EppsNet Archive: Poetry

Old Wine

7 Dec 2014 /

If I could lift
    My heart but high enough
    My heart could fill with love:

But ah, my heart
    Too still and heavy stays
    Too brimming with old days.

Margaret Widdemer, “Old Wine”

Attention Deficit

3 Dec 2014 /

Focus for
us was a thing hard to
come by. We would have to make due with
whatever

we had: these
were pills and a pencil,
blue earplugs to block out the voices
inside of

our heads, which
would tell us time passed and
these thoughts that would shine like soft lights on
our brains would

one day fade
into invisible
relief. We would write in our binders,
pass classes,

allow for
a moment of grief. We
were deeply aware we would have to
make up for

lost time, but
when we took our pills, the
world would seem fine, seem as if it had
always been

fine. Once we
had adequate supplies
we’d sell, but until then we decid-
ed to re-

fill. We had
determined that we would
not brood. Instead we charted out our
moods and light-

ened up our
loads. Before the rest of
time unfolds, we would like to hold on-
to this life,

feel like it’s
beating, there, deep inside
of our chests, not out of fear. We are
just children.

— Katy Lederer, “Attention Deficit”

Closed

2 Dec 2014 /

The crimson dawn breaks through the clouded east,
And waking breezes round the casement pipe;
They blow the globes of dew from opening buds,
And steal the odors of the sleeping flowers.
The swallow calls its young ones from the eaves,
To dart above their shadows on the lake,
Till its long rollers redden in the sun,
And bend the lances of the mirrored pines.
Who knows the miracle that brings the morn?
Still in my house I linger, though the night—
The night that hides me from myself is gone.
Light robes the world, but strips me bare again.
I will not follow on the paths of day.
I know the dregs within its crystal hours;
The bearers of my cups have served me well;
I drained them, and the bearers come no more.
Rise, morning, rise, for those believing souls
Who seek completion in day’s garish light.
My casement I will close, keep shut my door,
Till day and night are only dreams to me.

Elizabeth Drew Stoddard, “Closed”

This Magic Moment

21 Nov 2014 /

Bravery is doing
            the same thing every day when you don’t want to.
Not the marvelous but the familiar, over and over again.
            Do that, and the magic will come.

— David Kirby, “This Magic Moment”

The Lowlight of My Weekend

14 Oct 2014 /
Robert Hass

Robert Hass

I had lunch over the weekend with Robert Hass — Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, UC Berkeley professor and former Poet Laureate of the United States. When I say I had lunch with him, I mean he was one of five people seated at our table.

I asked to take a photo with him, which he graciously consented to. I don’t have any photos of myself with Pulitzer Prize winners and still don’t because the photo didn’t come out at all. I completely botched it somehow.

So that was probably the lowlight of my weekend, except for Cal getting blown out by Washington on the gridiron 31-7, while four Husky fans sat directly behind us screaming the whole game.

Football at Cal unfortunately is like academics at Washington: not terribly distinguished.


Books, Writers, Bookstores, Libraries

27 Jul 2014 /

If You Quote Poetry at My Death, I Will Haunt You

12 Sep 2013 /

If you know me, and you outlive me, and you want to say something on the occasion of my demise, please do not quote a snippet of poetry or other literary material, e.g., “He did not go gently into that good night.” Or: “I think Wordsworth said it best . . .”

Portrait of William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth

Bullshit . . . Wordsworth did not say it best. Wordsworth didn’t know me. You knew me. Go ahead and say something from the heart if you have something. Keep it real.

He was not a good person.

He had the most appalling social skills, which is why he had no close friends.

After his son moved out, he just unraveled like an old sock.

I remember at Jackie O’s funeral, her kids — was it just one kid, or both? I think both — read a poem. A poem! That’s when you really know that your life was not well-lived, when your own children have nothing to say about you.

Don’t you hope to god that your children at least will have some personal remembrance to share after you’re gone?

I remember when we used to go to the park and he pitched baseballs to me.

He spent a year of his life helping me with algebra homework.

He always believed in me.

To anyone tempted to eulogize me with a literary reference, I swear I will rise from the grave — in spirit if not in body, although body will be my preference — and cast a shadow upon your soul.


Seamus Heaney, 1939-2013

31 Aug 2013 /
Seamus Heaney

The way we are living,
timorous or bold,
will have been our life.

— Seamus Heaney, “Elegy”

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Posted by on 25 Jul 2013

As Gently as You Can

13 Jul 2013 /

Our skills are finally in demand.
If you mock us, Pan,
In whom we also believe, do it
As gently as you can.

— Stephen Burt, “The People on the Bus”

There Was an Old Woman

23 May 2013 /
The Old Woman Tossed in a Basket

T
here was an old woman tossed up in a basket,
Nineteen times as high as the moon;
Where she was going I couldn’t but ask it,
For in her hand she carried a broom.

“Old woman, old woman, old woman,” quoth I,
“Oh whither, oh whither, oh whither so high?”
“To brush the cobwebs off the sky!”
“Shall I go with thee?”
“Aye, by-and-by.”


Goals for Today

9 May 2013 /

Stop one heart from breaking. Ease one life the aching or cool one pain. Or help one fainting robin unto his nest again.

What’s the billing code for that?


Watch Out for the Gospel of the Times

14 Apr 2013 /

everything is permitted
absolute freedom of movement
that is, without leaving the cage
2+2 doesn’t make 4:
once it made 4 but
today nothing is known in this regard

— Nicanor Parra, “Watch Out for the Gospel of the Times”


Poetry Madness

10 Apr 2013 /
T_S__Eliot_1923

Powell’s Books has a Poetry Madness bracket online to determine the Best Poet of All Time. Unfortunately, along with some really obvious omissions, they don’t understand the concept of seeding, so while minor poets face off in a number of first round matchups, there are inexplicable heavyweight pairings like T.S. Eliot vs. Emily Dickinson . . .


Our Children Can Drink Water From Broken Bowls

17 Mar 2013 /

We must make do with today’s
Happenings, and stoop and somehow glue together
The silly little shards of our lives, so that
Our children can drink water from broken bowls,
Not from cupped hands

— Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, “Aubade”

Poems I’ve Read Recently and Liked

12 Feb 2013 /

Coursera Recommendations

27 Jan 2013 /

Coursera‘s been around long enough now that some classes are being offered for a second time, including a couple that I’ve taken and recommend:


Poems I’ve Read Recently and Liked

20 Jan 2013 /

 


Jack Gilbert, 1925-2012

19 Nov 2012 /

Jack Gilbert was an American poet. He died last week. There’s a poem of his that I like called “Failing and Flying.”


Language Poetry and Aleatory Poetry

16 Nov 2012 /

The last couple of weeks in ModPo, we’ve been reading “Language Poetry” and aleatory poetry, including the work of Ron Silliman, Lyn Hejinian, Bob Perelman, Charles Bernstein, Jackson Mac Low, Jena Osman and Joan Retallack.

I have to admit it all seemed lazy to me. The reader has to do all the work. (See below for a differing opinion.) I didn’t like any of the poems enough to share one, so here instead are the lyrics to Randy Newman‘s “Marie”:

Randy Newman at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritag...

Randy Newman at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You looked like a princess the night we met
With your hair piled up high
I will never forget
I’m drunk right now baby
But I’ve got to be
Or I never could tell you
What you meant to me

I loved you the first time I saw you
And I always will love you Marie
I loved you the first time I saw you
And I always will love you Marie

You’re the song that the trees sing when the wind blows
You’re a flower, you’re a river, you’re a rainbow

Sometimes I’m crazy
But I guess you know
And I’m weak and I’m lazy
And I’ve hurt you so
And I don’t listen to a word you say
When you’re in trouble I just turn away
But I love you

I loved you the first time I saw you
And I always will love you Marie
I loved you the first time I saw you
And I always will love you Marie

If that isn’t poetry, I don’t know what is.

Here’s what ModPo professor Al Filreis says about aleatory poetry:

So this kind of writing, I want to emphasize, has rigor and it has intention at the level of design. It’s not easy, it’s not facile and it’s not to be confused with improvisation and indeterminacy and even random or arbitrary are the wrong words to describe it. Many, as I’ve said, resist it. Many find no beauty in it. . . . Why should I waste my time, it doesn’t mean anything. Well, I have so many things to say in response to that and gosh, I’m not even sure where to start, but I’ll give it a try.

Well, here’s one thing: when I think about how much of my time I spend, my own time, how much time I spend and waste really, watching and listening to things that make a whole lot of conventional sense but ultimately don’t mean anything. Where normally meant statements are empty and useless and unbeautiful, I figure that I owe it to those who seek a significant alternative, the time of day. Maybe they’re telling me to relax. Maybe they’re telling me let down my guard. I’m always, I seem to be always on guard for meaning in meaninglessness. Maybe I should let down that guard and maybe I should hear the music in the apparent dissonance and discordance of my world. And maybe the discovery of sense in language that was not intended at the level of the sentence or of the phrase makes that sense all the more powerful. And maybe when words formed through quasi non-intentional chance operations produce something “accidentally” lovely (I’ve got air quotes around the word accidentally), when that loveliness is accidental, I’ll be all the more astonished at the beauty that’s just out there, that’s ambient in our language and just waiting to be rearranged.


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