If I didn't mention (cough BRAG cough) that I've had a poem published this week.
Imagine my joy upon opening up Vijay Seshadri's Pulitzer Prize-winning volume of poems, 3 Sections, and finding this as the second poem:
Remember that family who lived in a boat
run aground and capsized
by the creamy dunes where the plovers nest?
Sea, sun, storm, and firmament
kept their minds occupied.
David Copperfield came and went,
and their sympathy for him was such
that they pitied him almost as much
as he pitied himself. But their story
is not like the easy one
where you return to me and
lift my scarred eyes to the sun
and stroke my withered hand
and marry me, distorted as I am.
He was destined to dismantle their lives,
David Copperfield, with his
treacherous friend and insipid wives,
his well-thought-out position
on the Corn Laws and the constitution.
They were stillness and
he was all motion.
They lived in a boat upside down on the strand,
but he was of the kind who couldn’t understand
that land was not just land
or ocean ocean.
Right after reading David Copperfield! Perfect.
And yes, the rest of the book is turning out to be wonderful too. My thanks to Graywolf Press for permission to reprint this.
Vijay Seshadri. "Rereading," from 3 Sections. Copyright © 2013 by Vijay Seshadri. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org
Oh, you guys, I loved this book. Just loved it. It would be a perfect gift for any dog-lover in your life. Oliver is, of course, a wonderful poet anyway, but her love for dogs shines through. Many of the poems are deceptively simple on the surface:
Benjamin, Who Came From Who Knows Where
What shall I do?
When I pick up the broom
he leaves the room.
When I fuss with kindling he
runs for the yard.
Then he’s back, and we
hug for a long time.
In his low-to-the-ground chest
I can hear his heart slowing down.
Then I rub his shoulders and
kiss his feet
and fondle his long hound ears.
Benny, I say,
don’t worry. I also know the way
the old life haunts the new.
So, if you know a dog-lover or are one yourself, this is the right Christmas gift. Also? Illustrated with the sweetest black-and-white drawings.
I'd never heard of Adelaide Crapsey until I read this blog post about cinquains, which referenced her as the creator of that poetic form. A quick trip to my library's website found a collection of her poems and letters, as well as a brief bio, and it turned out to be an enjoyable discovery.
Crapsey was born in 1878 to parents of what became a large family. By the age of 25, she was beginning to suffer from a then-undiagnosed malady that later turned out to be tuberculosis, the disease that finally claimed her life shortly after her 36th birthday.
But even while chronically ill, she was prolific. What intrigued me was that, while many of her poems were of the flowery, sentimental types of the times, she broke form at times, such as in the wonderful poem "To the Dead in the Grave-yard Under My Window" (subtitle: "Written in a Moment of Exasperation").
Or the shorter, also exasperated, "Lines Addressed To My Left Lung Inconveniently Enamoured Of Plant-Life":
It was, my lung, most strange of you,
A freak I cannot pardon,
Thus to transform yourself into
Though laking William set erewhile
His seal on rural fashions,
I must deplore, bewail, revile
Your horticultural passions.
And as your ways I thus lament
(Which, plainly, I call crazy)
For all I know, serene, content,
You think yourself a daisy!
The cinquains are intriguing pieces, short and tightly woven. (Note: the odd use of ellipses, with two periods and a space rather than three periods, were used throughout the edition of the book I read, so I'm using them here.)
Out of the strange
Still dusk. . as strange, as still. .
A white moth flew. What am I grown
Or this one:
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
Lovely work, and as always, sad to think what else she might have accomplished had she not died so young. But I took heart in finding another library slip showing someone checked this book out just last November. So it hasn't been languishing unread for too long.
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Thanks for the Italian chestnuts—with their
tough shells—the smooth chocolaty
skin of them—thanks for the boiling water—
itself a miracle and a mystery—
thanks for the seasoned sauce pan
and the old wooden spoon—and all
the neglected instruments in the drawer—
the garlic crusher—the bent paring knife—
the apple slicer that creates six
perfect wedges out of the crisp Haralson—
thanks for the humming radio—thanks
for the program on the radio
about the guy who was a cross-dresser—
but his wife forgave him—and he
ended up almost dying from leukemia—
(and you could tell his wife loved him
entirely—it was in her deliberate voice)—
thanks for the brined turkey—
the size of a big baby—thanks—
for the departed head of the turkey—
the present neck—the giblets
(whatever they are)—wrapped up as
small gifts inside the cavern of the ribs—
thanks—thanks—thanks—for the candles
lit on the table—the dried twigs—
the autumn leaves in the blue Chinese vase—
thanks—for the faces—our faces—in this low light.
The End and the Beginning
After every war
someone has to clean up.
straighten themselves up, after all.
Someone has to push the rubble
to the side of the road,
so the corpse-filled wagons
Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
and bloody rags.
Someone has to drag in a girder
to prop up a wall,
Someone has to glaze a window,
rehang a door.
Photogenic it's not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.
We'll need the bridges back,
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.
Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls the way it was.
Someone else listens
and nods with unsevered head.
But already there are those nearby
starting to mill about
who will find it dull.
From out of the bushes
sometimes someone still unearths
and carries them to the garbage pile.
Those who knew
what was going on here
must make way for
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.
In the grass that has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.
This month's theme is all about Halloween and scary poems. I'm going to stretch the boundaries of that just a tad. As I type this, there's a crazy cold wind howling here in Minnesota, making the house creak and shift, knocking over unsecured things outside (thank goodness it's not my garbage and recycling pickup day). So for my creepy poem, I'm choosing one by Ted Hughes:
This house has been far out at sea all night,
The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills,
Winds stampeding the fields under the window
Floundering black astride and blinding wet
Till day rose; then under an orange sky
The hills had new places, and wind wielded
Blade-light, luminous black and emerald,
Flexing like the lens of a mad eye.
At noon I scaled along the house-side as far as
The coal-house door. Once I looked up -
Through the brunt wind that dented the balls of my eyes
The tent of the hills drummed and strained its guyrope,
The fields quivering, the skyline a grimace,
At any second to bang and vanish with a flap;
The wind flung a magpie away and a black-
Back gull bent like an iron bar slowly. The house
Rang like some fine green goblet in the note
That any second would shatter it. Now deep
In chairs, in front of the great fire, we grip
Our hearts and cannot entertain book, thought,
Or each other. We watch the fire blazing,
And feel the roots of the house move, but sit on,
Seeing the window tremble to come in,
Hearing the stones cry out under the horizons.