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Poem of the Day 
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Post Poem of the Day
This time of the year I tend to bury my self in books and wait for spring to come. Poetry also feels more necessary to me mid-winter. So here is my project to get me back to more than 10hrs of day light a day.


"Ars Poetica #100: I Believe" by
Elizabeth Alexander

Poetry, I tell my students,
is idiosyncratic. Poetry

is where we are ourselves
(though Sterling Brown said

"Every 'I' is a dramatic 'I'"),
digging in the clam flats

for the shell that snaps,
emptying the proverbial pocketbook.

Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,

overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way

to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)

is not all love, love, love,
and I'm sorry the dog died.

Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,

and are we not of interest to each other?



I like the question at the bottom of this poem.


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Sun Jan 20, 2013 7:27 am
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Post Re: Poem of the Day
I've been thinking about the poem I posted today and have figured out why I felt moved to post it. What I hear the poem saying is that as humans we are driven to connect, to communicate with one another. It seems to me, these days too much of the language we use with each other is coarse. Turn on the TV to any channel, just about any program and there is a good chance the language you hear will have an arrogant, self important tone - smart little darts thrown from character to character. There are days that it seems that every conversation I hear contains swear words, especially the f word - a favorite these days. How can we truly engage in honest discourse, connect and know each other when so many of the words and language we use day to day are words that are like bricks in a defensive wall meant to keep the other person on the other side.

One of my favorite poems is Mary Oliver's Wild Geese. I love the line:

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.


Poetry is an invitation to connect and at the same time a bridge between two minds.

Edited in: While I was writing the post I got interrupted, consequently I left an important bit out. I meant to say that poetry expands the vocabulary and quality of intercourse. It gives us a means to share what is otherwise difficult to speak or explain in ordinary language. Successful poetry is bare and honest communication. It is my believe that the seeds of better lives and even a better world lie in the act of connecting with others in ways that enhance understanding.


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Sun Jan 20, 2013 10:25 am
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Post Re: Poem of the Day
It seems some days there is no conversation at all, when my children are plugged in to their iPods and video games, I'm reading and hubby is watching TV or reading the newspaper. I wonder sometimes what we would discuss if there were not so much ready "entertainment."



Sun Jan 20, 2013 11:37 am
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Post Re: Poem of the Day
There's a current book title, "Being Alone Together." On saffron's statement, more than one "thanks" should be given. No wonder that people want to step inside churches, where they won't be assaulted by meanness, at least. And everywhere there seems to be too much evidence of the "narcissism of small differences."



Sun Jan 20, 2013 12:29 pm
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Post Re: Poem of the Day
Saffron wrote:
Poetry is an invitation to connect and at the same time a bridge between two minds.

Thanks for this Saffron, and for your posts above which are filled with good observations and comments. Poetry is a bridge between minds and a bridge of imagination and alternate perspective that makes a valuable contribution to society. Perhaps poetry has suffered, in terms of popularity, due to the pushy arrogance of TV and other media, but I don't think this alters its underlying value. I like your comment about TV characters 'smart little barbs' - human communication as ping pong. Not only is this style of conversation premised on huge arrogance and self-centeredness but it is communication reduced to mindless sound-bytes where there is no opportunity to develop ideas or relationships or character depth or anything meaningful. No wonder, on comedy shows for example, they feel obliged to fill the air space with canned laughter - so utterly devoid of meaning (who is laughing? why are they laughing? why should I care?), but still the laughter provides some sort of context and support for incessant sniping that passes as humour.



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Saffron
Mon Jan 21, 2013 1:27 pm
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Post Re: Poem of the Day
DWill wrote:
There's a current book title, "Being Alone Together." "
So, what is this book "Being Alone Together", hum?


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Mon Jan 21, 2013 7:05 pm
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Post Re: Poem of the Day
Current temp: 19 Fahrenheit, so here is my positive thinking for an evening this cold.

Now Winter Nights Enlarge

by Thomas Campion

Now winter nights enlarge
This number of their hours;
And clouds their storms discharge
Upon the airy towers.
Let now the chimneys blaze
And cups o'erflow with wine,
Let well-tuned words amaze
With harmony divine.
Now yellow waxen lights
Shall wait on honey love
While youthful revels, masques, and courtly sights
Sleep's leaden spells remove.

This time doth well dispense
With lovers' long discourse;
Much speech hath some defense,
Though beauty no remorse.
All do not all things well:
Some measures comely tread,
Some knotted riddles tell,
Some poems smoothly read.
The summer hath his joys,
And winter his delights;
Though love and all his pleasures are but toys
They shorten tedious nights.


_________________
In love we are made visible
As in a magic bath
are unpeeled
to the sharp pit
so long concealed
--May Swenson


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Tue Jan 22, 2013 8:40 pm
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Post Re: Poem of the Day
This is a favorite little song of mine by the band The Decemberists. I wish there was snow to clear away :(

January Hymn
Colin Meloy

On a winter's Sunday I go
To clear away the snow
And green the ground below

April all an ocean away
Is this a better way to spend the day?
Keeping the winter at bay

What were the words I meant to say
Before you left
When I could see your breath lead
Where you were going to

Maybe I should just let it be
And maybe it will all come back to me
Seeing, oh, January, oh

How I lived a childhood in the snow
And all my teens in tow
Stuffed in strata of clothes

Hail the winter days after dark
Wandering the gray memorial park
A fleeting beating of hearts

What were the words I meant to say
Before she left
When I could see her breath lead
Where she was going to

Maybe I should just let it be
And maybe it will all come back to me
Seeing, oh, Janu...
Oh, January, oh


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Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:50 pm
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Post Re: Poem of the Day
Saffron wrote:
This is a favorite little song of mine by the band The Decemberists. I wish there was snow to clear away :(

This is a great song, actually I have listened to it many times on the only Decemberists CD I own and which I bought on your recommendation .. it's a wonderful CD, thank you for that ... and I'm sorry you don't have any snow, we certainly do, and we spend time clearing it away, although in January there is little chance of green ground even without the snow ! :D



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Thu Jan 24, 2013 1:26 am
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Post Re: Poem of the Day
I don't mean that this is the poem of your day, but it'll be the poem of mine, I guess. I just thought Rimbaud's subject was interesting here--what might a natural-born poet be like? Is a poet really someone set apart, as Rimbaud implies here? Or are all small children in some sense poets, a quality they lose as they become more socialized? I wonder if any of this was autobiography. It's a little long but a manageable read. I had also found a non-rhymed translation of "Seven-Year Poet," but looking at the French, I saw that the rhymed couplets are in the original, so I went with this Norman Cameron translation.

The Seven Year Old Poet
Arthur Rimbaud

And so the Mother, shutting up the duty book,
Went, proud and satisfied. She did not see the look
In the blue eyes, or how with secret loathing wild,
Beneath the prominent brow, a soul raged in her child.
All the day long he sweated with obedient zeal;
a clever boy; and yet appearing to reveal,
By various dark kinks, a sour hypocrisy.
In corridors bedecked with musty tapestry
He would stick out his tongue, clenching his two fists tight
Against his groin, and with closed eyes see specks of light.
a door stood open on the evening; when, aloof,
Under a gulf of brightness hanging from the roof,
High on the banisters they saw him crowing.
In summer, cowed and stupid, he'd insist on going
Off to the cool latrines, for that was where he chose
to sit in peace and think, breathing deep through his nose.

In winter-time, when, washed by all the smells of noon,
The garden plot behind the house shone in the moon;
Lying beneath a wall, in lumpy earth concealed
And straining long for visions, till his eyesight reeled,
He listened to the creak of mangy trellises.
Soft heart! He chose out as his sole accomplices
Those wretched, blank-browed children, of slurred eye and cheek
And grubby, thin, sick fingers plunged in the clothes that reek
Of excrement: already old, whose conversation
Is held with gentle, imbecilic hesitation.
And if his mother, catching him at some foul act
Of pity, showed alarm, the child must face the fact
That to his earnest, tender mind brought grave surprise:
That's how it was. She had the blue-eyed stare- which lies!

At seven years he wrote romance about lives
In the great desert, where an exiled Freedom thrives,
Savannahs, forests, shores and suns! He had some aid
From illustrated magazines, whose gay parade
Of Spanish and Italian ladies made him blush.
When, brown-eyed, bold, in printed cotton, in would rush
The eight-year daughter of the working-folk next door,
And when the little savage down upon him bore,
Cornered him, leaping on his back, and tossed her hair,
He from beneath would bite her thighs, for they were bare
-She never put on drawers. Then, though she grappled fast,
Pounding with fists and heels, he'd shake her off at last
And bring the odours of her skin back to his room.

He feared December Sundays, with their pallid gloom,
When with pomaded hair, from a mahogany ledge
He read a Bible with gold, green-tarnished edge.
Dreams pressed upon him in the alcove every night.
Not God he loved, but men whom by the sallow light
Of evening he would see return, begrimed and bloused,
To suburbs where the crier's triple roll aroused
A jostling crowd to laugh and scold at the decrees.
He dreamed of the rapt prairie, where long brilliances
Like waves and wholesome scents and golden spurts of force
Persist in their calm stir and take their airy course.

And, as he relished most all things of sombre hue,
He'd sit in the bare, shuttered chamber, high and blue,
Gripped in an acrid, piercing dampness, and would read
The novel that was always running in his head
Of heavy, ochre skies and forests under floods
-Then vertigo, collapse, confusion, ruin, woe! -
While noises of the neighborhood rose from below,
He'd brood alone, stretched out upon a canvas,
prophesying strongly of the sail! ...



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Sat Jan 26, 2013 9:44 am
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Post Re: Poem of the Day
DWill wrote:
I don't mean that this is the poem of your day, but it'll be the poem of mine, I guess. I just thought Rimbaud's subject was interesting here--what might a natural-born poet be like? Is a poet really someone set apart, as Rimbaud implies here? Or are all small children in some sense poets, a quality they lose as they become more socialized? I wonder if any of this was autobiography. It's a little long but a manageable read. I had also found a non-rhymed translation of "Seven-Year Poet," but looking at the French, I saw that the rhymed couplets are in the original, so I went with this Norman Cameron translation.

...

What a tragic fellow, Rimbaud. Judging from his photograph, a wildly interesting looking man. To your question about children being poets; I do think all children are like poets in the way the see and express the world around them.


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Sat Jan 26, 2013 12:27 pm
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Post Re: Poem of the Day
That was a common Romantic idea, that as children we're closer to nature, more at one with it, and therefore can be said to have more poetic souls at that stage, before culture takes this sense away from us. It's just interesting to look at how outlooks change--from seeing children as little beasts that need taming, to seeing them as more spiritual beings than adults.

So I was reading somewhere (damn, I forget where) about which stage of the lifespan is the most violent. Is it adolescence or young adulthood? No, it's the toddler stage! We need to grow out of violence, we don't grow into it, according to this person.



Sun Jan 27, 2013 10:09 am
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Post Re: Poem of the Day
I don't mean to presume to pick a poem of the day, just tossing one into the mix. This is a gloomy sort of poem, but it resonates with me this morning, and seems to go along with our recent discussions of metaphoric and literal truth. It was published in 1867. I believe the "Sea of Faith" here alludes to the doubt of religion in the face of scientific progress.

Dover Beach
by Mathew Arnold

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the A gaean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.


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Sun Jan 27, 2013 12:04 pm
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Post Re: Poem of the Day
Geo, you've picked one of my old favorites that a sophomore lit professor first put in front on me an eon or two ago. An incidental finding on reading it through again is that the poem is rhymed in an unusual way. I've heard this called the first modern poem in English, with that sense of possible meaningless expressed by the suddenly bereft narrator. There is no certainty of meaning to be found in a random universe, so the best we can do is a private world of commitment to another human being. I'd nominate the final image as one of the most powerful of any that I know of.

Poems of such seriousness are ripe for parody--we know that. Accordingly, Anthony Hecht produced "The Dover Bitch," in which the woman in the room with the narrator gives her unprintable views on his fine musings. If it was a pick-up approach, she wasn't buying it.

The Dover Bitch
A Criticism of Life: for Andrews Wanning

So there stood Matthew Arnold and this girl
With the cliffs of England crumbling away behind them,
And he said to her, 'Try to be true to me,
And I'll do the same for you, for things are bad
All over, etc., etc.'
Well now, I knew this girl. It's true she had read
Sophocles in a fairly good translation
And caught that bitter allusion to the sea,
But all the time he was talking she had in mind
The notion of what his whiskers would feel like
On the back of her neck. She told me later on
That after a while she got to looking out
At the lights across the channel, and really felt sad,
Thinking of all the wine and enormous beds
And blandishments in French and the perfumes.
And then she got really angry. To have been brought
All the way down from London, and then be addressed
As a sort of mournful cosmic last resort
Is really tough on a girl, and she was pretty.
Anyway, she watched him pace the room
And finger his watch-chain and seem to sweat a bit,
And then she said one or two unprintable things.
But you mustn't judge her by that. What I mean to say is,
She's really all right. I still see her once in a while
And she always treats me right. We have a drink
And I give her a good time, and perhaps it's a year
Before I see her again, but there she is,
Running to fat, but dependable as they come.
And sometimes I bring her a bottle of Nuit d' Amour.



Sun Jan 27, 2013 1:01 pm
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Post Re: Poem of the Day
DWill, thanks. I really like this line:

". . . She got to looking out
At the lights across the channel, and really felt sad,
Thinking of all the wine and enormous beds
And blandishments in French and the perfumes.

Ha ha, what a great pairing these two poems make.


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