Saturday, August 30, 2008

When You Are Old by WB Yeats

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

*Note: After reading this poem, click on the above title to see a video of Matthew Mcfayden reading this poem.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

5 & 7 & 5 by Anselm Hollo

follow that airplane
of course I'm high this is
an emergency


giant Scots terrier
I thought I saw was known as
Taxicab Mountain


brown photo legend
"serene enjoyment" they suck
pipes bones crumbled back


night train whistles stars
over a nation under
mad temporal czars


round lumps of cells grow
up to love porridge later
become The Supremes


lady I lost my
subway token we must part
it's faster by air


"but it's our world"
tiny blue hands and green arms
your thought in my room


sweet bouzouki sound
another syntax for heads
up to the aether


in you the in moon
its rays entwined in my mind's
hair hangs down right in


viewing the dragon
there they ride slim through my dream
Carpaccio's pair


slow bloom inside you
the mnemonics of loving
incessant chatter


far shore Ferris wheel
turning glowing humming love
in our lit-up heads


switch them to sleep now
the flying foxes swarm out
great it's flurry time


wind rain you and me
went looking for a new house
o the grass grows loud

From Notes on the Possibilities and Attractions of Existence, by Anselm Hollo, published by Coffee House Press. Copyright © 2001 Anselm Hollo. Reprinted by permission of Coffee House Press. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Persephone the Wanderer by Louise Gluck

In the first version, Persephone
is taken from her mother
and the goddess of the earth
punishes the earth—this is
consistent with what we know of human behavior,

that human beings take profound satisfaction
in doing harm, particularly
unconscious harm:

we may call this
negative creation.

Persephone's initial
sojourn in hell continues to be
pawed over by scholars who dispute
the sensations of the virgin:

did she cooperate in her rape,
or was she drugged, violated against her will,
as happens so often now to modern girls.

As is well known, the return of the beloved
does not correct
the loss of the beloved: Persephone

returns home
stained with red juice like
a character in Hawthorne—

I am not certain I will
keep this word: is earth
"home" to Persephone? Is she at home, conceivably,
in the bed of the god? Is she
at home nowhere? Is she
a born wanderer, in other words
an existential
replica of her own mother, less
hamstrung by ideas of causality?

You are allowed to like
no one, you know. The characters
are not people.
They are aspects of a dilemma or conflict.

Three parts: just as the soul is divided,
ego, superego, id. Likewise

the three levels of the known world,
a kind of diagram that separates
heaven from earth from hell.

You must ask yourself:
where is it snowing?

White of forgetfulness,
of desecration—

It is snowing on earth; the cold wind says

Persephone is having sex in hell.
Unlike the rest of us, she doesn't know
what winter is, only that
she is what causes it.

She is lying in the bed of Hades.
What is in her mind?
Is she afraid? Has something
blotted out the idea
of mind?

She does know the earth
is run by mothers, this much
is certain. She also knows
she is not what is called
a girl any longer. Regarding
incarceration, she believes

she has been a prisoner since she has been a daughter.

The terrible reunions in store for her
will take up the rest of her life.
When the passion for expiation
is chronic, fierce, you do not choose
the way you live. You do not live;
you are not allowed to die.

You drift between earth and death
which seem, finally,
strangely alike. Scholars tell us

that there is no point in knowing what you want
when the forces contending over you
could kill you.

White of forgetfulness,
white of safety—

They say
there is a rift in the human soul
which was not constructed to belong
entirely to life. Earth

asks us to deny this rift, a threat
disguised as suggestion—
as we have seen
in the tale of Persephone
which should be read

as an argument between the mother and the lover—
the daughter is just meat.

When death confronts her, she has never seen
the meadow without the daisies.
Suddenly she is no longer
singing her maidenly songs
about her mother's
beauty and fecundity. Where
the rift is, the break is.

Song of the earth,
song of the mythic vision of eternal life—

My soul
shattered with the strain
of trying to belong to earth—

What will you do,
when it is your turn in the field with the god?

"Persephone the Wanderer" from Averno by Louise Glück. Copyright © 2006 by Louise Glück. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

from The Apple that Astonished Paris, 1996
University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, Ark.
Permissions information.

Copyright 1988 by Billy Collins.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced with permission.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Star Block by Kay Ryan, Poet Laureate

There is no such thing
as star block.
We do not think of
locking out the light
of other galaxies.
It is light
so rinsed of impurities
(heat, for instance)
that it excites
no antibodies in us.
Yet people are
curiously soluble
in starlight.
Bathed in its
absence of insistence
their substance
loosens willingly,
their bright
designs dissolve.
Not proximity
but distance
burns us with love.

From _Say Uncle_, 2000.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A Cat/A Future by Kay Ryan, Poet Laureate

A cat can draw
the blinds
behind her eyes
whenever she
decides. Nothing
alters in the stare
itself but she's
not there. Likewise
a future can occlude:
still sitting there,
doing nothing rude.

From _Elephant Rocks_, 1997.