Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Can't let National Poetry Month go by without this one...

Sonnet XVII
by Pablo Neruda
I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.


Being Stung By A Bee on the Lexington Avenue Local
John Hollander

Ouch! etcetera
Aside, and then likewise the
Conclusion that I

Had indeed not been
Stabbed in the left shoulder with
A knitting needle

By some demented
Wretch whose misery I'd be

Too angry to spare
Any real sympathy for
(Though I knew too well

Life had undone so
Many) sitting in the jammed
Car heading uptown

Through the acutely
Nonrural subway tunnel:
Said conclusion drawn

From a subsequent
Nonmechanical humming
In my ear accompanied

By an actual glimpse
Of the creature who would not
Live long buzzing off,

As it were and as
A matter of fact as well—
What some idiot

Of the literal
Might mean by rus in urbe...
All of those aside,

It was only weeks
After that I realized
That the very (most

Nonliteral) point
Of the sting was that the thought
Buzzed through my mind some

Days later that I
Was as one who, once stung by
A gold-banded

Bee in a fable,
Might have thereupon acquired
As a gift—not from

Apollo himself,
But from one of his nine girls—
A peculiar kind

Of wisdom: but of
Which sort, and from which of them—
Which of the Muses—

Let alone what tied
That bunch to that misplaced bee
(Poor lost bee! I had

No anger for her
As I might have had for the
Knitting-needle nut)

And what deep cosmic
Questions had hung on this I
Could not imagine.

But although with no
Gift nor Muses nor indeed
An available

Apollo, I would
Come to conclude that even
The subsequent brief

Sting of the sudden
Awareness of them and their
Moot irrelevance

Was as much of a
Gift from those nine sisters as
Is ever given.

at the edge of the light

Gary Snyder just won the 2008 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.

Here's one reason why...

How Poetry Comes to Me
by Gary Snyder

It comes blundering over the
Boulders at night, it stays
Frightened outside the
Range of my campfire
I go to meet it at the
Edge of the light

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

some breaking poetry news....

Man Writes Poem
by Jay Leeming

(click here to hear the inimitable Garrison Keillor read it on The Writer's Almanac)

Man Writes Poem

This just in a man has begun writing a poem
in a small room in Brooklyn. His curtains
are apparently blowing in the breeze. We go now
to our man Harry on the scene, what's

the story down there Harry? "Well Chuck
he has begun the second stanza and seems
to be doing fine, he's using a blue pen, most
poets these days use blue or black ink so blue

is a fine choice. His curtains are indeed blowing
in a breeze of some kind and what's more his radiator
is 'whistling' somewhat. No metaphors have been written yet,
but I'm sure he's rummaging around down there

in the tin cans of his soul and will turn up something
for us soon. Hang on—just breaking news here Chuck,
there are 'birds singing' outside his window, and a car
with a bad muffler has just gone by. Yes ... definitely

a confirmation on the singing birds." Excuse me Harry
but the poem seems to be taking on a very auditory quality
at this point wouldn't you say? "Yes Chuck, you're right,
but after years of experience I would hesitate to predict

exactly where this poem is going to go. Why I remember
being on the scene with Frost in '47, and with Stevens in '53,
and if there's one thing about poems these days it's that
hang on, something's happening here, he's just compared the curtains

to his mother, and he's described the radiator as 'Roaring deep
with the red walrus of History.' Now that's a key line,
especially appearing here, somewhat late in the poem,
when all of the similes are about to go home. In fact he seems

a bit knocked out with the effort of writing that line,
and who wouldn't be? Looks like ... yes, he's put down his pen
and has gone to brush his teeth. Back to you Chuck." Well
thanks Harry. Wow, the life of the artist. That's it for now,

but we'll keep you informed of more details as they arise.

a few words from the bard...

Sonnet 104
by William Shakespeare

To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I eyed,
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold
Have from the forests shook three summers' pride,
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turned
In process of the seasons have I seen,
Three April pérfumes in three hot Junes burned,
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.
Ah yet doth beauty, like a dial hand,
Steal from his figure, and no pace perceived;
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceived:
For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred,
Ere you were born was beauty's summer dead.

How to & how not to read poetry

Introduction to Poetry
by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Monday, April 28, 2008

a classic poet for the waning days of national poetry month...

With some comments courtesy of Poetry Daily...

So we'll go no more a-roving
by George Gordon Byron, Lord Byron (1788-1824)

So we'll go no more a-roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.

For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul outwears the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.

Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we'll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon.

Mary Jo Bang Comments:
The poem begins with “So . . . ” and ends with “moon.” Imbedded in every word, in every phonic echo, is the central subjectivity that says, “Too bad.” We’ll go no more, that’s the key element. This “no more” is the end of love, of youth, and ultimately the “no more” that comes at the end of life. The poem captures the cold, utterly without irony, punctum (i.e., piercing) of the simple lacerating fact that something, “it,” is over. “It” is at its end. We will go no more. This is the lyric pared down to its most essential: the heart’s longing and the moon’s inconstancy.

Like the wayward poet himself, Byron’s poems often strain against constraint. This one is no exception. The poem proceeds by way of a cascade of opposites: a-roving/loving (seeking versus the sine qua non of love, the steadfast remaining faithful); night/bright; sheath (contraction)/breath (expansion); breast (heaving)/rest (death). The poem ends with a chiasmic reversal of the beginning. The end-rhymes of lines one and three in the first stanza — a-roving/loving — are flipped and become, in the first and third lines of the third and last stanza, loving/a-roving. Each line undergoes some transformation. The moon/bright in line four of the first stanza becomes light/moon in the last line of the last stanza. And so the poem goes forward. Of the many reversals and inversions, all can be read as stand-ins for the reversal of fortune of a possible fractured twosome and/or the retirement of the pack of once-active rovers that makes up the “we.” Even the idea of night as the end and day as the beginning gets reversed. Now day is the ending. When night becomes day, we will go no more. We once did. We won’t any more.

It doesn’t make the poem any less poignant to know that “roving” in Byron’s back-in-the-day day meant sex. We’ll go no more because we are all worn out. That’s sad too. Although that kind of exhaustion is remediable. It seems to me the exhaustion in Byron’s poem is more than sex. Its note of resignation is too cutting. The central lyric dummy who speaks for all of us — that’s the lyric mode — doesn’t only speak for the sexed-up moments but for the ponderous click of a casket lid. And the moment of falling out of love. And the moment of letting go and giving up on the unrequited. We, women and men in all combinations of coupling, or even those who are facing late night post-coital estrangement, we are, all of us, all done-in. The poem may be a cautionary tale as well as a dirge. When we lay down our metaphoric scabbard and put to bed our metaphoric priasmic sword with no hope of rising again, then we truly are no more. We are over.

Regarding the persistence of the poem in popular music and literature, see Wikipedia:,_we'll_go_no_more_a_roving. The Wikipedia article also refers to the poem’s possible sources, most convincingly the Scottish poem, “The Jolly Beggar,” published in 1776:

He took the lassie in his arms, and to bed he ran,
O hooly, hooly wi' me, Sir, ye'll waken our goodman!
And we'll go no more a roving
Sae late into the night,
And we'll gang nae mair a roving, boys,
Let the moon shine ne'er sae bright.
And we'll gang nae mair a roving.

About Mary Jo Bang:
Mary Jo Bang is the author of four previous books of poetry, including Louise in Love and The Eye Like a Strange Balloon. She’s been the recipient of numerous awards including a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation and a Hodder Award from Princeton University. She is on the permanent faculty at Washington
University where she is an Associate Professor of English and Director of the Creative Writing Program.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

considering the lily

The Lily
by Mary Oliver

Night after night
enters the face
of the lily

which, lightly,
closes its five walls
around itself,
and its purse

of honey,
and its fragrance,
and is content
to stand there

in the garden,
not quite sleeping,
and, maybe,
saying in lily language

some small words
we can’t hear
even when there is no wind

its lips
are so secret,
its tongue
is so hidden –

or, maybe,
it says nothing at all
but just stands there
with the patience

of vegetables
and saints
until the whole earth has turned around
and the silver moon

becomes the golden sun –
as the lily absolutely knew it would,
which is itself, isn’t it,
the perfect prayer?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ah, metaphors...

Live Model
by Marie Ponsot

Who wouldn't rather paint than pose—
Modeling, you're an itch the artist
Doesn't want to scratch, at least
Not directly, and not yet.
You think, "At last, a man who knows
How bodies are metaphors!" (You're wrong.)

First time I posed for him he made
A gilded throne to sit me on
Crowned open-armed in a blue halfgown.
I sat his way, which was not one of mine
But stiff & breakable as glass,
Palestill, as if
With a rosetree up my spine.
We had to be speechless too,
Gut tight in a sacring thermal
Hush of love & art;
Even songs & poems
Were too mundane for me to quote
To ease our grand feelings
So I sat mute, as if
With a rosetree down my throat.

Now I breathe deep, I sit slack,
I've thrown the glass out, spit,
Evacuated bushels of roses.
I’ve got my old quick walk
& my big dirty voice back.
Why do I still sometimes sit
On what is unmistakably like a throne?
Why not. Bodies are metaphors
And this one's my own.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Whence is the flower, Emerson?

"The Rhodora"
by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

On Being Asked, Whence Is the Flower?

In May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes,
I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods,
Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook,
To please the desert and the sluggish brook.
The purple petals, fallen in the pool,
Made the black water with their beauty gay;
Here might the red-bird come his plumes to cool,
And court the flower that cheapens his array.
Rhodora! if the sages ask thee why
This charm is wasted on the earth and sky,
Tell them, dear, that if eyes were made for seeing,
Then Beauty is its own excuse for being:
Why thou wert there, O rival of the rose!
I never thought to ask, I never knew:
But, in my simple ignorance, suppose
The self-same Power that brought me there brought you.

Star Magnolia
photo by hmmooreniver

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, April 17, 2008

secret singing

At Night I Hear My Neighbor Singing
by Mei Yaochen

I cannot fall asleep at midnight,
overhearing my neighbor singing.
I imagine her red lips moving
till dust falls from the beams.
I don't laugh when she misses a beat,
just pull my clothes on to steal her song,
but when I put on clothes, the song ends.
Only the moon in the window still shines.

no cinnamon, but lilacs & summer

A few poems by Wendy Morton, a poet & private investigator.


thunder and cinnamon.
Is: walls the colour of Provence;
seagulls framed in the skylight,
between clouds and the morning moon;
hoya trailing night perfume;
a level floor;
a new sink;
your hands.

ESL on Linden Street

I’ve arrived to read them poems.
I explain the word pomegranate:
say: red, round, sweet, rubies,
and they smile, nod.
Yes, says Ludmilla,
in the Ukraine, the same.
Osmany, from Cuba says,
sometime we have them a Christmas.
Yes, he says, rubies.

I move on to starfish,
show them the ones on my bracelet.
Say how they cling to rocks at low tide,
in a magenta wash.
Soo Jin, says in Korea they are
sometimes the colour of the sun.

Then red-winged blackbirds,
I show them a picture;
tell them how I hear their song
like falling water, when I shower outside
each morning.

Outside, even in winter? Asks Alexandra,
imagining Russian ice and snowdrift.
Even in winter, I say.

But this spring, there are ravens,
the music of blackbirds,
that I hear every morning,
speaking a language
I can’t understand.


I’m in the back garden,
dead-heading fuchsias
at summer’s end.
Around me are poppies
and the perfume of stargazer lilies.

I’m thinking of how this summer
of death has so quickly passed.
My friend’s father,
dead suddenly at his desk.

Another friend’s mother
with cancer of the pancreas,
stopped eating, died with grace.

My mother. And her slow dying.
Her mind gone,
she sleeps all day.
Imagines, when awake,
she’s on a cruise ship.
Music and dancing
under the stars.
Stargazer lilies everywhere.
Perhaps she could waltz. Not this summer.
Not this.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

of red wheelbarrows & plums of course

These William Carlos Williams poems thrill me each time.

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

This is Just to Say

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox

and which

you were probably


for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Velocy Meadows by Mark Strand

Velocity Meadows

I can say now that nothing was possible
But leaving the house and standing in front of it, staring
As long as I could into the valley. I knew that a train,
Trailing a scarf of smoke, would arrive, that soon it would rain.
A frieze of clouds lowered a shadow over the town,
And a driving wind flattened the meadows that swept
Beyond the olive trees and banks of hollyhock and rose.
The air smelled sweet, and a girl was waving a stick
At some crows so far away they seemed like flies.
Her mother, wearing a cape and shawl, shielded her eyes.
I wondered from what, since there was no sun. Then someone
Appeared and said, "Look at those clouds forming a wall, those crows
Falling out of the sky, those fields, pale green, green-yellow,
Rolling away, and that girl and her mother, waving goodbye."
In a moment the sky was stained with a reddish haze,
And the person beside me was running away. It was dusk,
The lights of the town were coming on, and I saw, dimly at first,
Close to the graveyard bound by rows of cypress bending down,
The girl and her mother, next to each other,
Smoking, grinding their heels into the ground.

Larkin by Peter Sacks


Pull back the lining of the normal thought
Black moss. Old brick. Lopsided moon.
O Truth; O Grief; O Clarity! O.K.
Again. This time let's get it right.
The only memory worth savoring—
Your sour breath against the pane
Wiped clearer for it—bright, unwavering.

Friday, April 11, 2008


I am waylaid by Beauty. Who will walk
Between me and the crying of the frogs?
Oh, savage beauty, suffer me to pass,
That am a timid woman, on her way
From one house to another!

--Edna St. Vincent Millay

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rare Beauty...or proof that I really am a word nerd

Rare Beauty

And Madam, to you his…Majesty, presents…a dozen of Frogs pulchritudinous, of Value inestimable, which being dry'd, beaten to a Powder, and drunk in Mornings Dew, have Vertue to renew Youth and Beauty.

1706 T. D'URFEY Wonders in Sun III. i. 45

“What is your favorite word, poet girl?”

he asks.

And I think

on this for days. Roll succulent syllables

of various girths

over my tongue like firm green peas, tasting

the sweet,

peering through them in late

afternoon sunlight.

I decide on pulchritudinous.

It rumbles around my mouth

like hot marbles and then,

just before I get too






and is gone.

by HMMooreNiver

Sometimes, it's inevitable

The Inevitable
by Allan Peterson

To have that letter arrive
was like the mist that took a meadow
and revealed hundreds
of small webs once invisible
The inevitable often
stands by plainly but unnoticed
till it hands you a letter
that says death and you notice
the weed field had been
readying its many damp handkerchiefs
all along

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tell Me Why This Hurry

Tell Me Why This Hurry

Julia Hartwig

The lindens are blossoming the lindens have lost their blossoms
and this flowery procession moves without any restraint
Where are you hurrying lilies of the valley jasmines
petunias lilacs irises roses and peonies
Mondays and Tuesdays Wednesdays and Fridays
nasturtiums and gladioli zinnias and lobelias
yarrow dill goldenrod and grasses
flowery Mays and Junes and Julys and Augusts
lakes of flowers seas of flowers meadows
holy fires of fern one-day grails
Tell me why this hurry where are you rushing
in a cherry blizzard a deluge of greenness
all with the wind racing in one direction only
crowns proud yesterday today fallen into sand
eternal desires passions mistresses of destruction

photograph by HMMooreNiver

Monday, April 7, 2008

Poem by David Young

March 10, 2001

by David Young

Three crisscrossed daffodils
faint lamps in the rubble

where without any warning
I'm shattered by your absence

wondering will I always
blunder into this emotion

so large and mute it has no name
—not grief longing pain

for those are only its suburbs
its slightly distracting cousins—

summoned just now by these
frilled blossoms

butter yellow horns
on lemon yellow stars

indifferent innocent
charging in place

advance guard of a season
when I will join you.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Just heard this Margaret Atwood poem read on the Alberta radio station CKUA. The DJ reads several poems every morning. A fine way to wake up, indeed.


All those times I was bored
out of my mind. Holding the log
while he sawed it. Holding
the string while he measured, boards,
distances between things, or pounded
stakes into the ground for rows and rows
of lettuces and beets, which I then (bored)
weeded. Or sat in the back
of the car, or sat still in boats,
sat, sat, while at the prow, stern, wheel
he drove, steered, paddled. It
wasn't even boredom, it was looking,
looking hard and up close at the small
details. Myopia. The worn gunwales,
the intricate twill of the seat
cover. The acid crumbs of loam, the granular
pink rock, its igneous veins, the sea-fans
of dry moss, the blackish and then the graying
bristles on the back of his neck.
Sometimes he would whistle, sometimes
I would. The boring rhythm of doing
things over and over, carrying
the wood, drying
the dishes. Such minutiae. It's what
the animals spend most of their time at,
ferrying the sand, grain by grain, from their tunnels,
shuffling the leaves in their burrows. He pointed
such things out, and I would look
at the whorled texture of his square finger, earth under
the nail. Why do I remember it as sunnier
all the time then, although it more often
rained, and more birdsong?
I could hardly wait to get
the hell out of there to
anywhere else. Perhaps though
boredom is happier. It is for dogs or
groundhogs. Now I wouldn't be bored.
Now I would know too much.
Now I would know.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

National Poetry Month: The Strange Plum

Ah yes, a special month in which to revel in poetry... even more than usual. Enjoy!

The Strange Plum

This is some strange plum,
handed to you during a casual conversation.

No, not formally handed, but tossed off like hello.

or it’s been hot this week, hasn’t it?

Like something you should have known all along.

You catch it in cupped palms.

And then what?

This warm plum, this shining purple fruit
was not what you were expecting at all.
Not quite like any fruit you held before,
not pressed to your mouth
and certainly not rolled over your tongue,
its nectar and iridescent skin coloring your fingertips, your lips.

Your mouth waters in spite of you.
And you are left with the plum,
rolling it from hand to hand and back again.

This plum.
This plum.

by HMMooreNiver

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


April comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)