Monday, 30 September 2013

Day 437: Rationalism Vs Imagination


Here, Wallace Stevens outlines the conflict between logic and dreams, rationalism and imagination, right-angles, and well, spontaneous shapes.  I love his rebuke of rationalists in the last verse! - 'Rationalists, wearing square-hats/think, in square rooms'.

Six Significant Landscapes - Wallace Stevens

An old man sits
In the shadow of a pine tree
In China.
He sees larkspur,
Blue and white,
At the edge of the shadow,
Move in the wind.
His beard moves in the wind.
The pine tree moves in the wind.
Thus water flows
Over weeds.

The night is of the colour
Of a woman's arm:
Night, the female,
Fragrant and supple,
Conceals herself.
A pool shines,
Like a bracelet
Shaken in a dance.

I measure myself
Against a tall tree.
I find that I am much taller,
For I reach right up to the sun,
With my eye;
And I reach to the shore of the sea
With my ear.
Nevertheless, I dislike
The way ants crawl
In and out of my shadow.

When my dream was near the moon,
The white folds of its gown
Filled with yellow light.
The soles of its feet
Grew red.
Its hair filled
With certain blue crystallizations
From stars,
Not far off.

Not all the knives of the lamp-posts,
Nor the chisels of the long streets,
Nor the mallets of the domes
And high towers,
Can carve
What one star can carve,
Shining through the grape-leaves.

Rationalists, wearing square hats,
Think, in square rooms,
Looking at the floor,
Looking at the ceiling.
They confine themselves
To right-angled triangles.
If they tried rhomboids,
Cones, waving lines, ellipses -
As, for example, the ellipse of the half-moon -
Rationalists would wear sombreros. 

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Day 436: Life is Short


A short thought from Emily Dickinson today...

1292 - Emily Dickinson

In this short life Life that only lasts an hour
How much - how little - is within our power

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Day 435: Sun Death

Here's a strange poem - funny, witty, heartbreaking, - all in the space of a few apt lines. From the  inimitable Roger Mc Gough of course, who has earned the highly unusual accolade of making poetry fun -  'McGough has done for British poetry what champagne does for weddings.'

Sundeath/greentears - Roger McGough

when you said you loved me
the sun
leapt out from behind st georges hall
and ran around town;

kissing younggirls' faces
        exposing fatmen's braces
        freeing birds & chasing flies
        pulling hats down over eyes
        making bobbies get undressed
        barrowladies look their best
        wayside winos sit and dream
        hotdogmen to sell ice-cream

but when you said goodbye
i heard that the sun
had been runover
somewhere in castle street
by a busload of lovers
whom you have yet to meet

Friday, 27 September 2013

Day 434: Live with Passion

This is a famous poem by Charles Bukowski that is now in use in an ad for Scotch! (which I've posted above). Of course, it's not just a poem on writing, but a creed for all endeavours in life: if you're going to do it, do it with passion, do it true, or don't do it at all.

So You Want To Be A Writer - Charles Bukowski

if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don't do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don't do it.
if you're doing it for money or
don't do it.
if you're doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don't do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.
if it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.
if you're trying to write like somebody
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you're not ready.

don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don't add to that.
don't do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Day 433: How it Happens

How it Happens - WS Mervin

The sky said I am watching
to see what you
can make out of nothing
I was looking up and I said
I thought you
were supposed to be doing that
the sky said Many
are clinging to that
I am giving you a chance
I was looking up and I said
I am the only chance I have
then the sky did not answer
and here we are
with our names for the days
the vast days that do not listen to us

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Day 432: The Grammar of Love

Here's a quirky poem for lovers of grammar -

Permanently - Kenneth Koch

One day the Nouns were clustered in the street.
An Adjective walked by, with her dark beauty.
The Nouns were struck, moved, changed.
The next day a Verb drove up, and created the Sentence.

Each Sentence says one thing—for example, “Although it was a dark rainy day when
   the Adjective walked by, I shall remember the pure and sweet expression on her face
   until the day I perish from the green, effective earth.”
Or, “Will you please close the window, Andrew?”
Or, for example, “Thank you, the pink pot of flowers on the window sill has changed color
   recently to a light yellow, due to the heat from the boiler factory which exists nearby.”

In the springtime the Sentences and the Nouns lay silently on the grass.
A lonely Conjunction here and there would call, “And! But!”
But the Adjective did not emerge.

As the Adjective is lost in the sentence,
So I am lost in your eyes, ears, nose, and throat—
You have enchanted me with a single kiss
Which can never be undone
Until the destruction of language.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Day 431: Autumn Returns

#Pablo Neruda was trending yesterday on Twitter (It was the anniversary of his death). He is such a popular poet, there are even countless websites dedicated to him. (But very hard to find the texts of his poems online). 

I can't say I'm a huge fan of his, but I love how he uses language, almost like he's painting with it, reeling in its feel and meaning and sensual abilities. Here he is with a meditation on the season:

Autumn Returns - Pablo Neruda

A day in mourning falls from the bells
like a trembling cloth of vague life,
it's a color, a dream
of cherries sunk into the earth,
it's a tail of smoke that arrives without rest
to change the color of the water and the kisses.

I don't know if you understand me: When night
from the heights, when the solitary poet
at the window hears the steed of autumn running
and the leaves of trampled fear rustling in his arteries,
there is something over the sky, like the tongue
of thick oxen, something in the doubt of the sky and
        the atmosphere.

Things return to their place:
the indispensable lawyer, hands, oil,
the bottles,
all the signs of life: beds, above all,
are full of bloody liquid,
people deposit their confidences in sordid ears,
assassins descend stairs,
but it's not that, it's the old gallop,
the horse of old autumn who trembles and endures.

The horse of old autumn has a red beard
and the foam of fear covers his cheeks
and the air that follos him has the form of an ocean
and the smell of vagur buried rot.
Everyday and ashen color descends from the sky
which the doves must spread over the earth:
the rope woven by oblivion and tears,
time, which has slept long years inside the bells,
the old suits all bitten, the women who see the snow
the black poppies that no one can contemplate without
everything falls to these hands I raise up
in the midst of rain.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Day 430: Autumn Day

A restless season? Maybe... But beautifully described here by Rilke.

Autumn Day - Rainer Maria Rilke

Lord: it is time. The summer was immense.
Lay your shadow on the sundials
and let loose the wind in the fields.

Bid the last fruits to be full;
give them another two more southerly days,
press them to ripeness, and chase
the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now will not build one
Whoever is alone now will remain so for a long
will stay up, read, write long letters,
and wander the avenues, up and down,
restlessly, while the leaves are blowing. 

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Day 429: Quiet Day


Sunday, a day of rest...

Today - Mary Oliver

Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word.
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m travelling
a terrific distance.

Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Day 428: Moon In Your Eyes

Ah yes! Exactly. 

With That Moon Language - Hafiz

Why not become the one
Who lives with a full moon in each eye
That is always saying,
With that sweet moon
What every other eye in this world
Is dying to

Friday, 20 September 2013

Day 427: Grammar of Light

Now that we're beginning to lose the light in days, notice how it becomes more noticeable. Here's a poem that will remind us of the light that is still here and what it says to us:

The Grammar of Light - Carol Ann Duffy

Even barely enough light to find a mouth,
and bless both with a meaningless O, teaches,
spells out. The way a curtain opened at night
lets in neon, or moon, or a car’s hasty glance,
and paints for a moment someone you love, pierces.

And so many mornings to learn; some
when the day is wrung from damp, grey skies
and rooms come on for breakfast
in the town you are leaving early. The way
a wasteground weeps glass tears at the end of a street.

Some fluent, showing you how the trees
in the square think in birds, telepathise. The way
the waiter balances light in his hands, the coins
in his pocket silver, and a young bell shines
in its white tower ready to tell.

Even a saucer of rain in a garden at evening
speaks to the eye. Like the little fires
from allotments, undressing in veils of mauve smoke
as you walk home under the muted lamps,
perplexed. The way the shy stars go stuttering on.

And at midnight, a candle next to the wine
slurs its soft wax, flatters. Shadows
circle the table. The way all faces blur
to dream of themselves held in the eyes.
The flare of another match. The way everything dies.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Day 426: Harvest Moon 2013

'The harvest moon has come,
Booming softly through heaven, like a bassoon.' 

Tonight it's the Harvest Moon, the most famous of all the full moons. Why? Because it's the biggest of them (the moon appears closest to the earth) and the most orange in colour (reflection of light from the earth's atmosphere).

It's also been a favourite muse for writers, poets, artists and musicians for a long time. No doubt because of its striking appearance, but also everything it represents: change, letting go & moving on, fortune, symbol of a new season.

The Harvest Moon - Ted Hughes

The flame-red moon, the harvest moon,
Rolls along the hills, gently bouncing,
A vast balloon,
Till it takes off, and sinks upward
To lie on the bottom of the sky, like a gold doubloon.
The harvest moon has come,
Booming softly through heaven, like a bassoon.
And the earth replies all night, like a deep drum.

So people can't sleep,
So they go out where elms and oak trees keep
A kneeling vigil, in a religious hush.
The harvest moon has come!

And all the moonlit cows and all the sheep
Stare up at her petrified, while she swells
Filling heaven, as if red hot, and sailing
Closer and closer like the end of the world.

Till the gold fields of stiff wheat
Cry `We are ripe, reap us!' and the rivers
Sweat from the melting hills.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Day 425: Flying at Night

Flying at Night - Ted Kooser

Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations.
Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies
like a snowflake falling on water. Below us,
some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death,
snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn
back into the little system of his care.
All night, the cities, like shimmering novas,

tug with bright streets at lonely lights like his.

Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations. Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies like a snowflake falling on water. Below us, some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death, snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn back into the little system of his care. All night, the cities, like shimmering novas, tug with bright streets at lonely lights like his. - See more at:
Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations. Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies like a snowflake falling on water. Below us, some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death, snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn back into the little system of his care. All night, the cities, like shimmering novas, tug with bright streets at lonely lights like his. - See more at:
Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations. Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies like a snowflake falling on water. Below us, some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death, snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn back into the little system of his care. All night, the cities, like shimmering novas, tug with bright streets at lonely lights like his. - See more at:

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Day 424: What's in a Rose?


I love modernist poetry. It messes with your head! By that I mean, it's like a puzzle at first read, but then when the pieces of the puzzle start to come together, you  can't help but be wowed by its nifty cleverness. Like this poem - who would have thought you'd see geometry in a rose? 

Rose - William Carlos Williams
The rose is obsolete
but each petal ends in
an edge, the double facet
cementing the grooved
columns of air - The edge
cuts without cutting
meets - nothing - renews
itself in metal or porcelain -

whither? It ends - 

But if it ends
the start is begun
so that to engage roses
becomes a geometry -

Sharper, neater, more cutting
figured in majolica -
the broken plate
glazed with a rose

Somewhere the sense
makes copper roses
steel roses -

The rose carried weight of love
but love is at an end - of roses

It is at the edge of the
petal that love waits

Crisp, worked to defeat
laboredness - fragile
plucked, moist, half-raised
cold, precise, touching


The place between the petal's
edge and the

From the petal's edge a line starts
that being of steel
infinitely fine, infinitely
rigid penetrates
the Milky Way
without contact - lifting
from it - neither hanging
nor pushing -

The fragility of the flower
penetrates space

Monday, 16 September 2013

Day 423: Enjoying the Music


Oh to be different and enjoy life, despite what people around you may think!

Rain - Charles Bukowski 

a symphony orchestra.
there is a thunderstorm,
they are playing a Wagner overture
and the people leave their seats under the trees
and run inside to the pavilion
the women giggling, the men pretending calm,
wet cigarettes being thrown away,
Wagner plays on, and then they are all under the
pavilion. the birds even come in from the trees
and enter the pavilion and then it is the Hungarian
Rhapsody #2 by Lizst, and it still rains, but look,
one man sits alone in the rain
listening. the audience notices him. they turn
and look. the orchestra goes about its
business. the man sits in the night in the rain,
listening. there is something wrong with him,
isn’t there?
he came to hear the

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Day 422: Faith

Never lose faith. Keep the faith. Faith is strength. Faith will lead the way. Everyone has it, to some degree. Even if you don't - this poem seems to say - there are ways of finding it.

Faith - David Whyte

I want to write about faith,
     about the way the moon rises
        over cold snow, night after night,

faithful even as it fades from fullness,
     slowly becoming that last curving and impossible
          sliver of light before the final darkness.

But I have no faith myself
      I refuse it even the smallest entry.

Let this then, my small poem,
     like a new moon, slender and barely open,
          be the first prayer that opens me to faith.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Day 421: Waking


Good advice here...

The Waking - Theodore Roethke

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Day 420: A Divine Consolation

Emily Dickinson once said after losing her true love, that the only thing which could take his place was -  ‘the whole world in its Divine aspect’ – ie poetry.

This poem, on this day, reminds me of that statement:

Poem 125 – Emily Dickinson

A poor – torn heart – a tattered heart –
That sat it down to rest –
Nor noticed that the ebbing Day
Flowed silver to the west –
Nor noticed night did soft descend –
Nor constellation burn –
Intent upon the vision
Of latitudes unknown.

The angels – happening that way
This dusty heart espied –
Tenderly took it up from toil
And carried it to God –
There – sandals for the Barefoot –
There – gathered from the gales –
Do the blue havens by the hand
Lead the wandering Sails.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Day 419: Unloving

There’s a theme in the poems selection this week. Change of season and other changes. Carol Ann Duffy renders it perfectly and poignantly here:

Unloving – Carol Ann Duffy

Learn from the winter trees, the way
they kiss and throw away their leaves,
then hold their stricken faces in their hands
and turn to ice;

                         or from the clocks,
looking away, unloving light, the short days
running out of things to say; a church
a ghost ship on a sea of dusk.

Learn from a stone, its heart-shape meaningless,
perfect with relentless cold; or from the bigger moon,
implacably dissolving in the sky, or from the stars,
lifeless as Latin verbs.

                                   Learn from the river,
flowing always somewhere else, even its name,
change, change; learn from a rope
hung from a branch like a noose, a crow cursing,

a dead heron mourned by a congregation of flies.
Learn from the dumbstruck garden, summer’s grave,
where nothing grows, not a Beast’s rose;
from the torn veil of a web;
                                              from our daily bread:
perpetual rain, nothing like tears, unloving clouds;
language unloving love; even this stale air
unloving  all the spaces where you were.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Day 418: Mad Girl's Love Song

The villainelle form of this poem and its repetition hits home its meaning, and feeling.

Mad Girl's Love Song - Sylvia Plath

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan's men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you'd return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Day 417: I Give You Back Your Heart

'I give you back your heart...'

Usually, the 'other woman' is villainized in literature as she is in real life. The scarlet-letter wearing 'homewrecker' or moral-less temptress. But look, in this poem, Anne Sexton, has given her (or more accurately herself - she is speaking here from experience we know) a voice of compassion. 

In this poem, the other woman is self-aware and selfless; she knows she has to let go of her lover and do what is right by him - ie, send him back to his wife - regardless of how much this hurts her.  She knows his wife is better for him than she could ever be, describing her as 'solid', 'all there', 'a monument' - whereas she, the fleeting fling, has been only 'momentary', 'a luxury',  'a watercolour' that washes off. 

How very selfless and self-aware this is. Not to mention brave. No signs of jealousy or resentment, just -  love. And some beautiful lines therein.

For my Lover, Returning to His Wife - Anne Sexton

She is all there.
She was melted carefully down for you
and cast up from your childhood,
cast up from your one hundred favorite aggies.
She has always been there, my darling.
She is, in fact, exquisite.
Fireworks in the dull middle of February
and as real as a cast-iron pot.
Let's face it, I have been momentary. 

A luxury. A bright red sloop in the harbor.
My hair rising like smoke from the car window.
Littleneck clams out of season.
She is more than that. She is your have to have,
has grown you your practical your tropical growth.
This is not an experiment. She is all harmony.
She sees to oars and oarlocks for the dinghy,
has placed wild flowers at the window at breakfast,
sat by the potter's wheel at midday,
set forth three children under the moon,
three cherubs drawn by Michelangelo,
done this with her legs spread out
in the terrible months in the chapel.
If you glance up, the children are there
like delicate balloons resting on the ceiling.
She has also carried each one down the hall
after supper, their heads privately bent,
two legs protesting, person to person,
her face flushed with a song and their little sleep.
I give you back your heart.
I give you permission -
for the fuse inside her, throbbing
angrily in the dirt, for the bitch in her
and the burying of her wound -
for the burying of her small red wound alive -
for the pale flickering flare under her ribs,
for the drunken sailor who waits in her left pulse,
for the mother's knee, for the stocking,
for the garter belt, for the call -
the curious call
when you will burrow in arms and breasts
and tug at the orange ribbon in her hair
and answer the call, the curious call.
She is so naked and singular
She is the sum of yourself and your dream.
Climb her like a monument, step after step.
She is solid.
As for me, I am a watercolor.
I wash off.