Monday, April 30, 2012

Dennis Hopper Takes Us Out of National Poetry Month

We close National Poetry Month with Dennis Hopper, who brings Rudyard Kipling's poem to life with his reading of "If."

If you can keep your head when all about you 
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; 
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 
But make allowance for their doubting too; 
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies, 
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating, 
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master; 
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim; 
If you can meet with triumph and disaster 
And treat those two imposters just the same; 
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken 
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken, 
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, 
And lose, and start again at your beginnings 
And never breath a word about your loss; 
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 
To serve your turn long after they are gone, 
And so hold on when there is nothing in you 
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, 
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch; 
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you; 
If all men count with you, but none too much; 
If you can fill the unforgiving minute 
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run —
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, 
And — which is more — you'll be a Man my son!

by Rudyard Kipling
Courtesy Everypoet

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Book Spine Poetry

Brain Pickings' Maria Popova has published something wonderful and unexpected: book spine poetry.

I live in the future &
here is how it works

waste and want

In Pursuit of
the Unknown

Give it a try, take a shot of your poetry and share it with me. I'll post it and give you full credit. Have fun with this!

Speaking of which, thanks to all who shared their favorite poets with me. Dede Robinson is taking home the copy of The Moon is Always Female, and all participants will receive a book of poetry. Thanks for playing, and remember: poetry is always rewarding! 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

NPR Has a NewsPoet

NPR has a NewsPoet: Monica Youn.

You read that right: newspoet. That's a poet who captures the day's news in a poem. Read the poem for Friday, April 27 —  and marvel.


Fear is the coin dropping into its slot;
two dollars fall to the liquor shop floor.
The day is a net of twenty four knots.

A modestly veiled woman poses no threat,
but the veil truly masks a thief's face and hair
Fear is the coin dropping into its slot.

300 Priuses that someone forgot
voluptuously rust in the Miami air.
The day is a net of twenty four knots.

The primary insight of Keynesian thought:
the way out of debt is for us to spend more.
Fear is the coin dropping into its slot.

A lawsuit, foreclosure, inescapable debt
is the price of a new mother's prenatal care
The day is a net of twenty four knots.

A blind man trapped in a ring of perpetual light
slips the noose, vanishes into the glare.
Fear is the coin dropping into its slot.
The day is a net of twenty four knots.

by Monica Youn

All Things Considered's NewsPoet is produced and edited by Ellen Silva with production assistance from Rose Friedman.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Poem in Your Pocket!

Here is a poem for your pocket for this special, only-once-a-year-event. Which was yesterday. The same day as Shakespeare's baptism. (Coincidence?)

Anyway, enjoy!


Hurry! says the morning,
don't be late for school!

Hurry! says the teacher,
hand in papers now!

Hurry! says the mother,
supper's getting cold!

Hurry! says the father,
time to go to bed!

Slowly, says the darkness,
you can talk to me.

by Eve Merriam
courtesy of Pocket Poems

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Poem by the Bard

Today is the baptismal day of William Shakespeare, who would have been 448 years old. (Alas, his birthday is unknown.)

In his honor, I post his sonnet:

Sonnet XXVII

Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
But then begins a journey in my head,
To work my mind, when body's work's expired:
For then my thoughts, from far where I abide,
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness which the blind do see
Save that my soul's imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous and her old face new.
Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee and for myself no quiet find.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Cat Poem (As If I Could Resist!)

Jubilate Agno, Fragment B [For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry]

For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in
his way.
For is this done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant
For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.
  For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For he purrs in thankfulness when God tells him he's a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incomplete without him, and a blessing is lacking in
the spirit.
For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
  For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.
For by stroking of him I have found out electricity. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Poem by Anon

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you a poem by Anonymous. I think it's a great poem, and I am glad to have received this submission. Feel free to share your own poems with me and I can post them to share with the group — and your anonymity is guaranteed. (As obvious as we think our own clues are, the reading public is clueless — and I mean that in a good way!)

While you're at it, don't forget to send me the name of your favorite poet and put yourself in the winning for — well, check out the original post for information.


I turn a corner
You are there

I look in the rear view
You are there

I don't drive by your home
You are there

I take a new route
You are there

I change my schedule
You are there

I pick up the boys
The church doors open

I look up
You are both there

I look down
You are both still there

You get the van door
I can't watch

I lay my seat back
You are both still there

I put the seat up
You turn the corner

I drive away
The past is coming - around the corner

I pull out quickly
He waits for me to turn

I don't like corners
I don't know who is coming

I don't like corners
I know who is leaving

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tracy K. Smith, Pulitzer Prize-Winner

Congratulations to Tracy K. Smith for winning the Pulitzer Prize for her book Life on Mars. Here's a sample of her work. Enjoy!

My God, It's Full of Stars
We like to think of it as parallel to what we know,
Only bigger. One man against the authorities.
Or one man against a city of zombies. One man
Who is not, in fact, a man, sent to understand
The caravan of men now chasing him like red ants
Let loose down the pants of America. Man on the run.
Man with a ship to catch, a payload to drop,
This message going out to all of space.... Though
Maybe it's more like life below the sea: silent,
Buoyant, bizarrely benign. Relics
Of an outmoded design. Some like to imagine
A cosmic mother watching through a spray of stars,
Mouthing yes, yes as we toddle toward the light,
Biting her lip if we teeter at some ledge. Longing
To sweep us to her breast, she hopes for the best
While the father storms through adjacent rooms
Ranting with the force of Kingdom Come,
Not caring anymore what might snap us in its jaw.
Sometimes, what I see is a library in a rural community.
All the tall shelves in the big open room. And the pencils
In a cup at Circulation, gnawed on by the entire population.
The books have lived here all along, belonging
For weeks at a time to one or another in the brief sequence
Of family names, speaking (at night mostly) to a face,
A pair of eyes. The most remarkable lies.
Charlton Heston is waiting to be let in. He asked once politely.
A second time with force from the diaphragm. The third time,
He did it like Moses: arms raised high, face an apocryphal white.
Shirt crisp, suit trim, he stoops a little coming in,
Then grows tall. He scans the room. He stands until I gesture,
Then he sits. Birds commence their evening chatter. Someone fires
Charcoals out below. He'll take a whiskey if I have it. Water if I don't.
I ask him to start from the beginning, but he goes only halfway back.
That was the future once, he says. Before the world went upside down.
Hero, survivor, God's right hand man, I know he sees the blank
Surface of the moon where I see a language built from brick and bone.
He sits straight in his seat, takes a long, slow high-thespian breath,
Then lets it go. For all I know, I was the last true man on this earth. And:
May I smoke? The voices outside soften. Planes jet past heading off or back.
Someone cries that she does not want to go to bed. Footsteps overhead.
A fountain in the neighbor's yard babbles to itself, and the night air
Lifts the sound indoors. It was another time, he says, picking up again.
We were pioneers. Will you fight to stay alive here, riding the earth

Toward God-knows-where? I think of Atlantis buried under ice, gone
One day from sight, the shore from which it rose now glacial and stark.
Our eyes adjust to the dark.
Perhaps the great error is believing we're alone,
That the others have come and gone-a momentary blip-
When all along, space might be chock-full of traffic,
Bursting at the seams with energy we neither feel
Nor see, flush against us, living, dying, deciding,
Setting solid feet down on planets everywhere,
Bowing to the great stars that command, pitching stones
At whatever are their moons. They live wondering
If they are the only ones, knowing only the wish to know,
And the great black distance they-we-flicker in.
Maybe the dead know, their eyes widening at last,
Seeing the high beams of a million galaxies flick on
At twilight. Hearing the engines flare, the horns
Not letting up, the frenzy of being. I want it to be
One notch below bedlam, like a radio without a dial.
Wide open, so everything floods in at once.
And sealed tight, so nothing escapes. Not even time,
Which should curl in on itself and loop around like smoke.
So that I might be sitting now beside my father
As he raises a lit match to the bowl of his pipe
For the first time in the winter of 1959.
In those last scenes of Kubrick's "2001"
When Dave is whisked into the center of space,
Which unfurls in an aurora of orgasmic light
Before opening wide, like a jungle orchid
For a love-struck bee, then goes liquid,
Paint in water, and then gauze wafting out and off,
Before, finally, the night-tide, luminescent
And vague, swirls in, and on and on....
In those last scenes, as he floats
Above Jupiter's vast canyons and seas,
Over the lava strewn plains and mountains
Packed in ice, that whole time, he doesn't blink.
In his little ship, blind to what he rides, whisked
Across the wide screen of unparcelled time,
Who knows what blazes through his mind?
Is it still his life he moves through, or does
That end at the end of what he can name?
On the set, it's shot after shot till Kubrick is happy,
Then the costumes go back on their racks
And the great gleaming set goes black.
When my father worked on the Hubble Telescope, he said
They operated like surgeons: scrubbed and sheathed
In papery green, the room a clean cold, and bright white.
He'd read Larry Niven at home, and drink scotch on the rocks,
His eyes exhausted and pink. These were the Reagan years,
When we lived with our finger on The Button and struggled
To view our enemies as children. My father spent whole seasons
Bowing before the oracle-eye, hungry for what it would find.
His face lit up whenever anyone asked, and his arms would rise
As if he were weightless, perfectly at ease in the never-ending
Night of space. On the ground, we tied postcards to balloons
For peace. Prince Charles married Lady Di. Rock Hudson died.
We learned new words for things. The decade changed.
The first few pictures came back blurred, and I felt ashamed
For all the cheerful engineers, my father and his tribe. The second time,
The optics jibed. We saw to the edge of all there is-
So brutal and alive it seemed to comprehend us back.

by Tracy K. Smith
Courtesy of The Awl

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The World's First Glove Haikus

My friend Richard Goodman sent me part of an e-mail he sent to a friend that included a few haikus. See what he came up with, and how he got there.

I was walking around the neighborhood today and thinking about how it was almost a really nice day. A few degrees warmer and it would have been just about perfect, crisp but not cold, sunny but not blazing. A few more weeks and I won’t need a heavy jacket. Then I thought about the gloves in my pocket and how I definitely wouldn’t need them which reminded me that I had a picture I’d been meaning to send you. I figured I should do so now before the temperature change ruined the proper context for it. So, attached to this email is a picture I took during the winter (proper winter, not the currently winding down winter which is just “near Spring”).

When I saw this poor glove on the street, I immediately thought about your odd photo theme and had to take a picture of it. Of course, I don’t mean odd in any disparaging way. I like the off-beat, unusual and provocative. My photo theme is much more pedestrian. My go-to is taking pictures through windows or doorways or taking them of windows and doorways. I think I know where that inclination comes from but no need for psychoanalysis right now. I just wanted to share this photo with you and “thank” you for creating the association of lost gloves with your glove stories theme.

If I see a random glove now, I can’t help but to think “I should take a picture of it,” and then wonder how it got there. I’ve never lost a glove so I try to imagine how it happened because the concept is foreign to me. Kind of the way I’ve always wondered how just one shoe ends up on the side of the road. Once I saw this guy and started thinking along those lines, an image popped into my head and then it turned into a poem. Well, a haiku actually.

A forgotten glove,
peeking out from the tall grass
draws your attention.

Yeah, it may be the world’s first glove haiku. But then I realized the flaw with the haiku, aside from the fact that apparently no one cares about poetry anymore- there is no grass in my photo. It’s a street glove. I had to come up with another haiku that would be more appropriate so I tried to put myself in the glove’s place and tried to imagine what it must feel, sort of the glove version of method acting.

Hand in hand no more-
misplaced or discarded.
Please come back for me.

This one didn’t work either because it seemed too depressing. Gloves don’t strike me as an inherently depressing article of clothing. Belts might be a bit sorrowful, and undershirts are made to be ignored but things like socks, scarves, hats and gloves demand attention. They ask to be noticed. They are the articles of clothing that seem to preen. Once I realized that, I had my proper haiku.

Five fingers waving.
Jaunty greetings made by hands
of leather, fuzz, fur.

Thanks to all of my haiku writers. Keep writing, and I'll keep publishing!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Elizabeth and Greensleeves

Today is the birthday of UK's Queen Elizabeth II. The first Elizabeth of the realm, born a few hundred years earlier, was the daughter of one of England's most famous monarchs, who wrote songs and poetry.  This song was attributed to him — and purportedly written for the mother of Elizabeth I.

It's one of my favorite songs, and I'm glad to share it with you today. I challenge you to read it without humming the well-known tune.


Alas, my love, you do me wrong,
To cast me off discourteously.
For I have loved you well and long,
Delighting in your company.

Greensleeves was all my joy
Greensleeves was my delight,
Greensleeves was my heart of gold,
And who but my lady greensleeves.

Your vows you've broken, like my heart,
Oh, why did you so enrapture me?
Now I remain in a world apart
But my heart remains in captivity.


I have been ready at your hand,
To grant whatever you would crave,
I have both wagered life and land,
Your love and good-will for to have.


If you intend thus to disdain,
It does the more enrapture me,
And even so, I still remain
A lover in captivity.


My men were clothed all in green,
And they did ever wait on thee;
All this was gallant to be seen,
And yet thou wouldst not love me.


Thou couldst desire no earthly thing,
but still thou hadst it readily.
Thy music still to play and sing;
And yet thou wouldst not love me.


Well, I will pray to God on high,
that thou my constancy mayst see,
And that yet once before I die,
Thou wilt vouchsafe to love me.


Ah, Greensleeves, now farewell, adieu,
To God I pray to prosper thee,
For I am still thy lover true,
Come once again and love me.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Haiku for the Loquacious

Give my friend Stacy McKnight a challenge — "write a haiku" — and watch what she does!

curtailed by the meters chain.
brevity is not for me!
I am loquacious.
slave, toil, suffer
emotion labored,
meaning lost to rule.
but is it just me?
despairing of the right word,
constrained by the form.
yes! it is just me,
the aesthetic of
occident not orient
for the right poet
strictures are inspiring,
resulting in art!
Thanks to Stacy for her creativity and poetry. There's more haiku fun to follow!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Haiku Commemorating a Historic Event

A few days ago, people looked up to see a historic site: the space shuttle Discovery blasting across the sky for the last time.

It rode atop a special modified Boeing 747 airplane on its way to the Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

The event received plenty of coverage by local and national media, including PBS, whose photo is shown above. (Read the related PBS article here.)

Here is a haiku by my friend Karen Young about the experience:

Today the space craft
Got a real life piggy back
Ride to Washington
Thanks to Karen for sharing. More haikus to follow!

Have you decided who your favorite poet is? Tell me — and put yourself in the running for a book of poems. Click here to read the original post.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Different Kind Of Sonnet

Sonnets Uncorseted

She was twenty-two. He was fifty-three,
a duke, a widower with ten children.
They met in Paris, each in exile from
the English Civil War. Virginal
and terrified, still she agreed
to marry him. Though women were mere chattel
spinsterhood made you invisible
in the sixteen hundreds. Marriage was arranged
—hers a rare exception. Despite a dowry
a woman never could own property.
Your womb was just for rent. Birth control
contrivances—a paste of ants, cow dung
mashed with honey, tree bark with pennyroyal—
all too often failed the applicant.
If anything went wrong you bled to death.
You bore & bore & bore as you were taught
screaming sometimes for days in childbirth.
To bring forth was a woman’s fate
but not for Margaret Cavendish, childless
Duchess of Newcastle. After the head
of Charles the First had been detached
and the Restoration seated a new monarch,
she and the duke returned to his estate
where nothing discomposed their paradise.
How rare, two lovers scribbling away,
admiring each other’s words in privacy.
He: polymath, equestrian, playwright.
She: philosopher, fantasist, poet.
His the first book on the art of dressage,
till then an untried humane approach
to teaching classic paces in the manège,
the grace of the levade and the piaffe.
Hers the goofy utopian fantasy,
The Blazing-World. The heroine is adrift
with her kidnapper in a wooden skiff.
A storm comes up conveniently, and they
are blown to the North Pole. He freezes to death
but she is carried to a contiguous
North Pole, a new world where the emperor
falls in love with her, makes her his empress
and cedes her all his powers over
clans of wildly invented creatures.
Poems, plays, philosophical
discourses on Platonick love,
a chapter on her Birth, Breeding, and Life
and an Apology for Writing so Much
Upon this Book about herself,
even some inquiries into science…
years in chosen isolation the Duchess
filled with words, and the Duke with reassurance.
Even this outburst did not discomfit him:
Men are so unconscionable and cruel
they would fain Bury us in their...beds as in
a grave…[T]he truth is, we live like Bats or Owls,
Labour like Beasts, and die like Worms. Pepys
called her mad, conceited, and ridiculous.
Virginia Woolf, in 1928,
found her Quixotic and high-spirited
as well as somewhat crack-brained and bird witted
but went on to see in her a vein
of authentic fire. Eighty-odd years on,
flamboyant, eccentric, admittedly vain,
now she’s a respected foremother among
women of letters. Founded in 1997,
the Margaret Cavendish Society
— “international, established to provide
communication between scholars worldwide”—
is plumped with learned papers, confabs, dues.
She’s an aristocrat who advocates
—words worn across centuries—for women’s rights.
I went to college in the nineteen forties
read Gogol, Stendhal, Zola, Flaubert.
Read Pushkin, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky
and wrote exams that asked: contrast and compare.
Male novelists, male profs, male tutors, not
a single woman on the faculty
nor was there leaven found among the poets
I read and loved: G.M. Hopkins, A.E.
Housman, Auden, Yeats, only Emily
(not quite decoded or yet in the canon).
Ten years later, I struggled to break in
the almost all-male enclave of poetry.
Here’s a small glimpse in the the hierarchy:
famed Robert Lowell praising Marianne
as the best woman poet in America, put down
by Langston Hughes, bless his egalitarian
soul, who rose at the dinner to pronounce
her the best Negro woman poet in the nation.
Terrified of writing domestic poems,
poems pungent with motherhood, anathema
to the prevailing clique of male pooh-bahs,
somehow I balanced teaching freshman comp
half-time with kids, meals, pets, errands, spouse.
I wrote in secret, read drafts on the phone
with another restless mother, Anne Sexton,
and poco a poco our poems filled up the house.
Then one of us sold a poem to The New Yorker.
A week later, the other was welcomed in Harper’s.
But even  as we published our first books
the visiting male bards required care.
We drove them to their readings far and near,
thence to the airport just in time to make
their flight to the next gig. You drive like a man,
they said by way of praise, and if a poem
of ours seemed worthy they said, you write like a man.
When asked what woman poet they read, with one
voice they declaimed, Emily Dickinson.
Saintly Emily safely dead. Modern
women poets were dismissed as immature,
their poems pink with the glisten of female organs.
The virus of their disdain hung in the air
but women were now infected with ambition.
We didn’t merely saunter decade by decade.
We swept on past de Beauvoir and Friedan,
and took courage from Carolyn Kizer’s knife-blade
Pro Femina: I will speak about women
of letters for I’m in the racket, urging,
Stand up and be hated, and swear not to sleep with editors.
If a woman is to write, Virginia Woolf
has Mary Beton declare, she has to have
five hundred a year and a room with a lock on the door,
a sacred space where Shakespeare’s sister Judith
might have equaled his prodigious gift
or not. She might have simply floated there,
set loose in the privilege of privacy, her self
unwritten, under no one else’s eyes…
Oh, Duchess, come hurdle five centuries
to a land of MFA’s in poetry,
of journals in print and even more online,
small presses popping up like grapes on vines,
reading staking place in every cranny,
prizes for first books, some with money.
Come to this apex of tenured women professors
where sessions on gender and race fill whole semesters
and students immerse themselves in women’s studies.
Meet famous poets who are also unabashed mothers
or singletons by choice or same-sex partners—
black, Latina, Asian, native American,
white , Christian, Muslim, Jew and atheist—
come join us, Duchess Margaret Cavendish.
by Maxine Kumin
from Shakespeare's Sisters: Women Writers Bridge Five Centuries (Folger Shakespeare Library, 2012) . Copyright © 2012 by Maxine Kumin.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What You Get When You Search 'Sonnet' on a Poetry Web Site

Don't forget to submit your haiku  to me today! See this blog entry for details!


No one's serious at seventeen.
--On beautiful nights when beer and lemonade
And loud, blinding cafés are the last thing you need
--You stroll beneath green lindens on the promenade.

Lindens smell fine on fine June nights!
Sometimes the air is so sweet that you close your eyes;
The wind brings sounds--the town is near--
And carries scents of vineyards and beer. . .


--Over there, framed by a branch
You can see a little patch of dark blue
Stung by a sinister star that fades
With faint quiverings, so small and white. . .

June nights! Seventeen!--Drink it in.
Sap is champagne, it goes to your head. . .
The mind wanders, you feel a kiss
On your lips, quivering like a living thing. . .


The wild heart Crusoes through a thousand novels
--And when a young girl walks alluringly
Through a streetlamp's pale light, beneath the ominous shadow
Of her father's starched collar. . .

Because as she passes by, boot heels tapping,
She turns on a dime, eyes wide, 
Finding you too sweet to resist. . .
--And cavatinas die on your lips.


You're in love. Off the market till August.
You're in love.--Your sonnets make Her laugh.
Your friends are gone, you're bad news.
--Then, one night, your beloved, writes. . .!

That night. . .you return to the blinding cafés;
You order beer or lemonade. . .
--No one's serious at seventeen 
When lindens line the promenade.
29 September 1870

by Arthur Rimbaud
Translated by Wyatt Mason  

Monday, April 16, 2012

Bill Murray and Poetry

No, that's not the punchline, but a great video.

Members of the construction team which built Poets House's new home joined actor Bill Murray in May 2009 for the first poetry reading at 10 River Terrace. If you want to read the whole story, click here.

Here are the poems he read:

Poet’s work

   advised me:
         Learn a trade

I learned
   to sit at desk
         and condense

No layoff
   from this
I dwell in Possibility-- (#657)

I dwell in Possibility--
A fairer House than Prose--
More numerous of Windows--
Superior--for Doors--

Of Chambers as the Cedars--
Impregnable of Eye--
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky--
Of Visitors--the fairest--
For Occupation--This--
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise--