Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Poetry Wednesday: Despair



Despair

So much gloom and doubt in our poetry-
flowers wilting on the table,
the self regarding itself in a watery mirror.

Dead leaves cover the ground,
the wind moans in the chimney,
and the tendrils of the yew tree inch toward the coffin.


I wonder what the ancient Chinese poets
would make of all this,
these shadows and empty cupboards?


Today, with the sun blazing in the trees,
my thoughts turn to the great
tenth-century celebrator of experience,


Wa-Hoo, whose delight in the smallest things
could hardly be restrained,
and to his joyous counterpart in the western provinces,
Ye-Hah.


by Billy Collins

Courtesy The Writer's Almanac

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Reading Lists: Helpful or Merely Hopeful?

I have shelves and shelves of books. Nearly two dozen shelves alone are dedicated to fiction. A couple of these books already have been read, but most are waiting for the tender caress of this reader's eyes. The same holds true for my bursting-at-the-seams Kindle.

Many of these books are ones I have been promising myself to read. These were lovingly snatched out of the bookstore on Publishing Day or pre-ordered online. I couldn't wait to read them. So, what happened?

Time. Energy. A massive, towering, intimidating to-read stack on my nightstand and desk. Life. You name it, that pushes it down the to-read list.

From time to time, I jump the line (John Connolly and Night Music: Nocturnes 2, I am looking at you!) but certainly not often enough if The Map of the Sky is not yet read (let alone The Map of Chaos) and Beastly Bones remained "new" on my Kindle for months.

What is the answer to reading what I want when my sole task is to read what I want?

One suggestion is to abandon the reading list.

I approach this idea with more than a little trepidation. The intention of a reading list is to move books up my Abandoned-But-Still-Waiting List, such as The Gun Seller or The God of Small Things. It was the sole purpose of my Filling in the Gaps list (which continues to be a success). I am a member of a book club, which regularly hands me books I may never consider reading on my own. (Not all are successful, but the same could be said of my own independent selection — like anything by Neville Shute, which I submitted to that patient group.)

The other option is to implement something akin to The Book Jar, and choose titles regularly from there as often as I do from seasonal or special reading lists. I like this idea, but that still can dilute the effort, especially if I invoke first right of refusal. One would think The Book Jar is only for Special Books, but sometimes it's just not the right time to read Anna Karenina. (Perish the thought.)

So, it may be time to be a little more free-wheeling than a "reading list" often permits. Will de-listing books aid the cause? Will jarring my intentions help? Am I doomed to a teetering stack of to-reads, no matter what I do? I shall keep you apprised, fellow readers.

What have you done that has moved books up your to-read list, or do you still keep such a thing? Let me know!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Spring-Song — One Last Poem for National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month may have ended, but poetry never does. Here is one last poem to greet May. Keep reading poetry, and share poetry far and wide!




Spring-Song

THE air was full of sun and birds,
The fresh air sparkled clearly.
Remembrance wakened in my heart
And I knew I loved her dearly.

The fallows and the leafless trees
And all my spirit tingled.
My earliest thought of love, and Spring's
First puff of perfume mingled.

In my still heart the thoughts awoke,
Came lone by lone together -
Say, birds and Sun and Spring, is Love
A mere affair of weather? 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

XIII (Dedications) — National Poetry Month


This is one of my favorite poems of all time. Adrienne Rich drew me in from the first line. How did she know me? How did she know you? The magic of poetry!

XIII (Dedications)

I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour. I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a gray day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plains' enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed
and the open valise speaks of flight
but you cannot leave yet. I know you are reading this poem
as the underground train loses momentum and before running
up the stairs
toward a new kind of love
your life has never allowed.
I know you are reading this poem by the light
of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide
while you wait for the newscast from the intifada.
I know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room
of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers.
I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light
in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out,
count themselves out, at too early an age. I know
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your
hand
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.


by Adrienne Rich
from An Atlas of a Difficult World

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Cat's Song — National Poetry Month



The Cat's Song

Mine, says the cat, putting out his paw of darkness.
My lover, my friend, my slave, my toy, says
the cat making on your chest his gesture of drawing
milk from his mother's forgotten breasts.

Let us walk in the woods, says the cat.
I'll teach you to read the tabloid of scents,
to fade into shadow, wait like a trap, to hunt.
Now I lay this plump warm mouse on your mat.

You feed me, I try to feed you, we are friends,
says the cat, although I am more equal than you.
Can you leap twenty times the height of your body?
Can you run up and down trees? Jump between roofs?

Let us rub our bodies together and talk of touch.
My emotions are pure as salt crystals and as hard.
My lusts glow like my eyes. I sing to you in the mornings
walking round and round your bed and into your face.

Come I will teach you to dance as naturally
as falling asleep and waking and stretching long, long.
I speak greed with my paws and fear with my whiskers.
Envy lashes my tail. Love speaks me entire, a word

of fur. I will teach you to be still as an egg
and to slip like the ghost of wind through the grass. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Truth About Northern Lights — National Poetry Month


The Truth About Northern Lights


I’m not right. I’m interfered with
and bent as light. I tried to use the spots,
for months I tried with rings. 
Only now I’m thinking in cracks
that keep a modern light
lunged. I keep the porch light on
to burn you off in ghosted purls,
the licks of which filament me.
My Day-Glo tongue’s cutthroat.
Though I’m not clear,
I’m a sight whose star stares back:
it’s a new kind of dead;
it hides its death in my cinched
testicle. That bright burr makes me
unreal and itch. By the time
I’m something else, you’re making weather
with so-and-so. Drama tenants you;
it wades in queasy waves,
mottled to the marrow.

by Christine Hume
courtesy poets.org

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Tell Me a Story — National Poetry Month


Tell Me a Story




[ 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.

by Robert Penn Warren
courtesy poets.org and Shenandoah