white hope of communications men.

Some I love who are dead
were watchers of the moon and knew its lore;
planted seeds, trimmed their hair,

Pierced their ears for gold hoop earrings
as it waxed or waned.
It shines tonight upon their graves.

And burned in the garden of Gethsemane,
its light made holy by the dazzling tears
with which it mingled.

And spread its radiance on the exile's path
of Him who was The Glorious One,
its light made holy by His holiness.

Already a mooted goal and tomorrow perhaps
an arms base, a livid sector,
the full moon dominates the dark.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Night of the moths

I'm thinking of moths now because I'm thinking of people, how they flicker close to the flight and swell with its warmth, how they charm and seduce and suddenly they are gone.

And one night if we leave all the windows open they may give us a glimpse. They may rap on the casement like the long dead Cathy at Heathcliffe's abode, they may show us some of their old fire before they vanish again to the periphery.

In a certain light moths can fool and deceive. They can light up like butterflies or fireflies lighting up the lonely path down the railway line. But when they are gone we are filled with a sense of unreality, as if a spectral presence has buzzed low over our tombs.

One night in Northumberland we left all the windows open and the electric lights on. Until the room was filled with the flittering of velvet wings. But our parents came in and killed the lights. They shut the windows and shooed away the moths - pesky creatures who feasted on clothes, they said.

But in a peverse way it was the best night of our lives.

Nobody told me then the moths ate on souls. And in the years that followed I have missed those nights of  transluscent wings.

Moths by Jennifer O'Grady

Adrift in the liberating, late light

of August, delicate, frivolous,
they make their way to my front porch
and flutter near the glassed-in bulb,
translucent as a thought suddenly
wondered aloud, illumining the air
that's thick with honeysuckle and dusk.
You and I are doing our best
at conversation, keeping it light, steering clear
of what we'd like to say.
You leave, and the night becomes
cluttered with moths, some tattered,
their dumbly curious filaments
startling against my cheek. How quickly,
instinctively, I brush them away.
Dazed, they cling to the outer darkness
like pale reminders of ourselves.
Others seem to want so desperately
to get inside. Months later, I'll find
the woolens, snug in their resting places,
full of missing pieces.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Verse of the Day - Dame Edith Sitwell

Edith Sitwell's verse is described as "startling and hypnotic" in a new article in the Gazette of Montreal. Yet a poet who was such a powerful part of the literary scene in the early 20th Century has been forgotten of late.

All that may be about to change with a new biography about Dame Edith Sitwell, the Gazette reports.

Bells of Gray Crystal by Dame Edith Sitwell

Bells of gray crystal

Break on each bough--
The swans' breath will mist all
The cold airs now.
Like tall pagodas
Two people go,
Trail their long codas
Of talk through the snow.
Lonely are these
And lonely and I ....
The clouds, gray Chinese geese
Sleek through the sky.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Verse of the Day - Kenneth Rexrox

Gic to Hir by Kenneth Rexrox

It is late at night, cold and damp
The air is filled with tobacco smoke.
My brain is worried and tired.
I pick up the encyclopedia,
The volume GIC to HAR,
It seems I have read everything in it,
So many other nights like this.
I sit staring empty-headed at the article Grosbeak,
Listening to the long rattle and pound
Of freight cars and switch engines in the distance.
Suddenly I remember
Coming home from swimming
In Ten Mile Creek,
Over the long moraine in the early summer evening,
My hair wet, smelling of waterweeds and mud.
I remember a sycamore in front of a ruined farmhouse,
And instantly and clearly the revelation
Of a song of incredible purity and joy,
My first rose-breasted grosbeak,
Facing the low sun, his body
Suffused with light.
I was motionless and cold in the hot evening
Until he flew away, and I went on knowing
In my twelfth year one of the great things
Of my life had happened.
Thirty factories empty their refuse in the creek.
On the parched lawns are starlings, alien and aggressive.
And I am on the other side of the continent
Ten years in an unfriendly city.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The tragedy of Reetika Vazirani

I've only just discovered this poet and I was instantly drawn to her. Mysterious and attractive and with links to both India and Virginia, I found myself saddened by her premature death.

And how well she summed up England - "there is only wool and salt and snobs and foggy weather."

Of course it's impossible to know someone by a few biographical details and by reading a couple of poems. After five minutes more of research my cosy theories about Vazirani were lying in tatters on the floor.

On July 16, 2003 Vazirani took the life of her two-year-old son and her own at the home of a wealthy writer in a Maryland suburb. Their writs were slashed.

Suddenly my feeling of sadness for a talented writer who I assumed had died of cancer before her time, turned to something else altogether.

Independence by Reetika Vazirani

When I am nine, the British quit
India. Headmaster says, "The Great
Mutiny started it." We repeat,
The Great Mutiny of 1857
in our booming voices. Even
Akbar was Great, even Catherine,
Great! We titter over History. His back
turns: we see his pink spotty neck.

Sorry, the British leaving? we beg.
"This is hardly a joke or a quiz --
sit up and stay alert," he spits.
"It is about the trains and ships
you love and city names. As for me,
I'm old, I'll end in a library,
I began in trade." But you must stay,
we tell him. He lived here as we have lived

but longer. He says he was alive
in Calcutta in 1890. He didn't have
a rich father. A third son, he came with
the Tea Company: we saw a statement
in his office. The company built
the railroads to take the tea "home
to England" so that Darjeeling and Assam
could be sipped by everyone, us and them.

They sold our southern neighbor Ceylon,
silk, pepper, diamonds, cotton.
We make a trade of course. In England
there is only wool and salt and
snobs and foggy weather, Shakespeare.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Verse of the Day - Rita Dove

Adolescence II by Rita Dove

Although it is night, I sit in the bathroom, waiting.
Sweat prickles behind my knees, the baby-breasts are alert.
Venetian blinds slice up the moon; the tiles quiver in pale strips.

Then they come, the three seal men with eyes as round
As dinner plates and eyelashes like sharpened tines.
They bring the scent of licorice. One sits in the washbowl,

One on the bathtub edge; one leans against the door.
Can you feel it yet?" they whisper.
I don't know what to say, again. They chuckle,

Patting their sleek bodies with their hands.
"Well, maybe next time." And they rise,
Glittering like pools of ink under moonlight,

And vanish. I clutch at the ragged holes
They leave behind, here at the edge of darkness.
Night rests like a ball of fur on my tongue.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Verse of the Day - Paulann Petersen

Apparently Oregon has a poet laureate although, in the words of Michael Caine, not a lot of people know that. It was a a surprise to learn states as well as countries could have poet laureates, although I can't imagine the idea catching on in places like Alabama, for instance. I could be wrong.

According to this article by the Ashland Daily Tidings Paulann Petersen, Oregan's poet in residence, is friendly and approachable.

Which means she's probably nothing at all like the late and great British poet laureate Ted Hughes.

Why the World Isn't Flat by Paulann Petersen

Water would have no place
to travel. Rivers would have no beds.
Oceans, no ebb and go.
The stream you're beside
would have staggered and stymied
long ago. No fine rapids chatter.
Leafboats sailing along? Gone.
No downhill song
for former rain to croon.
No need for the fingerling trout
to make its swing-muscled
swim against the flow.

— Paulann Petersen from The Voluptuary, Lost Horse Press, 2010

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Alec Baldwin reads Edgar Allan Poe

The idea of Alec Baldwin reducing anyone to tears because of his reading of a poem, strikes me as implausible.

But singer Patti Smith said this was exactly what happened after she heard Baldwin's recital of Edgar Allan Poe's 'Annabel Lee.'

It's such a beautiful poem," Smith told AP at the event at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, where nine artists and celebrities were featured readers for Poetry & the Creative Mind, an event sponsored by the Academy of American Poets and in honor of April, National Poetry Month.

Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Verse of the Day - Eavan Boland

The Harbour by Eavan Boland

This harbour was made by art and force.
And called Kingstown and afterwards Dun Laoghaire.
And holds the sea behind its barrier
less than five miles from my house.

Lord be with us say the makers of a nation.
Lord look down say the builders of a harbour.
They came and cut a shape out of ocean
and left stone to close around their labour.

Officers and their wives promenaded
on this spot once and saw with their own eyes
the opulent horizon and obedient skies
which nine tenths of the law provided.

And frigates with thirty-six guns, cruising
the outer edges of influence, could idle
and enter here and catch the tide of
empire and arrogance and the Irish Sea rising

and rising through a century of storms
and cormorants and moonlight the whole length of this coast,
while an ocean forgot an empire and the armed
ships under it changed: to slime weed and cold salt and rust.

City of shadows and of the gradual
capitulations to the last invader
this is the final one: signed in water
and witnessed in granite and ugly bronze and gun-metal.

And by me. I am your citizen: composed of
your fictions, your compromise, I am
a part of your story and its outcome.
And ready to record its contradictions.