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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spáre, strange;
Whatever is fickle, frecklèd (who knows how?)
With swíft, slów; sweet, sóur; adázzle, dím;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is pást change:
Práise hím.


First published in 1918, the year WWI ended.

posted by viv at 7:33 am  

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tell Me A Story

Tell Me a Story
by Robert Penn Warren
[ A ]

Long ago, in Kentucky, I, a boy, stood
By a dirt road, in first dark, and heard
The great geese hoot northward.

I could not see them, there being no moon
And the stars sparse.  I heard them.

I did not know what was happening in my heart.

It was the season before the elderberry blooms,
Therefore they were going north.

The sound was passing northward.


[ B ]

Tell me a story.

In this century, and moment, of mania,
Tell me a story.

Make it a story of great distances, and starlight.

The name of the story will be Time,
But you must not pronounce its name.

Tell me a story of deep delight.
posted by viv at 7:51 am  

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dusting off the Papryus

Though I’m getting a late start jumping on the April-is-National-Poetry-Month wagon, my plan is to post poetry for the rest of the month of April.

OK. Here goes!

A well-worn much-thumbed-through book in my library is Greek Lyrics translated by Richmond Lattimore. Lattimore is best known for his translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey.

Here’s one of my favorite lyrics (with an appearance by Aphrodite) from that collection by Ibycus:

In spring time the Kydonian
quinces, watered by running streams,
there where the maiden nymphs have
their secret garden, and grapes that grow
round in shade of the tendriled vine,
Now in this season for me
there is no rest from love.
Out of the hard bright sky,
A Thracian north wind blowing
with searing rages and hurt – – dark,
pitiliess, sent by Aphrodite – – Love
rocks and tosses my heart.





posted by viv at 11:57 am  

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

See-Through Poem

Wandered down by the ICA at lunch today and read the amazing  First Chaldic Oracle by Anne Carson. This photograph of the poem is courtesy of Slow Muse (check out her inspiring blog for the full text).

posted by viv at 2:22 pm  

Monday, February 28, 2011

Leda and the Swan

During my lunch time walk, I saw a single white swan floating bright white against the dark waters of the channel.

Leda and the Swan by Peter Paul Rubens (1598-1600)

Leda and the Swan
A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.
How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?
A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

— William Butler Yeats

posted by viv at 2:24 pm  

Thursday, February 10, 2011


summerstbridgeOn my way to work every morning, I walk across Fort Point Channel via the Summer Street bridge. On frigid February mornings, with salty high-velocity winds coming in off Boston Harbor, it feels nothing short of heroic to make it across without being blown away…

This morning I stopped midway,  lifted my arms  and faced the wind. I would’ve liked to fly away to Antartica — parachute myself into that unsullied landscape and walk for miles and miles in icy stillness and through the white upon luminous white until I could walk no more. Then, a dreamless nap until spring.

Now, warm in my cubicle, I’ve stumbled onto this poem by Tony Hoagland. It suits me perfectly today and saves me the time of having to write it myself.


I was feeling pretty religious
standing on the bridge in my winter coat
looking down at the gray water:
the sharp little waves dusted with snow,
fish in their tin armor.

That’s what I like about disappointment:
the way it slows you down,
when the querulous insistent chatter of desire
goes dead calm

and the minor roadside flowers
pronounce their quiet colors,
and the red dirt of the hillside glows.

She played the flute, he played the fiddle
and the moon came up over the barn.
Then he didn’t get the job, —
or her father died before she told him
that one, most important thing—

and everything got still.

It was February or October
It was July
I remember it so clear
You don’t have to pursue anything ever again
It’s over
You’re free
You’re unemployed

You just have to stand there
looking out on the water
in your trench coat of solitude
with your scarf of resignation
lifting in the wind.

You can listen to Tony Hoagland read it here.

posted by admin at 10:55 am  

Monday, October 27, 2008

Happy Birthday, Sylvia Plath

It’s Sylvia Plath’s birthday. Had she not taken her own life on a cold february morning in 1963, Plath would’ve been 78 today. Here’s one of my favorite Plath poems:

 The Moon and the Yew Tree

This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary
The trees of the mind are black. The light is blue.
The grasses unload their griefs on my feet as if I were God
Prickling my ankles and murmuring of their humility
Fumy, spiritous mists inhabit this place.
Separated from my house by a row of headstones.
I simply cannot see where there is to get to.

The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right,
White as a knuckle and terribly upset.
It drags the sea after it like a dark crime; it is quiet
With the O-gape of complete despair. I live here.
Twice on Sunday, the bells startle the sky —
Eight great tongues affirming the Resurrection
At the end, they soberly bong out their names.

The yew tree points up, it has a Gothic shape.
The eyes lift after it and find the moon.
The moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary.
Her blue garments unloose small bats and owls.
How I would like to believe in tenderness –
The face of the effigy, gentled by candles,
Bending, on me in particular, its mild eyes.

I have fallen a long way. Clouds are flowering
Blue and mystical over the face of the stars
Inside the church, the saints will all be blue,
Floating on their delicate feet over the cold pews,
Their hands and faces stiff with holiness.
The moon sees nothing of this. She is bald and wild.
And the message of the yew tree is blackness – blackness and silence.

posted by viv at 4:51 pm  

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Daily Bread

Before I hurry off to my cool new job as Web Maven for a health organization, I am happy to see (and say) that Poetry Daily, a poetry anthology site, is still alive and thriving. The Editors, Don Selby & Diane Boller, are dedicated to searching out good contemporary poems and serving them to those of us who require poetic nourishment on a regular basis. They’ve also just announced their new RSS feed — for those who truly want to be served.

posted by viv at 4:38 am  
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