Posts Tagged 'poetry'

Reading: Map

Every so often I read the New York Times, to see the news from New York (and the world). Very seldom does an article touch me like the Incalculable Loss interactive feature in Sunday’s online edition. Seeing the names of people who lived in my hometown and in the next towns over in print in the big city paper (while listening to the Memorial concert on PBS) … I was a mess. And that brings me to Map: Collected and Last Poems by Wislawa Szymborska (available here from IndieBound and available for loan at the Philadelphia Free Library).

Reading poetry is interesting. One minute it’s an abstract play of words, rhythms, experiences unlike anything you’ve known before (although you can imagine the emotional pull). The next, you’re nodding that you know how the writer feels. “Family Album”, with its photographs of “citizens of sepia past” whose “days flew fast, their vanishing was due to influenza”, makes me bleakly think about current events. Other poems are delightful. I particularly liked “Landscape”, where a female figure in an old master’s landscape speaks. Here’s a snippet:

"On the right is my house. I know it from all sides, 
along with its steps and its entryway, 
behind which life goes on unpainted." 

In that poem, I love the idea that there is another dimension to the painting that the Old Master didn’t know, and left unpainted. It lets my brain skitter off when looking at any painting, to wonder what was left out, behind the surface.

The poems are short — about a page to a page and a half. If you want to sample Szymborska’s poetry without going to a library or buying a volume, here are five poems from when she won the Nobel Prize in literature.

Are there any great poetry books or novels that are speaking to you more strongly than they would have before this time when you can only talk with family via phone or online? I like to think that I’m lucid reading, while substituting a shadow-life of online meetings for my normal interactions with friends. At least when I read poetry, it allows me to think about something else while I dream.

Relax into a poem by Elan Mudrow

I sit with her Placing her in memory Giving thoughts strength, yet In her silence, she frightens me. I rely on others Camping upon her shore To soothe my worry. And although I haven’t Seen her rimmed with snow Echoing the clearest of nights, Pitted with raindrops Upon her clear face, Witnessed her held tight […]

via Mountain Lake — Elan Mudrow

Hilde Domin – reading

Thanks to Buchmerkur Schroersche Berlin [Link here], I have started searching for English/German side by side publications of Hilde Domin’s poetry. I’ve stumbled onto the poems translated by Meg Taylor and Elke Heckel online here. Autumn eyes/Herbstaugen is particularly lovely.

I’ve also been enjoying a book on Harlem by Jonathan Gill. From the first altercation between the people already living there and the Dutch, to its place in history as a place for Jewish and Irish immigrants to start out, race clashes, and the Harlem Renaissance. The book continues through 400 years, and I’ve only reached the jazz era. 🙂 But it’s all history we didn’t learn in school, so I’ve been having a great time learning how much I didn’t know.

Reading: Owls in winter — from Mary Priestley’s A Book of Birds

While cold and sharp and shining sheer Orion’s dagger pricks my ear, Under an old fir’s grizzled cowl,

Big with his drowsy wide surprise

Wakens the hunched and pawky owl

And blinks his big moon-marvellous eyes…

Excerpt from the lovely poem “Too-Hoo” by James Mackereth. A Book of Birds is filled with notes about bird behavior, snippets of poems, extracts from people’s diaries, and lovely wood engravings by C.F. Tunnicliffe. Some of the diary entries quoted, about hunting, or eating pickled auks, aren’t my cup of tea. But the poetry is charming, the illustrations are lovely, and my copy has a little penciled note for my Uncle from his little sister “A very happy birthday — lots of love…” The perfect thing to read while anticipating spring, especially now that the robins have come back to the backyard, and we can hear small birds in the bramble bushes.

Following someone else’s annotations 2

Dad’s copy of Wordsworth’s The Prelude is filled with comments, but only in specific sections: Books 1, 6-7, 13. I can’t tell if, perhaps, the notes reflect a paper he was working on, or notes scrawled in the margins during the class. It’s interesting what Dad noticed or jots down: the penciled words “disregard for rules” right beside a passage “This spurious virtue, rather let it bear/A name it now deserves, this cowardice,/Gave treacherous sanction to that over-love/Of freedom which encouraged me to turn from regulations even of my own…” The Prelude, Book 6, lines 30-34. Whereas I get lost in beautiful descriptions:

“….Often have I stood
Foot-bound uplooking at this lovely tree
Beneath a frosty moon. The hemisphere
Of magic fiction, verse of mine perchance
May never tread: but scarcely Spenser’s self
Could have more tranquil visions in his youth,”
The Prelude Book 6, lines 85-90.

In this passage I can see allusions to Spenser’s Faery Queen, references to an ash tree with ivy hanging from it, and the frost filled air of a campus in winter. My father (before he was a father) seemed concerned about disregarding rules, or ways that Wordsworth talked about disrespecting authority. And, I get the feeling from other scribbling that he might not have been enjoying himself, and I’m so glad that when I studied Wordsworth, he wanted me to enjoy the poetry, even when he wanted me to enjoy his parodies. He was patient with my enthusiasm, and gave me the gift of deciding what I liked. So, have you read The Prelude? Any thoughts on it? Did your teachers make you “skip around” in it, or let you plow through? In my courses, there wasn’t the time I have now, to sit and enjoy, so I’ll keep going, until I get to the end. I’m more than halfway done, after all.

The morning shines

“….The morning shines,

Nor heedeth Man’s Perverseness; Spring returns, —

I saw the Spring return, and could rejoice,

In common with the children of her love,

Piping on boughs, or sporting on fresh fields,

Or boldly seeking pleasure nearer heaven

On wings that navigate cerulean skies.”

— William Wordsworth, The Prelude – Book Twelve, lines 31-37.

My edition is the Rinehart Edition possibly from 1954.

More later, when WordPress lets me post again. Some of this is divine, and some of it is Wordsworth channeling every single Freshman at University who suddenly realizes he can “feel” things.Lilacia

Reading: Winter Walk by John Clare

holly-wideWinter Walk

“The holly bush, a sober lump of green
Shines through the the leafless shrubs all brown and grey,
And smiles at winter, be it ever so keen,
With all the leafy luxury of May. ” John Clare, 1832-1835.

Read the rest of Winter Walk at Poetry cat here: http://www.poetrycat.com/john-clare/winter-walk

It’s a very visual poem. I’m sitting here, thinking about the day “In winter’s loaded garment keenly blows/ and suddenly turns her back on falling snows…” That’s what the weather was like yesterday, with wind blowing as though it was being chased by pelting snow and ice. And holly trees I assume were once “holy trees”, but maybe I’m simplifying. So, if you’re holed up against round 2 of the “wicked winter weather in the East” as one news media announcer called it (sounds like a character from the Wizard of Oz, actually), what are you reading? I’m finding poetry to be the most restful. Bellman and Black nearly done, and overdue at the library.

Cats and poets

NPR has a lovely article online about the link between cats and poetry. It’s called a “Cartoon Tribute to Cats, and the Poets Who Loved Them”. The article begins at Christopher Smart and his cat, Jeoffrey, and ends with Margaret Atwood and her poem

“Oh pillow hog,/With your breath of raw liver,/Where are you now?”

Lots of fun. Thanks to The Gardener for a lovely read!

Time to give thanks

It’s Thanksgiving, a traditional time to look at your life and give thanks.
Around the Blogisphere, different people are writing about traditions or travels for the holidays. Here’s a Frugal traveler article from the NYTimes blog on how to travel to Plymouth, Massachusetts and see kid-friendly inexpensive things around the theme of Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving can inspire knitting, possibly due to all the stress of creating a full turkey dinner. But I had not realized there was a fad (even if it’s only in the mind of a designer) for knitting turkey hats. There are at least a few on Ravelry. For those without access, there’s a list of patterns on the Squidoo website.
Poets have written about Thanksgiving. Langston Hughes wrote a poem short enough for a child to memorize (I particularly like the opening “When the night winds whistle through the trees and blow the crisp brown leaves a-crackling down,/
When the autumn moon is big and yellow-orange and round,”).
And during the American Civil War, President Lincoln made the proclamation for Thanksgiving as a holiday in the States. Since 1863, Thanksgiving has been celebrated as a national holiday in the USA.
Overall, the things you feel grateful for are personal things that no one can say are right or wrong. For me, I’m thankful for family and friends gathering together, with the hope of seeing others at Christmastime. And I’m grateful for more than I can talk about in a blog post. I hope you have something at heart that fills you with gratitude (if you’re Canadian, you already have notes on this from October).
PS: Apple pie made from the 1950s Fannie Farmer, with butter crust. I used small cutouts of stars and turkeys to decorate the top of the pie.

A slice of light lingering

A sharp slice of paper

Or a too wide Cheshire Cat grin —

Tonight’s half moon shines bright

Cutting through the dark, while its fading face,

Lingers behind the night.

© rjn, November 30, 2011


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