Thursday, 31 October 2013

Day 468: Double Double Toil & Trouble

Ha, so many poems to choose from for today, but I think this spooky chant from the witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth is the best.  Prepare yourselves people, 'something wicked this way comes':

Witches' Chant (from Macbeth) - William Shakespeare

1st Witch:
Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.

2nd Witch:
Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin'd.

3rd Witch
Harpier cries:—'tis time! 'tis time!

1st Witch:
Round about the cauldron go:
In the poisoned entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Sweated venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first in the charmed pot.

Double,double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

2nd Witch:
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blindworm's sting,
Lizard's leg and howlet's wing.
For charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double,double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and couldron bubble.

3rd Witch:
Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witch's mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg'd in the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew;
Gall of goat; and slips of yew
Sliver'd in the moon's eclipse;
Nose of Turk, and Tartar's lips;
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver'd by a drab,-
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger's chaudron,
For ingredients of our cauldron.

Double,double toil and trouble,
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

2nd Witch:
Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Day 467: Vampires

Did you know that Yeats was very interested in the supernatural and 
the occult? Kind of obsessed  with it actually. No doubt he believed 
in vampires too. This poem from him on the subject is brief, but 

Oil and Blood - WB Yeats

In tombs of gold and lapis lazuli
Bodies of holy men and women exude
Miraculous oil, odour of violet.

But under heavy loads of trampled clay
Lie bodies of the vampires full of blood;
Their shrouds are bloody and their lips are wet.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Day 466: The Listeners

'"Is there anyone there?" said the Traveller/knocking at  the moonlit door'...

Since it's Hallowe'en this week, I'll be posting spooky-themed poems from here on in.

'The Listeners' by Walter de la Mare is quite a famous poem and chances are, you may have studied it at school at some point. (It's a favourite choice among teachers for its rhyme and sound effects). The poem also offers an example of atmosphere built up to breaking point. The tension is exceptional, created in part from its short terse lines, the night-time setting and the emphasised silence. All lending to the poem's aura of mystery.

And as everyone knows, it's atmosphere that makes something scary. Which is merited here! - 'But only a host of phantom listeners /That dwelt in the lone house then/Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight/To that voice from the world of men.' Creepy, eh?!

(Check out a spooky animated version here:

The Listeners - Walter de la Mare

"Is there anybody there?" said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grass
Of the forest's ferny floor;
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller's head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
"Is there anybody there?" he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller's call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
'Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:-
"Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word," he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone. 

Monday, 28 October 2013

Day 465: Memento Mori

'Remember that you will die...' 

Where is the fitting gravitas here? Even in regards to death, Billy Collins doesn't take himself (or it) too seriously.

Memento Mori - Billy Collins

It doesn’t take much to remind me
what a mayfly I am,
what a soap bubble floating over the children’s party.

Standing under the bones of a dinosaur
in a museum does the trick every time
or confronting in a vitrine a rock from the moon.

Even the Church of St. Anne will do,
a structure I just noticed in a magazine-
built in 1722 of sandstone and limestone in the city of Cork.

And the realization that no one
who ever breasted the waters of time
has figured out a way to avoid dying

always pulls me up by the reins and settles me down
by a roadside, grateful for the sweet weeds
and the mouthfuls of colorful wild flowers.

So many reminders of my mortality
here, there, and elsewhere, visible at every hour,
pretty much everything I can think of except you,

sign over the door of this bar in Cocoa Beach
proclaiming that it was established -
though established does not sound right - in 1996.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Day 464: In a Dark Time

'In a dark time, the eye begins to see...'

Into winter time we go after last night's official turning back of the clocks. But look, here's one good thing about the darkness - darkness of the soul, as well as of the season - it makes us more aware of who we are.

In a Dark Time - Theodore Roethke

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood-
A lord of nature weeping to a tree,
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.

What's madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day's on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall,
That place among the rocks - is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is-
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

Dark,dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Day 463: Night Falls

A short poem today, that says so much.

In Good Hands - Roger McGough

Wherever night falls
The earth is always
There to catch it.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Day 462: Everything is Art

'Art's whatever you choose to frame...'

This poem is true. After coming from an art gallery, everything you see is art. You look differently at things. Proof that Art can change our perspective on life.

Leaving the Tate - Fleur Adcock 

Coming out with your clutch of postcards
in a Tate gallery bag and another clutch
of images packed into your head you pause
on the steps to look across the river

and there’s a new one: light bright buildings,
a streak of brown water, and such a sky
you wonder who painted it - Constable? No:
too brilliant. Crome? No: too ecstatic -

a madly pure Pre-Raphaelite sky,
perhaps, sheer blue apart from the white plumes
rushing up it (today, that is,
April. Another day would be different

but it wouldn’t matter. All skies work.)
Cut to the lower right for a detail:
seagulls pecking on mud, below
two office blocks and a Georgian terrace.

Now swing to the left, and take in plane-trees
bobbled with seeds, and that brick building,
and a red bus…Cut it off just there,
by the lamp-post. Leave the scaffolding in.

That’s your next one. Curious how
these outdoor pictures didn’t exist
before you’d looked at the indoor pictures,
the ones on the walls. But here they are now,

marching out of their panorama
and queuing up for the viewfinder
your eye’s become. You can isolate them
by holding your optic muscles still.

You can zoom in on figure studies
(that boy with the rucksack), or still lives,
abstracts, townscapes. No one made them.
The light painted them. You’re in charge

of the hanging committee. Put what space
you like around the ones you fix on,
and gloat. Art multiplies itself.
Art’s whatever you choose to frame.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Day 461: Echoing Light

'...and everywhere the colors I cannot take
my eyes from all of them red even the wide streams...'

A poem about autumn, imagination, flying and transformation. (The lack of punctuation is as always with WS Mervin, intentional, and wholly effective.)

Echoing Light- WS Mervin

When I was beginning to read I imagined
that bridges had something to do with birds
and with what seemed to be cages but I knew
that they were not cages it must have been autumn
with the dusty light flashing from the streetcar wires
and those orange places on fire in the pictures
and now indeed it is autumn the clear
days not far from the sea with a small wind nosing
over dry grass that yesterday was green
the empty corn standing trembling and a down
of ghost flowers veiling the ignored fields
and everywhere the colors I cannot take
my eyes from all of them red even the wide streams
red it is the season of migrants
flying at night feeling the turning earth
beneath them and I woke in the city hearing
the call notes of the plover then again and
again before I slept and here far downriver
flocking together echoing close to the shore
the longest bridges have opened their slender wings

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Day 460: To a Poet

I love this poem, every word of it, every truth of it. But most of all, its sentiment. I think it could be subtitled - 'To a Poet' or 'To a Seeker', 'To a Feeler'.  It seems to say that the sensitive souls in this world, the believers and seekers of beauty, matter more than they might know.

Towards A New Renaissance - Rachel Boast

Dear Friend with a crescent moon above your door,
I have heard that you are overcome by poetry,

that you are afloat somewhere inside the world’s great
sorrow, with the language of love as your compass.

You have been gone a long time, a white sail
full of clear sky, and no land in sight.

One such as you will become an ocean unto itself
because you learn and live your craft well.

Don’t forget to report back to us - I have a feeling
the universal winds are sensitive to words.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Day 459: Song for Autumn

Song for Autumn - Mary Oliver

In the deep fall
    don't you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
    the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
    freshets of wind? And don't you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
    warm caves, begin to think

of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
    inside their bodies? And don't you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
    the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
    vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
    its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
    the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Day 458: Promise of Sky

Spirit of Flight ~ Josephine Wall

Head in the clouds, the sky's the limit, sky-high....

To me, sky means possibility, potential, the high horizons of hope. Therefore, I love this poem. Like a vista of blue sky opening out on the page!

Sky - William Stafford

I like you with nothing. Are you
what I was? What I will be?
I look out there by the hour,
so clear, so sure. I could
smile, or frown – still nothing.

Be my father, be my mother,
great sleep of blue; reach
far within me; open doors,
find whatever is hiding; invite it
for many clear days in the sun.

When I turn away I know
you are there. We won’t forget
each other: every look is a promise.
Others can’t tell what you say
when it’s the blue voice, when
you come to the window and look for me.

Your word arches over
the roof all day. I know it
within my bowed head, where
the other sky listens.
You will bring me
everything when the time comes.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Day 457: Everything is a Miracle

'As to me I know of nothing else but miracles...'

Good old Whit, singing the praise of life once again - 'wonderfulness' in everything, everywhere.

Miracles - Walt Whitman

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge
      of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at
      night with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining
       so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread
       with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.

To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim — the rocks — the motion of the
      waves — the ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Day 456: Moon Hymn

A lovely depiction of the moon as feminine, by Alice Oswald ~

Moon Hymn - Alice Oswald 

I will give you one glimpse
a glimpse of the moon's grievance
whose appearance is all pocks and points
that look like frost-glints

I will wave my hand to her
in her first quarter
when the whole world is against her
shadowy exposure of her centre

o the moon loves to wander
I will go clockwise and stare
when she is huge when she is half elsewhere
half naked, in struggle with the air

and growing rounder and rounder
a pert peering creature
I love her sidling and awkward
when she's not quite circular

o criminal and ingrown
skinned animal o moon
carrying inside yourself your own
death's head, your dark one

why do you chop yourself away
piece by piece, to that final trace
of an outline of ice
on a cupful of space?

Friday, 18 October 2013

Day 455: Howling at the Moon


Tonight is October's full moon, the Hunter's Moon. It always reminds me of wolves, howling at the moon.

Since I couldn't seem to find any poems about either subject, this song by singer/songwriter Josh Ritter (not just one of the most poetic lyricists around - but a novelist too) popped into my head.
 About wolves and the moon, but something else, most entirely - 'Then one day I just woke up/And the wolves were all there/Wolves in the piano/Wolves underneath the stairs...' The instinct of intuition? The call of the wild? The restlessness for freedom? You decide!

Wolves - Josh Ritter

I still remember that time when we were dancing
We were dancing to a song that I'd heard
Your face was simple and your hands were naked
I was singing without knowing the words
But I started listening to the wolves in the timber
Wolves in the timber at night
I heard their songs when I looked in the mirror
In the howls and the moons round my eyes

So long, so high
So long, so high
So long, so high
So long

Then winter came and there was little left between us
Skin and bones of love won't make a meal
I felt my eyes lifting over your shoulder
There were wolves at the edge of the field
But I still remember that time when we were dancing
We were dancing to a song that I'd heard
Your face was simple and your hands were naked
I was singing without knowing the words

So long, so high
So long, so high
So long, so high
So long

Then one day I just woke up
And the wolves were all there
Wolves in the piano
Wolves underneath the stairs
Wolves inside the hinges
Circling round my door
At night inside the bedsprings
Clicking across the floor
I don't know how they found me
I'll never know quite how
I still can't believe they heard me
That I was howling out that loud

So long, so high
So long, so high
So long, so high
So long

At times in the frozen nights I go roaming
In the bed she used to share with me
I wake in the fields with the cold and the lonesome
The moon's the only face that I see
But I still remember that time when we were dancing
We were dancing to a song that I'd heard
Your face was simple and your hands were naked
I was singing without knowing the words

So long, so high...

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Day 454: Hand

 I love hands, don't you? This poem explains some of their mystery and beauty.

A Hand - Jane Hirshfield

A hand is not four fingers and a thumb.

Nor is it palm and knuckles,
not ligaments or the fat's yellow pillow,
not tendons, star of the wristbone, meander of veins.

A hand is not the thick thatch of its lines
with their infinite dramas,
nor what it has written,
not on the page,
not on the ecstatic body.

Nor is the hand its meadows of holding, of shaping -
not sponge of rising yeast-bread,
not rotor pin's smoothness,
not ink.

The maple's green hands do not cup
the proliferant rain.
What empties itself falls into the place that is open.

A hand turned upward holds only a single, transparent question.

Unanswerable, humming like bees, it rises, swarms, departs.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Day 453: Just Another Autumn Day

A perfect poem for post-Budget day here in Ireland...

Look at it this way folks, the best things in life are free - thankfully! Imagine, as Roger Mc Gough does here, if they weren't. - If we had to pay to enjoy autumn. If sunsets were restricted. If leaves were outlawed. But they're not. So let's enjoy them!!! And look on each day as not 'just another autumn day', but another beautiful, glorious, wonder-filled day, with lots of stunning free nature to enjoy!

Just Another Autumn Day - Roger Mc Gough

In Parliament, the Minister
for Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness
announces, that owing to
inflation and rising costs
there will be no Autumn
next year. September, October
and November are to be
cancelled, and the Government
to bring in the nine-month year instead.
Thus we will all live longer.

Emergency measures are to be
introduced to combat outbreaks
of well-being, and feelings
of elation inspired by the season.
Breathtaking sunsets will be
restricted to alternate Fridays
and gentle dusks prohibited.
Fallen leaves will be outlawed,
and persons found in possession
of conkers, imprisoned without trial.
Thus we will all work harder.

The announcement caused little reaction.
People either way don't really care
No time have they to stand and stare
Looking for work or slaving away
Just another Autumn day.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Day 452: Assurance

I just love this poem. These past few days have been beautiful sunny yellow autumn ones filled with myriad colours and the feeling they engender is exactly like in this poem - an assurance most definitely.

Assurance - William Stafford

You will never be alone, you hear so deep
a sound when autumn comes. Yellow
pulls across the hills and thrums,
or the silence after lightening before it says
its names - and then the clouds' wide-mouthed
apologies. You were aimed from birth:
you will never be alone. Rain
will come, a gutter filled, an Amazon,
long aisles - you never heard so deep a sound,
moss on rock, and years. You turn your head -
that’s what the silence meant: you’re not alone.
The whole wide world pours down.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Day 451: Welcome Morning

A good way to start a Monday morning (and all mornings!) -

Welcome Morning - Anne Sexton

There is joy
in all:
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
each morning,
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
each morning,
in the spoon and the chair
that cry “hello there, Anne”
each morning,
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
each morning.

All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
each morning
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.

So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.

The Joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard,
dies young.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Day 450: To Hope


'Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!'

Some Keats today. I must admit I have a soft spot for Keats. He was one of the Romantics and one of the youngest poets to achieve such fame (sadly he died at 25). I'm reading the collected edition of his letters right now and loving it, especially the wit and frequent poetic musings.

Although the language may at first make you stumble, don't be put off. Read it slow, read to savour each word and see how beautiful it really is.

To Hope- John Keats

When by my solitary hearth I sit,
When no fair dreams before my ‘mind’s eye’ flit,
And the bare heath of life presents no bloom;
Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head.

Whene’er I wander, at the fall of night,
Where woven boughs shut out the moon’s bright ray,
Should sad Despondency my musings fright,
And frown, to drive fair Cheerfulness away,
Peep with the moon-beams through the leafy roof,
And keep that fiend Despondence far aloof.

Should Disappointment, parent of Despair,
Strive for her son to seize my careless heart;
When, like a cloud, he sits upon the air,
Preparing on his spell-bound prey to dart:
Chase him away, sweet Hope, with visage bright,
And fright him as the morning frightens night!

Whene’er the fate of those I hold most dear
Tells to my fearful breast a tale of sorrow,
O bright-eyed Hope, my morbid fancy cheer;
Let me awhile thy sweetest comforts borrow:
Thy heaven-born radiance around me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

Should e’er unhappy love my bosom pain,
From cruel parents, or relentless fair;
O let me think it is not quite in vain
To sigh out sonnets to the midnight air!
Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

In the long vista of the years to roll,
Let me not see our country’s honour fade:
O let me see our land retain her soul,
Her pride, her freedom; and not freedom’s shade.
From thy bright eyes unusual brightness shed -
Beneath thy pinions canopy my head!

Let me not see the patriot’s high bequest,
Great Liberty! how great in plain attire!
With the base purple of a court oppress’d,
Bowing her head, and ready to expire:
But let me see thee stoop from heaven on wings
That fill the skies with silver glitterings!

And as, in sparkling majesty, a star
Gilds the bright summit of some gloomy cloud;
Brightening the half veil’d face of heaven afar:
So, when dark thoughts my boding spirit shroud,
Sweet Hope, celestial influence round me shed,
Waving thy silver pinions o’er my head.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Day 449: Wings

Watch out for wonder and magic, it can come sneaking in on you unawares.  You could even meet a Greek god in a busy crossing as Fleur Adcock details here!

At the Crossing - Fleur Adcock

The tall guy in a green T-shirt,
vanishing past me as I cross
in the opposite direction,
has fairy wings on his shoulders:
toy ones, children’s fancy-dress wings,
cartoonish butterfly cut-outs.

Do they say gay? No time for that.
He flickers past the traffic lights –
whoosh! gone! – outside categories.
Do they say foreign? They say young.
They say London. Grab it, they say.
Kiss the winged joy as it flies.

Traffic swings around the corner;
gusts of drizzle sweep us along
the Strand in the glittering dark,
threading to and fro among skeins
of never-quite-colliding blurs.
All this whirling’s why we came out.

Those fragile flaps could lift no one.
Perhaps they were ironic wings,
tongue-in-cheek look-at-me tokens
to make it clear he had no need
of hydraulics, being himself
                  Wings, though; definite wings.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Day 448: No Rush


Love this simple subtle poem from Billy Collins on what's important in life.

My Hero - Billy Collins

Just as the hare is zipping across the finish line,
the tortoise has stopped once again
by the roadside,
this time to stick out his neck
and nibble a bit of sweet grass,
unlike the previous time
when he was distracted
by a bee humming in the heart of a wildflower. 

Just as the hare is zipping across the finish line,
the tortoise has stopped once again
by the roadside,
this time to stick out his neck
and nibble a bit of sweet grass,
unlike the previous time
when he was distracted
by a bee humming in the heart of a wildflower. - See more at:
Just as the hare is zipping across the finish line,
the tortoise has stopped once again
by the roadside,
this time to stick out his neck
and nibble a bit of sweet grass,
unlike the previous time
when he was distracted
by a bee humming in the heart of a wildflower. - See more at:

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Day 447: Variations on the Word 'Love'


Who better to give an analysis of love than Margaret Atwood? (Be afraid, be very afraid romantics....) Prepare to be shocked and surprised, as always with Atwood.  But significantly so.

Variations On The Word Love - Margaret Atwood 

This is a word we use to plug
holes with. It’s the right size for those warm
blanks in speech, for those red heart-
shaped vacancies on the page that look nothing
like real hearts. Add lace
and you can sell
it. We insert it also in the one empty
space on the printed form
that comes with no instructions. There are whole
magazines with not much in them
but the word love, you can
rub it all over your body and you
can cook with it too. How do we know
it isn’t what goes on at the cool
debaucheries of slugs under damp
pieces of cardboard? As for the weed-
seedlings nosing their tough snouts up
among the lettuces, they shout it.
Love! Love! sing the soldiers, raising
their glittering knives in salute.

Then there’s the two
of us. This word
is far too short for us, it has only
four letters, too sparse
to fill those deep bare
vacuums between the stars
that press on us with their deafness.
It’s not love we don’t wish
to fall into, but that fear.
this word is not enough but it will
have to do. It’s a single
vowel in this metallic
silence, a mouth that says
O again and again in wonder
and pain, a breath, a finger
grip on a cliffside. You can
hold on or let go.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Day 446: Sad Music

Roger Mc Gough, being serious here for a change. 

Sad Music - Roger McGough

We fall to the earth like leaves
Lives as brief as footprints in snow
No words express the grief we feel
I feel I cannot let her go.

For she is everywhere.
Walking on the windswept beach
Talking in the sunlit square.
Next to me in the car
I see her sitting there.

At night she dreams me
and in the morning the sun does not rise.
My life is as thin as the wind
And I am done with counting the stars.

She is gone  she is gone.
I am her sad music, and I play on, and on, and on.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Day 445: To My Heart at the Close of Day

What is it you really want to do before you die? Before the evening overtakes the day? For the heart is ready - feel it pounding in your chest right now at all the possibility and potential this life holds. It's ready to bat. Ready to strike for a home-run. All you have to do is - step up.

To My Heart at the Close of Day - Kenneth Koch

At dusk light you come to bat
As George Trakl might put it. How are you doing
Aside from that, aside from the fact
That you are at bat? What balls are you going to hit
Into the outfield, what runs will you score,
And do you think you ever will, eventually,
Bat one out of the park? That would be a thrill
To you and your contemporaries! Your mighty posture
Takes its stand in my chest and swing swing swing
You warm up, then you take a great step
Forward as the ball comes smashing toward you, home
Plate. And suddenly it is evening.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Day 444: Howl


On this day in 1955 Allen Ginsberg read his now infamous radical manifesto poem 'Howl' for the first time and the Beat generation came of age. 

For anyone who is unfamiliar with the Beat movement in poetry, it was  quite a revolutionary one that rebelled against the mainstream established literary field and also against the conformity of society they saw as regimented and restrictive. Their form is free-verse (in the ultimate sense) and stream-of-consciousness with the aim of intellectual and emotional expression, inhibition-free.
(Read more on The Beats: here)

Since it is such a long poem (but a fantastic one) I've included an audio of Allen Ginsberg reading the whole thing to go along with the excerpt below, for it's really in the reading of it aloud that it comes alive.
(And here is a link to an entrancing animated version of the poem too:

Howl - Allen Ginsberg

For Carl Solomon

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull,
who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their money in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall,
who got busted in their pubic beards returning through Laredo with a belt of marijuana for New York,
who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in Paradise Alley, death, or purgatoried their torsos night after night
with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and cock and endless balls,
incomparable blind streets of shuddering cloud and lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of Canada & Paterson, illuminating all the motionless world of Time between,
Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops, storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brooklyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind,
who chained themselves to subways for the endless ride from Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine until the noise of wheels and children brought them down shuddering mouth-wracked and battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance in the drear light of Zoo,
who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford’s floated out and sat through the stale beer afternoon in desolate Fugazzi’s, listening to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox,
who talked continuously seventy hours from park to pad to bar to Bellevue to museum to the Brooklyn Bridge,
a lost battalion of platonic conversationalists jumping down the stoops off fire escapes off windowsills off Empire State out of the moon,
yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts and memories and anecdotes and eyeball kicks and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars,
whole intellects disgorged in total recall for seven days and nights with brilliant eyes, meat for the
Synagogue cast on the pavement,
who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a trail of ambiguous picture postcards of Atlantic City Hall,
suffering Eastern sweats and Tangerian bone-grindings and migraines of China under
junk-withdrawal in Newark’s bleak furnished room,   
who wandered around and around at midnight in the railroad yard wondering where to go, and went, leaving no broken hearts...

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Day 443: A Brief for the Defence

Jack Gilbert makes a good case here for celebrating life, even in the face of its hardships: 
'We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world...'

A Brief for the Defense - Jack Gilbert

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Day 442: The Midas Touch

I'm so excited to be going to a Carol Ann Duffy reading tonight! She's one of my favourite poets, as I've mentioned a lot here before!

Here she is in one of her famous dramatic monologues, re-imagining the forgotten female figures in myth and history. In this one, it's the wife of Midas, and the poem is a thrilling mixture of her quickfire wit and trademark humour, saying something significant, as always, beneath the surface.

Mrs Midas - Carol Ann Duffy

It was late September. I'd just poured a glass of wine, begun
to unwind, while the vegetables cooked. The kitchen
filled with the smell of itself, relaxed, its steamy breath
gently blanching the windows. So I opened one,
then with my fingers wiped the other's glass like a brow.
He was standing under the pear tree snapping a twig.

Now the garden was long and the visibility poor, the way
the dark of the ground seems to drink the light of the sky,
but that twig in his hand was gold. And then he plucked
a pear from a branch - we grew Fondante d'Automne -
and it sat in his palm like a light bulb. On.
I thought to myself, Is he putting fairy lights in the tree?

He came into the house. The doorknobs gleamed.
He drew the blinds. You know the mind; I thought of
the Field of the Cloth of Gold and of Miss Macready.
He sat in that chair like a king on a burnished throne.
The look on his face was strange, wild, vain. I said,
What in the name of God is going on? He started to laugh.

I served up the meal. For starters, corn on the cob.
Within seconds he was spitting out the teeth of the rich.
He toyed with his spoon, then mine, then with the knives, the forks.
He asked where was the wine. I poured with shaking hand,
a fragrent, bone-dry white from Italy, then watched
as he picked up the glass, goblet, golden chalice, drank.

It was then that I started to scream. He sank to his knees.
After we had both calmed down, I finished the wine
on my own, hearing him out. I made him sit
on the other side of the room and keep his hands to himself.
I locked the cat in the cellar. I moved the phone.
The toilet I didn't mind. I couldn't believe my ears:

how he'd had a wish. Look, we all have wishes; granted.
But who has wishes granted? Him. Do you know about gold?
It feeds no one; aurum, soft, untarnishable; slakes
no thirst. He tried to light a cigarette; I gazed, entranced,
as the blue flame played on its luteous stem. At least,
I said, you'll be able to give up smoking for good.

Seperate beds. In fact, I put a chair against my door,
near petrified. He was below, turning the spare room
into the tomb of Tutankhamun. You see, we were passionate then,
in those halcyon days; unwrapping each other, rapidly,
like presents, fast food. But now I feared his honeyed embrace,
the kiss that would turn my lips to a work of art.

And who, when it comes to the crunch, can live
with a heart of gold? That night, I dreamt I bore
his child, its perfect ore limbs, its little tongue
like a precious latch, its amber eyes
holding their pupils like flies. My dream-milk
burned in my breasts. I woke to the streaming sun.

So he had to move out. We'd a caravan
in the wilds, in a glade of its own. I drove him up
under cover of dark. He sat in the back.
And then I came home, the women who married the fool
who wished for gold. At first I visited, odd times,
parking the car a good way off, then walking.

You knew you were getting close. Golden trout
on the grass. One day, a hare hung from a larch,
a beautiful lemon mistake. And then his footprints,
glistening next to the river's path. He was thin,
delirious; hearing, he said, the music of Pan
from the woods. Listen. That was the last straw.

What gets me now is not the idiocy or greed
but lack of thought for me. Pure selfishness. I sold
the contents of the house and came down here.
I think of him in certain lights, dawn, late afternoon,
and once a bowl of apples stopped me dead. I miss most,
even now, his hands, his warm hands on my skin, his touch.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Day 441: Full Indian Rope Trick

I had the great fortune of attending a reading by Colette Bryce last night. Here is her superb debut poem:

The Full Indian Rope Trick - Colette Bryce

There was no secret
murmured down through a long line
of elect; no dark fakir, no flutter
of notes from a pipe,
no proof, no footage of it -
but I did it,

Guildhall Square, noon,
in front of everyone.
There were walls, bells, passers-by;
then a rope, thrown, caught by the sky
and me, young, up and away,

Goodbye, goodbye.
Thin air. First try.
A crowd hushed, squinting eyes
at a full sun. There
on the stones
the slack weight of a rope

coiled in a crate, a braid
eighteen summers long,
and me
I'm long gone,
my one-off trick
unique, unequalled since.

And what would I tell them
given the chance?
It was painful; it took years.
I'm my own witness,
guardian of the fact
that I'm still here.

© Colette Bryce 'The Full Indian Rope Trick' Picador Poetry 

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Day 440: National Poetry Day Poem

'Poetry demands surrender, language saying what is true,
doing holy things to the ordinary...'

It's National Poetry day here in Ireland and there's a lot of events going on around the country to celebrate it. I'm off to a workshop and a poetry reading tonight and can't wait! For now, here's a poem that explains a bit more about poetry and finding a way in, for poetry is for everyone! 

How to Read a Poem: Beginner's Manual - Pamela Spiro Wagner

First, forget everything you have learned,
that poetry is difficult,
that it cannot be appreciated by the likes of you,
with your high school equivalency diploma,
your steel-tipped boots,
or your white-collar misunderstandings.
Do not assume meanings hidden from you:
the best poems mean what they say and say it.

To read poetry requires only courage
enough to leap from the edge
and trust.
Treat a poem like dirt,
humus rich and heavy from the garden.
Later it will become the fat tomatoes
and golden squash piled high upon your kitchen table.

Poetry demands surrender, language saying what is true,
doing holy things to the ordinary.
Read just one poem a day.
Someday a book of poems may open in your hands
like a daffodil offering its cup
to the sun.

When you can name five poets
without including Bob Dylan,
when you exceed your quota
and don't even notice,
close this manual.

You can now read poetry.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Day 439: October Reflection

'Little by little, and also in great leaps,/life happened to me' 

Autumn is the season of reflection and this is most true here in this poem by Neruda in which he looks back on his life's harvest with a discerning eye and offers us once again, undisputed truth: 'my business was the fullness of the spirit'.

October Fullness - Pablo Neruda

Little by little, and also in great leaps,
life happened to me,
and how insignificant this business is.
These veins carried
my blood, which I scarcely ever saw,
I breathed the air of so many places
without keeping a sample of any.
In the end, everyone is aware of this:
nobody keeps any of what he has,
and life is only a borrowing of bones.
The best thing was learning not to have too much
either of sorrow or of joy,
to hope for the chance of a last drop,
to ask more from honey and from twilight.

Perhaps it was my punishment.
Perhaps I was condemned to be happy.
Let it be known that nobody
crossed my path without sharing my being.
I plunged up to the neck
into adversities that were not mine,
into all the sufferings of others.
It wasn’t a question of applause or profit.
Much less. It was not being able
to live or breathe in this shadow,
the shadow of others like towers,
like bitter trees that bury you,
like cobblestones on the knees.

Our own wounds heal with weeping,
our own wounds heal with singing,
but in our own doorway lie bleeding
widows, Indians, poor men, fishermen.
The miner’s child doesn’t know his father
amidst all that suffering.

So be it, but my business
the fullness of the spirit:
a cry of pleasure choking you,
a sigh from an uprooted plant,
the sum of all action.

It pleased me to grow with the morning,
to bathe in the sun, in the great joy
of sun, salt, sea-light and wave,
and in that unwinding of the foam
my heart began to move,
growing in that essential spasm,
and dying away as it seeped into the sand.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Day 438: October

The first of a new month always takes everyone by surprise, another reminder of how fast time is flying by. But it also is a nice surprise, a fresh start, a beginning, with infinite new chances to reap.  

And a favourite month of many, October, the highpoint of autumnn, with its 'garments of leaves,/woven like cloth of gold.' Here's Longfellow with his observant take on the month (the full poem detailing all the months of the year can be read here)

October - from 'The Poet's Calendar' - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

My ornaments are fruits; my garments leaves,
  Woven like cloth of gold, and crimson dyed;
I do not boast the harvesting of sheaves,
  O'er orchards and o'er vineyards I preside.
Though on the frigid Scorpion I ride,
  The dreamy air is full, and overflows
With tender memories of the summer-tide,
  And mingled voices of the doves and crows.