Tuesday, April 15, 2008
In Memory of W. B. Yeats
by W. H. Auden
He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
And snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.
Far from his illness
The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,
The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;
By mourning tongues
The death of the poet was kept from his poems.
But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
An afternoon of nurses and rumours;
The provinces of his body revolted,
The squares of his mind were empty,
Silence invaded the suburbs,
The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers.
Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
To find his happiness in another kind of wood
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living.
But in the importance and noise of to-morrow
When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse,
And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed,
And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom,
A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.
You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.
Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.
In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.
Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice;
With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress;
In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.
From Another Time by W. H. Auden, published by Random House. Copyright © 1940 W. H. Auden.
Monday, April 14, 2008
This poem is by Ted Hughes and was found at: http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/services/lic/newlibrary/poem.html
HEAR IT AGAIN
Fourteen centuries have learned,
A Serbian Prof's insanity,
Where any nation starts awake
For this one's dreams and that one's acts
Even the most misfitting child
Ted Hughes, July 1997
Today's poem is Walt Whitman’s famous elegy to Abraham Lincoln. Since it is very long, I have only included the first third or so of the poem (which many consider to be a poem in itself). A link to the entire poem can be found at the bottom if you are interested in continuing on.
from When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom’d
by Walt Whitman
WHEN lilacs last in the door-yard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d—and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
O ever-returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring;
Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.
O powerful, western, fallen star!
O shades of night! O moody, tearful night!
O great star disappear’d! O the black murk that hides the star!
O cruel hands that hold me powerless! O helpless soul of me!
O harsh surrounding cloud, that will not free my soul!
In the door-yard fronting an old farm-house, near the white-wash’d palings,
Stands the lilac bush, tall-growing, with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
With many a pointed blossom, rising, delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle......and from this bush in the door-yard,
With delicate-color’d blossoms, and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig, with its flower, I break.
In the swamp, in secluded recesses,
A shy and hidden bird is warbling a song.
Solitary, the thrush,
The hermit, withdrawn to himself, avoiding the settlements,
Sings by himself a song.
Song of the bleeding throat!
Death’s outlet song of life—(for well, dear brother, I know
If thou wast not gifted to sing, thou would’st surely die.)
Over the breast of the spring, the land, amid cities,
Amid lanes, and through old woods, (where lately the violets peep’d from the ground, spotting the gray debris;)
Amid the grass in the fields each side of the lanes—passing the endless grass;
Passing the yellow-spear’d wheat, every grain from its shroud in the dark-brown fields uprising;
Passing the apple-tree blows of white and pink in the orchards;
Carrying a corpse to where it shall rest in the grave,
Night and day journeys a coffin.
Coffin that passes through lanes and streets,
Through day and night, with the great cloud darkening the land,
With the pomp of the inloop’d flags, with the cities draped in black,
With the show of the States themselves, as of crape-veil’d women, standing,
With processions long and winding, and the flambeaus of the night,
With the countless torches lit—with the silent sea of faces, and the unbared heads,
With the waiting depot, the arriving coffin, and the sombre faces,
With dirges through the night, with the thousand voices rising strong and solemn;
With all the mournful voices of the dirges, pour’d around the coffin,
The dim-lit churches and the shuddering organs—Where amid these you journey,
With the tolling, tolling bells’ perpetual clang;
Here! coffin that slowly passes,
I give you my sprig of lilac.
To continue, go to http://www.bartleby.com/142/192.html
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
by Wallace Stevens
Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.
I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.
A man and a woman
A man and a woman and a blackbird
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.
Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.
O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.
When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.
At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.
He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.
It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.
Friday, April 11, 2008
How Far Would You Get Without the Devil
by Bruce Alford
…but his face
Deep scars of thunder had intrenched, and care
Sat on his faced cheek –Paradise Lost
See how the dragon comes
screaming. My brother’s eyes are red,
the color of Satan—I mean they’re red,
and I stand in the bathroom mirror,
with nothing but a towel around my waist,
appearing strange to myself.
And he’s yelling, you know loud, because he’s drunk.
He wears a baseball cap as black as his face.
Nappy hair sticks out from under the edges. Bozo.
His loose face swirls.
Man, I would die for Mama. You hear me, man.
He puts four calloused fingers against his shirt,
right over his heart,
right over an illustration of Curious George.
Can’t I have something for myself?
No listen. Listen.
Man, she pulled a gun on me—her son!
Her own flesh and blood.
Said I’ll kill your motherf***ing ass.
Man, she did this to her flesh and blood.
What’s wrong with Mama, man?
Let me tell you what she did. I gave her 400 dollars.
I had just given her 400 dollars,
and I’m back there in that room,
and the phone rings and I hear her:
‘He got his lazy black ass back there.
He ain’t done nothing for me’—
When I heard that, Man,
I broke down and cried. I cried just like a baby.
It doesn’t matter that I’m a professor, teacher, lecturer, poet.
I am a stranger to myself,
hard to recognize. I am
my brother’s hand, reaching.
I hear voices
over long distances,
ghosts come forth from their tombs:
two brothers watch the Road Runner and Bugs Bunny,
a pillow fight: a goose quill sticking out between the stitching.
He used to be a ladies’ man.
Cool Congo, smooth black skin, my beautiful brother.
What’s wrong with my mama?
Give me Answers.
Man, why she got to talk to me like that?
I know I drink. I drink. I kick back a few beers.
But I’m 55 years old. You hear me?
And Mama’s got to be a little lenient.
I’ll do anything for Mama. I’m gone stick by Mama.
I’m gone stick by her side, but she takes.
She takes and I and I give so much of myself.
I neglected myself for Mama.
I can’t deal with this shit. People just don’t know.
Excuses. You can’t blame your past. Use it.
“In this magnificent piece, the poet transforms a painful experience into a strange beauty.”
You’re so cold.
Your iron body needs a brother’s heart to make it live.
Still, you have to die a little.
Go. Embrace him there.
This could kill me.
It’s the history that’s terrible.
Satan, Satan a fallen angel,
oh how fallen, how changed.
The Seminary Trees
for William Seth Adams
by Louie Skipper
What would they need to know,
preparing the last words
spoken against our kind
long before our common birth?
I wonder over the wisdom of oaks,
the slender sounds
urged by the greatest trees.
All my life I have looked up to them,
holding their hardness like cellars,
perfecting their dissatisfactions,
then, looking down,
I enter daily life
and take up my poverty of shadows
guided by the sun
the way the oaks are by the evening breeze.
What would it be
to speak with the trees
through some gift bestowed upon us,
these trees that are carving the wind’s instructions?
What would it be
to follow them
the way one might follow a scar
back into its wound,
and to hear,
shaped by their voices,
the call of our own names
transparent in their motions,
whipped right up from the ground?
What reply might we give the trees
looking up into them,
their shapes putting words in our mouths,
the inquiry of water oaks and sycamores,
their chronic darkness
rustling our human, our corrupt and lovely form?
From the upcoming book, It Was the Orange Persimmon of the Sun, Settlement House, January 2009.
The Scout Report today contains two exhibits that couldn't be more different, but are intimately connected as expressions of a cultural timeline of who/what can be represented and how: National Portrait Gallery's Hip Hop and Contemporary Portraiture and the Denver Art Museum's Inspiring Impressionism.
Hip Hop: "The lyricism and social consciousness of hip-hop music has been a source of inspiration for many artists working in photography, painting, film, and even contemporary multimedia projects."
Impressionism: "The exhibition explores the relationship between the Impressionists and the Old Masters that inspired them."
Thursday, April 10, 2008
by Rainer Maria Rilke
This laboring through what is still undone,
as though, legs bound, we hobbled along the way,
is like the awkward walking of the swan.
And dying—to let go, no longer feel
the solid ground we stand on every day—
is like his anxious letting himself fall
into waters, which receive him gently
and which, as though with reverence and joy,
draw back past him in streams on either side;
while, infinitely silent and aware,
in his full majesty and ever more
indifferent, he condescends to glide.
Translated by Stephen Mitchell
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Yet Do I Marvel
by Countee Cullen
I doubt not God is good, well-meaning, kind,
And did He stoop to quibble could tell why
The little buried mole continues blind,
Why flesh that mirrors Him must some day die,
Make plain the reason tortured Tantalus
Is baited by the fickle fruit, declare
If merely brute caprice dooms Sisyphus
To struggle up a never-ending stair.
Inscrutable His ways are, and immune
To catechism by a mind too strewn
With petty cares to slightly understand
What awful brain compels His awful hand.
Yet do I marvel at this curious thing:
To make a poet black, and bid him sing!
from My Soul's High Song: The Collected Writings of Countee Cullen, Voice of the Harlem Renaissance. Copyright held by Ida M. Cullen.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
i wish that i were langston hughes
by Robert Gray
i wish that i were langston hughes
or even maya angelou
able to cry out for freedom
over the roofs of the world
from a position of surprising
and unaccustomed strength
but sadly i am not
for no matter how much
i read or think or discuss
no matter how enlightened i may feel
i can never fully understand
as a white poet
privileged if by nothing else
but my own whiteness
how the truth in their words
can see so well into the life of things
and so i am damned
by that same whiteness
always to be disadvantaged
i have always found
a fundamental difference
between white poetry
and black poetry
and i have always envied it
and while i am certainly
as guilty as anyone and
would never wish to oversimplify
it seems to me that white poetry
historically at any rate
has often tended to soar
on the ethereal wings
of imagination and philosophy
with a mission to explore
the deep and hidden meanings
of the heights of heaven
in order that poets might
as prophets or amanuenses
bring the mountaintop down
so that truth might come to be
within the reach of those
of us too blind or deaf
to write the zeitgeist of eternity
and so white poets have pontificated
throughout history on the wherefores
and whys of our existence
almost as if poets and poetry
had nothing else or better to do
african american poetry
on the other hand
has preferred to labor
with its hands in the earth
it has always done its work
in the everyday
at the dinner table
or through childhood remembrances
born out of minds too strewn
with petty cares
or while standing on
the grave of dreams
deferred from the earth’s inside
this voice of the subaltern
long subjected to the margins
has always preferred to work
down in the midst of things
where life happens
lifting truth up to the heavens
in an act of heavy praise
for there is power in pain
and strangled possibility
but there is also beauty
in the fact of blackness
just as there is poetry
in the song of a caged bird
or the lies of a mask
perhaps even more than
in the tortured thoughts
of an overly pensive prince
or an overwrought
yet while it is indeed a privilege
to ponder life’s mysteries
by deconstructing the semantics
of our social discourses
even in a vain hope that
by revealing and reversing
historical and hierarchical binaries
they might dry up or explode
it is a privilege wrought
with hidden costs and effects
that we are taught not to see
and while many might argue
that poetry should be above
the baseness of politics
and while there may well be
a richness to those arguments
there is also a whiteness
silently blinding us to the life of things
The Fugitive Poets of Fenway Park
-- Boston, MA, 1948
The Chilean secret police
for the poet Neruda: in the dark shafts
of mines, in the boxcars of railroad yards,
in the sewers of Santiago.
The government intended to confiscate his mouth
and extract the poems one by one like bad teeth.
But the mines and boxcars and sewers were empty.
I know where he was.
Neruda was at Fenway Park,
burly and bearded in a flat black cap, hidden
in the kaleidescope of the bleachers.
He sat quietly, munching a hot dog
when Ted Williams walked to the crest of the diamond, slender as my
father remembers him, squinting at the pitcher, bat swaying in a
memory of trees.
The stroke was a pendulum of long muscle and wood,
Ted's face tilted up, the home run
zooming into the right field grandstand.
Then the crowd stood together, cheering
for this blasphemer of newsprint, the heretic
who would not tip his cap as he toed home plate
or grin like a war hero at the sportswriters
surrounding his locker for a quote.
The fugitive poet could not keep silent,
standing on his seat to declaim the ode
erupted in crowd-bewildering Spanish from his mouth:
"Praise Ted Williams, raising his sword
cut from the ash tree, the ball
a white planet glowing in the atmosphere
of the right field grandstand!
Praise the Wall rising
like a great green wave
from the green sea of the outfield!
Praise the hot dog, pink meat,
pork snouts, sawdust, mouse feces,
human hair, plugging our intestines,
yet baptized joyfully with mustard!
Praise the wobbling drunk, seasick beer
in hand, staring at the number on his ticket,
demanding my seat!"
Everyone gawked at the man standing
on his seat, bellowing poetry in Spanish.
Anonymous no longer,
Neruda saw the Chilean secret police
as they scrambled through the bleachers,
pointing and shouting, so the poet
jumped a guardrail to disappear
through a Fenway tunnel,
the black cap flying from his head
and spinning into centerfield.
This is true. I was there at Fenway
on August 7, 1948, even if I was born
exactly nine years later
when my father
almost named me Theodore.
Monday, April 07, 2008
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
by William Wordsworth
I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
by Sue Walker
How it was only one measure
but yet held two beats,
separate and apart,
and memory that hung in the night,
the slack face of a haunted moon.
If her name was Mick
or Carson, if the letters
were confused about making
nouns and verbs, if the sentences
were hard and calloused,
discord that rose up angry,
and a trombone took over
and denied the flute,
and bãy boong bãy boong came
out of the night like flashes
of lightening, if a storm
played across Georgia,
moved west, moved into Alabama,
without definition, the heart,
its four chambers wanting,
became rite of passage,
became the struggle to love.
by Marianne Moore
I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond
all this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a
high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
useful. When they become so derivative as to become
the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand: the bat
holding on upside down or in quest of something to
eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless
a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse
that feels a flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician--
nor is it valid
to discriminate against "business documents and
school-books"; all these phenomena are important. One must make
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
insolence and triviality and can present
for inspection, "imaginary gardens with real toads in them,"
shall we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry.
From The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore. Copyright © 1961 Marianne Moore, © renewed 1989 by Lawrence E. Brinn and Louise Crane, executors of the Estate of Marianne Moore.
Still I Rise
by Maya Angelou (her birthday)You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history's shame
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
From The Prologue of The Canterbury Tales
by Geoffrey Chaucer
Whan that Aprill with his its shoures soote
The droghte, dryness of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour,
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired into hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open yeeye
(so priketh hem Nature in hir corages),
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kow in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen them whan they were seeke.
For a modern version, go to http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/webcore/murphy/canterbury/
from The Wasteland
by T. S. Eliot
APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the archduke's,
My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.
To continue, go to http://www.bartleby.com/201/1.html
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
In 2002 Cornell's Engineering Library put together a website called "Sticker Shock" graphically documenting the incredible cost of engineering periodical subscriptions, for example a one-year subscription to The Journal of Applied Polymer Science cost $12, 495.00 -- as much as a Toyota Corolla in that year.
They have revised this site with current prices. Check out Sticker Shock 2 -- and be very glad you are associated with a university library.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
"Where the Folks Are"
By THOMAS BARTLETT
"Spring break is all about beer bongs, wet-T-shirt contests, and regrettable intimate encounters, right?
Maybe not. A new survey found that only 33 percent of college students whoop it up at the beach, while 70 percent stay at home with their parents (3 percent, presumably, take their parents to the beach). The survey was sponsored in part by Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc. . . .
The survey, conducted online in February, found that 68 percent of students who did party during their vacation set limits on how much alcohol they consumed. . . .
Among students who chose to drink, 84 percent said they consumed alcoholic beverages in moderation. . . .
Over all, according to a news release, the survey's results are proof that college students are behaving responsibly during spring break, and that all this talk about debauchery is so much hype. . . .