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Washington Post Poet's Choice 
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Suzanne wrote:
DWILL:

Did you like "As I Lay Dying"? I had a difficult time with the dialogue, but then again, I feel southern writers have a peculiar way with words. It's a potent little thing tho. I prefered "Light in August".

I like the quote because it makes me feel anything is possible.

Suzanne,
I think I will like As I Lay Dying as soon as I figure out how all the characters connect with each other and, yes, what the heck they're saying! Faulkner doesn't exactly take the reader by the hand, does he? He sets you down in the welter of the characters' thoughts and expects you to make sense of it. Light in August is the only other Faulkner novel I've read, and I agree, it is much more of a conventional narrative.



Sun Sep 20, 2009 9:56 pm
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Post Sept. 27, 2009
Poet's Choice: 'Eternity' by Edward Hirsch

By Edward Hirsch
Sunday, September 27, 2009



Something deeply mysterious happens in reading poetry, something both weirdly familiar and utterly strange. It usually goes unnoticed, unremarked upon. I am talking about the experience of feeling truly recognized and befriended by a poem from the past.

It seems rare enough to connect with another person in daily life, to recognize someone and to feel recognized, to know and be known. And yet how much more curious it is -- how truly unlikely -- to connect with someone who lived thousands of years ago, and to keep connecting with them over time. Emily Dickinson, for example, experienced this connection routinely, and felt known by poets from the past in ways that she was unrecognized by her contemporaries, which is why she referred to her favorite poets as "the dearest ones of time, the strongest friends of the soul," and "her enthralling friends, the immortalties."

Sometimes we read the poetry of the faraway past and think, "It's not like that anymore, it's different now, the past really is another country" (the archaic world of "The Iliad" often feels that way to me). But other times we read something and think, "It's still like that now, yes, that's precisely how it is." Epic poetry is tribal, but lyric poetry is interpersonal. It speaks from one interior to another and creates an intimacy between strangers. It enables a connection that can cut deeper than the ones we actually experience in ordinary life, regular time. It speaks to us from beyond the grave. It crosses borders and even languages; it floats down to us through the centuries.

Jason Shinder describes the experience of intimate connection in his stunningly direct and forthright last book, "Stupid Hope." The entire book was written under the shadow and stigma -- the mortal terror -- of a deadly cancer. Shinder tries to come to grips with dying too soon, and his testament shines with the light of last things. He can't linger much longer. He is furious with time, "which takes everything but itself." This gives special poignancy to the experience he names "Eternity." The entire poem is one sentence long -- 12 lines, which alternative between one and two-line stanzas. These create elastic units within the lyric, speeding up and slowing down the rhythm, isolating and intensifying individual moments.

Eternity


A poem written three thousand years ago


about a man who walks among horses
grazing on a hill under the small stars


comes to life on a page in a book


and the woman reading the poem,
in the silence between the words,


in her kitchen, filled, with a gold, metallic light,


finds the experience of living in that moment
so clearly described as to make her feel finally known


by someone -- and every time the poem is read,


no matter her situation or her age,
this is more or less what happens.

.

"Eternity" speaks to an un-antagonized reading that exists both inside and outside of common experience. A woman is reading in her kitchen, but she is also outdoors, like a man walking among horses on a starry night. She fills the silence between the words with her own imagination. She exists in two places at once. The light she reads by -- a normal light -- also has an unearthly glow. The poem recreates a moment so radiant and piercing that it expands and overflows ordinary time. It dramatizes one of the luminous mysteries of lyric poetry.

Edward Hirsch is president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. "Eternity" appears in Jason Shinder's "Stupid Hope" (Graywolf). Copyright ? 2009 by the Estate of Jason Shinder.



Sat Sep 26, 2009 3:03 pm
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Pure chance has it that I have posted two poems contemplating an aspect of eternity, back to back. The Washington Post's Poet's Choice, posted above this post and the poem I posted on the Autumn thread. In both poems a sense of timelessness or being out of the normal flow of time.

Link to the other tread (I hope):
Autumn



Sat Sep 26, 2009 8:13 pm
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Post October 2, 2009
Poet's Choice: 'Naked Asleep in the Tub' by Wayne Miller

By Wayne Miller
Sunday, October 4, 2009

"Nude Asleep in the Tub" began when I attended an exhibition -- I believe at the MoMA in 1998 -- of Pierre Bonnard's beautiful paintings of interior domestic scenes, many of which are of his wife bathing. I had just moved to New York, shortly after finishing college, and what struck me about the work was Bonnard's ability to create the illusion of flickering light within a static canvas. Over the following two years, I attempted several versions of a poem about a woman in a bathtub, all of which failed miserably.

I picked up the poem -- or the idea for the poem -- again in 2005, when I'd been living with my girlfriend for a couple years in Kansas City. Now that I had lived with someone for more than a very short while, I discovered I had come to understand more fully what those Bonnard paintings were about: that moment when one's beloved withdraws inward to attend to her interior life, even though you are present in the room. It's in such moments that a relationship can, paradoxically, feel most intimately entangled -- the beloved suddenly recaptures that glow of mystery and distance a regular life together erodes; at the same time, she exudes a level of comfort and intimacy that is only possible after a period of living together.

As is often the subject of poetry, it also struck me how briefly such moments last.


Nude Asleep in the Tub

As if she were something opened --

like a pocket watch -- her body slipped beneath a surface

.

peeled back to reveal its surface --

drops of air clinging to her thighs

.

like roe. Outside, the snow pressed down against the city's

rooftops; a frozen shirt on the clothesline hung slack,

.

no longer cracked and whipped by the wind. And the window

just a slide of silence -- its slip into evening measured

.

in drips from the tap. I found I was alone with her body --

refracted and clarified -- water breathing with her breath.

.

What could I do but watch the lightwebs lambently drift

along the walls? -- as if the room's edges radiated

.

from her, as if I were inside her thought. But then,

even before this could register, the clothesline creaked

.

and the wind picked up, and she stirred, so the water

broke from her into water.

"Nude Asleep in the Tub" appears in Wayne Miller's second book of poems, "The Book of Props" (Milkweed, 2009). He edits Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing.



Sun Oct 04, 2009 5:48 am
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He had me even with the prose introduction to the poem. But the poem itself, fortunately, was even better.



Sun Oct 04, 2009 7:22 am
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DWill wrote:
He had me even with the prose introduction to the poem. But the poem itself, fortunately, was even better.


Hey, I was thinking this very same thing. I ran out of time to make another post this morning, so, I thought I'd do it when I got home from work -- you beat me to my own post!



Sun Oct 04, 2009 6:48 pm
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What're you doing home at 7:48 PM? :hmm:



Sun Oct 04, 2009 7:22 pm
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DWill wrote:
What're you doing home at 7:48 PM? :hmm:


I drive fast?



Sun Oct 04, 2009 7:29 pm
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Poet's Choice: 'Never-Ending Birds' by David Baker

By David Baker
Sunday, October 11, 2009

My daughter leaned hard to the side in her car seat, stuck her finger to the window and said, "Those are the never-ending birds." She was 5 or 6, and this was years ago. Her mother and I were taking her somewhere now forgotten, and the autumn sky over our village was full of birds on the wing. We could not see the beginning or ending of the massive migration.

My wife is now my ex-wife. Our daughter is a high-school senior. Things turn in the big wheel of the sky and the earth.

Yet the three of us are still here, living in each other's life each day in our village in Ohio. We are still our own kind of family. We are doing just fine.

And today, in early October, in Ohio, the sky is full. The birds flow across the broad blue air. As a few come down for a while, more lift off from the trees and ground.

It's like this: Some poems are close to memoir in their recounting of autobiographical fact. Some are like short stories, fictive and imagined. All the good ones, I believe, whether they are fiction or fact, convince us by their authenticity.

"Never-Ending Birds" happens to be fact, more or less. I hope it is also true.
Never-Ending Birds

That's us pointing to the clouds. Those are clouds

of birds, now we see, one whole cloud of birds.


There we are pointing out the car windows.

October. Gray-blue-white olio of birds.


Never-ending birds, you called the first time --

years we say it, the three of us, any


two of us, one of those just endearments.

Apt clarities. Kiss on the lips of hope.


I have another house. Now you have two.

That's us pointing with our delible whorls


into the faraway, the trueborn blue-

white unfeathering cloud of another year.


Another sheet of their never ending.

There's your mother wetting back your wild curl.


I'm your father. That's us three, pointing up.

Dear girl. They will not -- it's we who do -- end.

David Baker's new book of poems is "Never-Ending Birds" (W. W. Norton). He teaches at Denison University (my alma mater) and is poetry editor of the Kenyon Review.



Sat Oct 10, 2009 9:49 pm
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Post October 18, 2009
Poet's Choice: "Rules of Contact" by Jill Bialosky

By Jill Bialosky
Sunday, October 18, 2009

There is a poetic synchronicity to the game of baseball, to the rhythms on the field and a lolling trance the observer falls under, as the pitcher lobs the ball to the batter, the batter fires one into the field, the fielder catches the ball and blasts it to first. Perhaps that is why the game has inspired many poets. In "The Crowd at the Ball Game," William Carlos Williams describes the onlookers as being "moved uniformly/by a spirit of uselessness/which delights them." Marianne Moore in "Baseball and Writing" proffers "baseball is like writing./You can never tell with either/how it will go."

For the last four years my 14-year-old son has been infatuated with the art of baseball. He has played on a baseball travel team, and I have spent many a humid summer afternoon or wind-swept evening watching his games in baseball fields across the five boroughs of Manhattan, in Westchester and the suburbs of New Jersey. No matter where the game is played, whether underneath a bridge in the Bronx or next to a Con Ed field in downtown Manhattan or in the sprawling suburbs of Westchester, the rules of the game remain the same. But it is the secret language between fathers and sons, players and coaches, teammates and rivals, mothers chatting with one another in the bleachers that has enchanted me and inspired this poem.


Rules of Contact

A Ball is cracked into the air and the underlings

In their red caps field it. A line drive; another

to the boy at third. Get under it. Don't be afraid.


Let's hear some chatter. It's late in the day.

Have you noticed that everyone is separating?


A mother from the bleachers remarks, knitting

her anxiety into careful knots. Where are the sparrows?

The sun rests over the awning of trees,


wind's compass stopped, gone awry.

One boy refusing to comply steals second.


Is disorder a rally against resignation?

Boys bow their heads beneath the sun's glare.


The boats along the Hudson move in slow motion,

unmoored from the dock.


How to quell the current rising against the boat?

How to trust what moves beneath it?


The Lord of the Field hits a high fly,

in homage to his disciples. Look alive.


Get behind the ball. Stay on top of it.

Hurled faster than the speed of light


the ball travels from one boy's mitt

to another boy's in perfect orchestration.


My son won't let me kiss him anymore,

a mother on the bleachers decries.

"Rules of Contact" appears in Jill Bialosky's third collection of poetry, "Intruder" (Knopf, 2008).



Sun Oct 18, 2009 8:53 pm
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Post October 21, 2009
Poet's Choice: "Refusing at Fifty-Two to Write Sonnets" by Thomas Lynch

By Thomas Lynch
Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In this weekly online feature, we ask a poet to describe the inspiration for a recent poem.

My mother was buried on All Hallows Eve, 20 years gone now, in a blink. I remember the sad, sunlit morning at Holy Sepulcher and the countervailing gaiety of trick-or-treaters in that evening's dark -- how grieving and feasting are so juxtaposed. Her death at 65, 11 days after my 41st birthday that October, along with the routines of leaf-fall and withering, have always conspired with the liturgical calendar to make All Saints and All Souls a memento mori for me -- a time of year when I contemplate the dull math of time and mortality and their opposites.

So much of poetry depends on such counting and calculation, figuring and refiguring the stressed and unstressed syllabics of language, the iambics of our heartbeats and heartbreaks, lexicons and clockworks, inspirations, expirations, meters and rhymes. A line of Yeats or Auden, Frost or Edna St. Vincent Millay will supply the breath-catching, breathtaking paradigm.

For many of my middle years I'd write a sonnet on my birthday, to keep track of time, its confines and limitations, its reoccurring themes -- how every end has a beginning in it: this October giving way to that November.

The older we get, the less pressing the past and future become, the more our memories and expectations blur, the more time tricks and treats us, much like children in the end -- homebound ghosts and goblins in the dark, haunted and haunting, free of old grievances, grateful for momentary, abundant, undeserved gifts.

The older we get, likewise, the less we seem to count. Which accounts, I suppose, for the title of this 15-line poem.


Refusing at Fifty-Two to Write Sonnets

It came to him that he could nearly count

How many Octobers he had left to him

In increments of ten or, say, eleven

Thus: sixty-three, seventy-four, eighty-five.

He couldn't see himself at ninety-six --

Humanity's advances notwithstanding

In health-care, self-help, or new-age regimens --

What with his habits and family history,

The end, he thought, is nearer than you think.

.

The future, thus confined to its contingencies,

The present moment opens like a gift:

The balding month, the grey week, the blue morning,

The hour's routine, the minute's passing glance --

All seem like godsends now. And what to make of this?

At the end the word that comes to him is Thanks.

Thomas Lynch's first book of stories, "Apparition & Late Fictions," and his fourth book of poems, "Walking Papers," will be published next year by Norton.



Sat Oct 24, 2009 5:14 pm
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What fun to see that this week's entry from Poet's Choice is Thomas Lynch, a poet that I have only recently been introduced to his poetry. If you are interested in more Thomas Lynch here is Another Lynch poem



Sat Oct 24, 2009 5:17 pm
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Post November 1, 2009
Poet's Choice: "Post-Mortem" by Nicky Beer

By Nicky Beer
Sunday, November 1, 2009

Several years ago, I saw a fascinating documentary about medical cadavers called "Still Life: The Humanity of Anatomy." The film profiled both the anatomy students who worked with the bodies, as well as a man who was planning to donate his body to science. I was particularly touched by how the students endeavored to be respectful to their subjects, even going so far as to have a memorial service for them at the end of the year. Around the same time, I had to get an ultrasound of my kidneys. I remember vividly the sight of my bladder, ghostly and greenish on the monitor, and realizing that even though it had been working tirelessly on my behalf for my whole life, this was the first time I had ever seen it.

These two experiences made me consider how relative the idea of intimacy can be. On the one hand, those medical students, necessarily, will never know the names, occupations, passions or fears of their subjects, but they will relate to the bodies in a way that is completely unique, inaccessible even to the subjects' loved ones. It's alienating and tender all at once, and "Post-Mortem" is a reflection of that paradox. I haven't decided whether or not I'll donate my own body to science, but I do love the thought of it still being able to speak for me even after I've passed away.

Post-Mortem

To me, you have bequeathed
a half-dissolved
apple, a spider,
and three crescents
of your fingernails.

A large Y of black stitches
has split your trunk into thirds --
a child's rendition
of a bird migrating
towards your feet.

The arc of the scar
on your right calf
reminds me of a hooked trout
I once saw leaping
from the surge of a stream,

a curve of light shaped
by the moment between life
and the infinite space
just above it.

Smoke-browned fish on a white plate,
dawn-grey body on a silver table --
we do not like to linger
on how the dead may still nourish us.

Later, I will tell your family
what no one ever knew,
but you may have suspected:

you had two exquisite,
plum-colored kidneys,
lustrous and faultless
as the surface of a yolk.

Nicky Beer teaches at the University of Colorado Denver, where she co-edits the journal Copper Nickel. "Post-Mortem" will appear in her upcoming collection "The Diminishing House" (Carnegie Mellon).



Mon Nov 02, 2009 6:04 am
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Post Nov. 8, 2009
Poet's Choice: 'Terminal Etude' by Alissa Valles

By Alissa Valles
Sunday, November 8, 2009

The title of this poem refers to one of the terminals at Fryderyk Chopin Airport in Warsaw, called Etiuda, Étude. I started it while waiting several hours for a delayed flight from Warsaw to New York. I had been working for months on a translation of a magnificent long poem by Miron Bialoszewski (1922-1983), a Polish poet who remains virtually unknown to American readers, although a few of his more unassuming poems were included in Czeslaw Milosz's anthology "Postwar Polish Poetry," and his prose book "A Memoir of the Warsaw Uprising," one of the masterpieces of modern Polish literature, was published in the US in a remarkable translation by Madeline Levine. The poem I have been struggling with now for years is called "Sen," which means both "sleep" and "dream." It is a mournful, erotic and yet comical poem describing how the poet's dead lover visits him while he sleeps, flitting over his bed. It begins "I'm a little dead/and you're a little dead," and like much of Bialoszewski's poetry it is a difficult poem to do justice to in English. I could not get his first two lines out of my head, and it seems that my poem was a way of trying to break that aural spell. It became, oddly, a poem both about the porous barrier between the living and the dead, and about the role language plays in crossing that barrier, which is one of Bialoszewski's great themes. It became in the end also -- or so friends tell me -- a poem about the role of eros in translation.


Terminal Étude

not on paper but human and bitter

-- Miron Bia{lstrok}oszewski

We're only a little dead:

a shadow broke a window

and found its way to bed

warm enough for a word

narrow enough for a widow

only a fissure in Warsaw


in the middle of Warsaw

who is also a widow

(behind a broken window

she's only a little dead)

I was lying in bed

too tired to read a word


Without a single word

about your being dead

(it's obvious to a widow)

you lay down in bed

and told me about Warsaw

just outside the window


Holding shards of window

you said you had a word

known only to the dead

you whispered it in bed

it sounds a bit like Warsaw

from the mouth of a widow


We made death a widow

more bereft than Warsaw

falling through a window

in the middle of the bed

wrapped in that one word

we raised up the dead


A door leads to the dead

by a fissure in the word

so now all over Warsaw

down to the last widow

we're waiting by a window

till they come back to bed


Now all Warsaw is our bed

and your word is a widow

with a window on the dead

"Terminal Étude" appears in Alissa Valles's "Orphan Fire" (Four Way, 2008).



Sat Nov 07, 2009 9:57 pm
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Post Re: Washington Post Poet's Choice
So sorry I have let so many weeks go by without posting the Poet's Choice. I've been in boxes up to my nose; moving that is. My life is beginning to reconstitute and I am back on the job! So, read on!



Thu Dec 03, 2009 8:42 am
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