Sunday, 30 August 2015

A Spirit Moved

Today marks the two year anniversary of the death of Seamus Heaney. I came across this poem of his yesterday, one he wrote to commemorate Harvard's 350th anniversary, and thought it fitting to post here today.

Villainelle For An Anniversary - Seamus Heaney

A spirit moved. John Harvard walked the yard,
The atom lay unsplit, the west unwon,
The books stood open and the gates unbarred.

The maps dreamt on like moondust. Nothing stirred.
The future was a verb in hibernation.
A spirit moved, John Harvard walked the yard.

Before the classic style, before the clapboard,
All through the small hours of an origin,
The books stood open and the gate unbarred.

Night passage of a migratory bird.
Wingflap. Gownflap. Like a homing pigeon
A spirit moved, John Harvard walked the yard.

Was that his soul (look) sped to its reward
By grace or works? A shooting star? An omen?
The books stood open and the gate unbarred.

Begin again where frosts and tests were hard.
Find yourself or founder. Here, imagine
A spirit moves, John Harvard walks the yard,
The books stand open and the gates unbarred.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Moon Song


Tonight is August's Full Moon, The Sturgeon Moon, and a beautiful one it is.  Big and bright and bountiful. 
(If you'd like to indulge in more moon poetry, you can have a look at my recent post on my main blog: Blue Moon Postlude)

Morning Song - Sara Teasdale

A diamond of a morning 
Waked me an hour too soon;
Dawn had taken in the stars 
And left the faint white moon. 

O white moon, you are lonely, 
It is the same with me,
But we have the world to roam over, 
Only the lonely are free.

Friday, 28 August 2015

August Sadness

You'll notice a certain theme here the past few days: the melancholy of summer ending, the sweet sadness of August, that lingering limbo time between an end and a new beginning. 

I love how this poem describes it, this poem about sadness set in summer's end, which always signifies some kind of loss: 'To speak of that other world we might have borne,/The lost world buried before it could be born...' And this particular line, this particular feeling August embodies: 'the sky of a peculiar sadness— The other side perhaps of some rare gladness.' That's it really.

Sadness Poem - Donald Justice

Dear ghosts, dear presences, O my dear parents,
Why were you so sad on porches, whispering?
What great melancholies were loosed among our swings!
As before a storm one hears the leaves whispering
And marks each small change in the atmosphere,
So was it then to overhear and to fear.

But all things then were oracle and secret.
Remember the night when, lost, returning, we turned back
Confused, and our headlights singled out the fox?
Our thoughts went with it then, turning and turning back
With the same terror, into the deep thicket
Beside the highway, at home in the dark thicket.

I say the wood within is the dark wood,
Or wound no torn shirt can entirely bandage,
But the sad hand returns to it in secret
Repeatedly, encouraging the bandage
To speak of that other world we might have borne,
The lost world buried before it could be born.

Burchfield describes the pinched white souls of violets
Frothing the mouth of a derelict old mine
Just as an evil August night comes down,
All umber, but for one smudge of dusky carmine.
It is the sky of a peculiar sadness—
The other side perhaps of some rare gladness.

What is it to be happy, after all? Think
Of the first small joys. Think of how our parents
Would whistle as they packed for the long summers,
Or, busy about the usual tasks of parents,
Smile down at us suddenly for some secret reason,
Or simply smile, not needing any reason.

But even in the summers we remember
The forest had its eyes, the sea its voices,
And there were roads no map would ever master,
Lost roads and moonless nights and ancient voices—
And night crept down with an awful slowness toward the water;
And there were lanterns once, doubled in the water.

Sadness has its own beauty, of course. Toward dusk,
Let us say, the river darkens and look bruised,
And we stand looking out at it through rain.
It is as if life itself were somehow bruised
And tender at this hour; and a few tears commence.
Not that they are but that they feel immense.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Light at the End of Summer

And a strange, long, melancholy kind of light it is. 

I particularly love WS Mervin's trademark lack of punctuation here - it really enhances the sense of not knowing when one is and deep uncertainty that abides in the poem. Not to mention the well-chosen line-breaks - notice how they often put a word into an unexpected association -   'peopled/ with absences' is just one example.

Season - WS Mervin

This hour along the valley this light at the end
       of summer lengthening as it begins to go
this whisper in the tawny grass this feather floating
       in the air this house of half a life or so
this blue door open to the lingering sun this stillness
       echoing from the rooms like an unfinished sound
this fraying of voices at the edge of the village
       beyond the dusty gardens this breath of knowing
without knowing anything this old branch from which
       years and faces go on falling this presence already
far away this restless alien in the cherished place
       this motion with no measure this moment peopled
with absences with everything that I remember here
       eyes the wheeze of the gate greetings birdsongs in winter
the heart dividing dividing and everything
       that has slipped my mind as I consider the shadow
all this has occurred to somebody else who has gone
       as I am told and indeed it has happened again
and again and I go on trying to understand
       how that could ever be and all I know of them
is what they felt in the light here in this late summer

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Summer's End


'Summer specializes in time, slows it down almost to dream...'

Such a strange, melancholy time of year summer's end. Like waking up from a dream alright. 

Late Summer - Jennifer Grotz

Before the moths have even appeared
to orbit around them, the streetlamps come on,
a long row of them glowing uselessly
along the ring of garden that circles the city center,
where your steps count down the dulling of daylight.
At your feet, a bee crawls in small circles like a toy unwinding.
Summer specializes in time, slows it down almost to dream.
And the noisy day goes so quiet you can hear
the bedraggled man who visits each trash receptacle
mutter in disbelief: Everything in the world is being thrown away!
Summer lingers, but it’s about ending. It’s about how things
redden and ripen and burst and come down. It’s when
city workers cut down trees, demolishing
one limb at a time, spilling the crumbs
of twigs and leaves all over the tablecloth of street.
Sunglasses! the man softly exclaims
while beside him blooms a large gray rose of pigeons
huddled around a dropped piece of bread.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Still Life with Sea Pinks and High Tide

Taken from the brilliant poetry initiative by Carol Ann Duffy in The Guardian: Keep It On The Ground: 20 Poems on Climate Change.

This poem is short and simple but powerful.  

Still Life with Sea Pinks and High Tide - Maura Dooley 

Thrift grows tenacious at the tide’s reach.
What is that reach when the water
is rising, rising?

Our melting, shifting, liquid world won’t wait
for manifesto or mandate, each
warning a reckoning.

Ice in our gin or vodka chirrups and squeaks
dissolving in the hot, still air
of talking, talking.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Roses, Late Summer

Beautiful wisdom for a Sunday.

Roses, Late Summer- Mary Oliver

What happens
to the leaves after
they turn red and golden and fall
away? What happens

to the singing birds
when they can't sing
any longer? What happens
to their quick wings?

Do you think there is any
personal heaven
for any of us?
Do you think anyone,

the other side of that darkness,
will call to us, meaning us?
Beyond the trees
the foxes keep teaching their children

to live in the valley.
So they never seem to vanish, they are always there
in the blossom of light
that stands up every morning

in the dark sky.
And over one more set of hills,
along the sea,
the last roses have opened their factories of sweetness

and are giving it back to the world.
If I had another life
I would want to spend it all on some
unstinting happiness.

I would be a fox, or a tree
full of waving branches.
I wouldn't mind being a rose
in a field of roses.

Fear has not yet occurred to them, nor ambition.
Reason they have not yet thought of.
Neither do they ask how long they must be roses, and then what.
Or any other foolish question.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

The Way It Is

Ain't that the truth! Gotta love The Buk.

Well, That's Just The Way It Is - Charles Bukowski 

Sometimes when everything seems at
its worst
when all conspires
and gnaws
annd the hours, days, weeks
seem wasted -
stretched there upon my bed
in the dark
looking upward at the ceiling
I get what many will consider an
obnoxious thought:
it's still nice to be

Friday, 21 August 2015

First Love


What makes a good poem? I'd say when the swirl of feelings, emotions and all kinds of vague notions are translated into an imaginative expression that rings not only pleasing, a-ha accurate and authentic, but true. So true it resonates not only at the logical level, but the emotional core. And what makes a good love poem? Wonder, starry-eyed wonder - and the language to prove it all true of course.

Like this poem from Stanley Kunitz in which the transformation love engenders is described in simple but astonishing detail. I love every wonder-swept line of it. True, true, true.

First Love - Stanley Kunitz 
At his incipient sun
The ice of twenty winters broke,
Crackling, in her eyes.

Her mirroring, still mind,
That held the world (made double) calm,
Went fluid, and it ran.

There was a stir of music,
Mixed with flowers, in her blood;
A swift impulsive balm

From obscure roots;
Gold bees of clinging light
Swarmed in her brow.

Her throat is full of songs,
She hums, she is sensible of wings
Growing on her heart.

She is a tree in spring
Trembling with the hope of leaves,
Of which the leaves are tongues.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Imaginary Morning Glory

 'If blue/ were  not blue how could love be love...'

Yes, if you ask me, there is definitely a correlation between the colour blue and love! (I don't mind that I don't know exactly what this poem is about, but I know I like what it is getting at. And I love how open it is to imaginative interpretation.)

Imaginary Morning Glory - C.D. Wright

Whether or not the water was freezing. The body

would break its sheathe. Without layer on layer

of feather and air to insulate the loving belly.

A cloudy film surrounding the point of entry. If blue

were  not blue how could love be love. But if the body

were made of rings. A loose halo would emerge

in the telluric light. If anyone were entrusted to verify

this rare occurrence. As the petal starts to

dwindle and curl unto itself. And only then. Love,

blue. Hallucinogenic blue, love.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Song of The Sea, Song of the Shore

The sea and the shore - they're often personified as lovers aren't they, constant companions, ever in flux, but always steady, fixed. I like this pairing of poems, giving voice to each. 

Song of the Sea to the Shore - Robert Fanning

Unraveling velvet, wave after wave, driven   
by wind, unwinding by storm, by gravity thrown—   
however, heaving to reach you, to find you, I've striven   
undulant, erosive, blown—   

or lying flat as glass for your falling clear   
down: I can't swallow you. So why   
have I felt I've reached you—as two reflected stars,   
surfaced, lie near—as if the sky's   

close element is one in me, where starfish   
cleave to stones—if you're so far?   
I've touched you, I know, but my rush         
subsides; our meetings only leave desire's   

fleeting trace. Every place I touch you   
changes shape. Shore, lie down—   
undo. I'll fill your thirsty bones with blue.   
I'll flood your every cave and we'll be one.
Song of the Shore to the Sea - Robert Fanning
It's never enough being one. Why do I hope
to contain you: always undoing and undone;
every place you touch me changes shape.
It's not my way to just lie down;

to sink, effaced and full. If you
swallow me, you're drained, and half
of us is gone. Desire's fulfillment is two,
not one, or our tidal meetings are through.

So hurl your wet force forward, sea,
take me wave by wave. Pearl maker, pull
me deep; our one's a need, a momentary
bliss. What I erect, you spill—

castles, boulders, cliffs. My love's endurance
grain by grain; your adoration's rain.
Touch my bones, my canyon's carved evidence.
Even the moon who moves you is stone.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Pretty Halcyon Days

Yes, they're almost over now, those shimmering days of summer...

Pretty Halcyon Days - Ogden Nash

How pleasant to sit on the beach,
On the beach, on the sand, in the sun,
With ocean galore within reach,
And nothing at all to be done!
No letters to answer,
No bills to be burned,
No work to be shirked,
No cash to be earned.
It is pleasant to sit on the beach
With nothing at all to be done.

How pleasant to look at the ocean,
Democratic and damp; indiscriminate;
It fills me with noble emotion
To think I am able to swim in it.
To lave in the wave,
Majestic and chilly,
Tomorrow I crave;
But today it is silly.
It is pleasant to look at the ocean;
Tomorrow, perhaps, I shall swim in it.

How pleasant to gaze at the sailors,
As their sailboats they manfully sail
With the vigor of vikings and whalers
In the days of the viking and whale.
They sport on the brink
Of the shad and the shark;
If it's windy they sink;
If it isn't, they park.
It is pleasant to gaze at the sailors,
To gaze without having to sail.

How pleasant the salt anaesthetic
Of the air and the sand and the sun;
Leave the earth to the strong and athletic,
And the sea to adventure upon.
But the sun and the sand
No contractor can copy;
We lie in the land
Of the lotus and poppy;
We vegetate, calm and aesthetic,
On the beach, on the sand, in the sun. 

Monday, 17 August 2015

At Least

I always feel like reading Raymond Carver on a Monday. Maybe it's his deceptively blasé style that describes the ordinary but hints at so much more...

At Least - Raymond Carver 

I want to get up early one more morning,
before sunrise. Before the birds, even.
I want to throw cold water on my face
and be at my work table
when the sky lightens and smoke
begins to rise from the chimneys
of the other houses.
I want to see the waves break
on this rocky beach, not just hear them
break as I did all night in my sleep.
I want to see again the ships
that pass through the Strait from every
seafaring country in the world—
old, dirty freighters just barely moving along,
and the swift new cargo vessels
painted every color under the sun
that cut the water as they pass.
I want to keep an eye out for them.
And for the little boat that plies
the water between the ships
and the pilot station near the lighthouse.
I want to see them take a man off the ship
and put another up on board.
I want to spend the day watching this happen
and reach my own conclusions.
I hate to seem greedy—I have so much
to be thankful for already.
But I want to get up early one more morning, at least.
And go to my place with some coffee and wait.
Just wait, to see what's going to happen.

Sunday, 16 August 2015


When - Mary Oliver

When it’s over, it’s over, and we don’t know
any of us, what happens then.
So I try not to miss anything.
I think, in my whole life, I have never missed
the full moon
Or the slipper of its coming back.
Or, a kiss,
Well, yes, especially a kiss.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Our Numbered Days

You never know when or where Death will strike. Fact. Truth, uncompromising. When it will come all of a sudden - 'the instant hand of Death/always ready to burst forth/from the sleeve of his voluminous cloak,' knocking routine senseless, forcing us to re-evaluate our life, and specifically, the living of it. The mere contemplation of it lends a new radiance to the most ordinary things - 'full of marvels' - as Billy Collins so deftly demonstrates here in this poem.

And despite the flippant tone of it, the message in this poem is sombre, severely clear. A reminder we must always keep at the forefront of our numbered days.

Picnic, Lightning - Billy Collins

It is possible to be struck by a meteor
or a single-engine plane
while reading in a chair at home.
Safes drop from rooftops
and flatten the odd pedestrian
mostly within the panels of the comics,
but still, we know it is possible,
as well as the flash of summer lightning,
the thermos toppling over,
spilling out on the grass.

And we know the message
can be delivered from within.
The heart, no valentine,
decides to quit after lunch,
the power shut off like a switch,
or a tiny dark ship is unmoored
into the flow of the body’s rivers,
the brain a monastery,
defenseless on the shore.

This is what I think about
when I shovel compost
into a wheelbarrow,
and when I fill the long flower boxes,
then press into rows
the limp roots of red impatiens–
the instant hand of Death
always ready to burst forth
from the sleeve of his voluminous cloak.

Then the soil is full of marvels,
bits of leaf like flakes off a fresco,
red-brown pine needles, a beetle quick
to burrow back under the loam.
Then the wheelbarrow is a wilder blue,
the clouds a brighter white,

and all I hear is the rasp of the steel edge
against a round stone,
the small plants singing
with lifted faces, and the click
of the sundial
as one hour sweeps into the next.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Some People


I found this brilliant poem on a beautifully curated and favourite blog of mine: Calm Things. Do check it out.

How true is this? I love the random variousness of it and its spot-on statements.

Some People - Rolf Jacobsen 

Some people
ascend out of our life, some people
enter our life,
uninvited and sit down,
some people
calmly walk by, some people
give you a rose,
or buy you a new car,
some people
stand so close to you, some people,
you've entirely forgotten
some people, some people
are actually you,
some people
you've never seen at all, some people
eat asparagus, some people
are children,
some people climb up on the roof,
sit down at table,
lie around in hammocks, take walks with their red
some people look at you,
some people have never noticed you at all, some people
want to take your hand, some people
die during the night,
some people are other people, some people are you, some people
don't exist,
some people do.

Sunday, 9 August 2015



"But I also say this: that light
is an invitation/to happiness,
and that happiness,/ when it’s done right,
is a kind of holiness..."

Poppies - Mary Oliver

The poppies send up their
orange flares; swaying
in the wind, their congregations
are a levitation

of bright dust, of thin
and lacy leaves.
There isn’t a place
in this world that doesn’t

sooner or later drown
in the indigos of darkness,
but now, for a while,
the roughage

shines like a miracle
as it floats above everything
with its yellow hair.
Of course nothing stops the cold,

black, curved blade
from hooking forward—
of course
loss is the great lesson.

But I also say this: that light
is an invitation
to happiness,
and that happiness,

when it’s done right,
is a kind of holiness,
palpable and redemptive.
Inside the bright fields,

touched by their rough and spongy gold,
I am washed and washed
in the river
of earthly delight—

and what are you going to do—
what can you do
about it—
deep, blue night?

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Fashion Fabulous


 "Maybe the world's/ just trompe l'oeil,
       appearances laid out/ to dazzle the eye..."

I love this, a fantastic ode to fashion. A  poem that strikes its pose fabulously. 

I love the clever quips that incorporate famous lines from poetry -  'about gowns, the old Masters - were they ever wrong?' and the extraordinary plumage of descriptions that seem to envelope the poem itself, much like fashion does the wearer, in a voluptuous final effect. Bravo. (I can almost hear the round of applause at the end of this one.)

Couture - Mark Doty

Peony silks,
              in wax-light:
                             that petal-sheen,

gold or apricot or rose
             candled into-
                           what to call it,

lumina, aurora, aureole?
              About gowns,
                              the Old Masters,

were they ever wrong?
             This penitent Magdalen's
                           wrapped in a yellow

so voluptuous
              she seems to wear
                             all she's renounced;

this boy angel
             isn't touching the ground,
                        but his billow

of yardage refers
             not to heaven
                          but to pleasure's

textures, the tactile
             sheers and voiles
                          and tulles

which weren't made
               to adorn the soul.
                             Eternity's plainly nude;

the naked here and now
             longs for a little
                          dressing up. And though

they seem to prefer
              the invisible, every saint
                          in the gallery

flaunts an improbable
             tumble of drapery,
                            a nearly audible liquidity

(bright brass embroidery,
             satin's violin-sheen)
                         raveled around the body's

plain prose; exquisite
            (dis?)guises; poetry,
               music, clothes.

Nothing needs to be this lavish.
              Even the words I'd choose
                            for these leaves;

intricate, stippled, foxed,
            tortoise, mottled, splotched
                        -jeweled adjectives

for a forest by Fabergé,
            all cloisonné and enamel,
                       a yellow grove golden

in its gleaming couture,
           brass buttons
                       tumbling to the floor.

Who's it for?
              Who's the audience
                          for this bravura?

Maybe the world's
                just trompe l'oeil,
                            appearances laid out

to dazzle the eye;
            who could see through this
                           to any world beyond forms?

Maybe the costume's
                the whole show,
                               all of revelation

we'll be offered.
             So? Show me what's not
                             a world of appearances.

Autumn's a grand old drag
                in torched and tumbled chiffon
                             striking her weary pose.

Talk about your mellow
              fruitfulness! Smoky alto,
                          thou hast thy music,

too; unforgettable,
             those October damasks,
                            the dazzling kimono

worn, dishabille,
             uncountable curtain calls
                            in these footlights'

dusky, flattering rose.
            The world's made fabulous
                            by fabulous clothes. 

Friday, 7 August 2015

Swallows, Summer Evening

This was the scene yesterday evening when I was out a walk: a field of swallows, swooping, soaring, daring aerial show-off stunts over a small herd of grazing cows. They flitted about like little volts of energy, the air taut with their flamboyant fly-bys. You can't help but be mesmerised, break a smile at the delight they seem to embody. I tried  to get a photo of them - but they move so fast and fleeting, like acrobats, it was impossible. But unforgettable, all the same.

Swallows - Leonora Speyer 
They dip their wings in the sunset,
They dash against the air
As if to break themselves upon its stillness:
In every movement, too swift to count,
Is a revelry of indecision,
A furtive delight in trees they do not desire
And in grasses that shall not know their weight.

They hover and lean toward the meadow
With little edged cries;
And then,
As if frightened at the earth's nearness,
They seek the high austerity of evening sky
And swirl into its depth.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

When You Go Away

I was struck by a line in this poem: 'and that my words are the garment of what I shall never be.' There is sorrow here, but being by WS Mervin, it so beautifully and subtly rendered. 

When You Go Away - WS Mervin
When you go away the wind clicks around to the north
The painters work all day but at sundown the paint falls
Showing the black walls
The clock goes back to striking the same hour
That has no place in the years

And at night wrapped in the bed of ashes
In one breath I wake
It is the time when the beards of the dead get their growth
I remember that I am falling
That I am the reason
And that my words are the garment of what I shall never be
Like the tucked sleeve of a one-armed boy

Monday, 3 August 2015

August Welcome

It's August. The last month of summer. The harvest month. The ripest month. 
August (from 'The Months') - Linda Pastan

and sun-dazed,
I bite into this ripe peach
of a month,

gathering children
into my arms
in all their sandy

my table each night
with nothing
but corn and tomatoes. 

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Poem For Poets

I love this advice and endearing encouragement.

For Poets - Al Young

Stay beautiful
but don’t stay down underground too long
Don’t turn into a mole
or a worm
or a root
or a stone

Come on out into the sunlight
Breathe in trees
Knock out mountains
Commune with snakes
& be the very hero of birds

Don’t forget to poke your head up
& blink
Walk all around
Swim upstream

Don’t forget to fly

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Moon Rondeau

Moon Rondeau - Carl Sandburg

"Love is a door we shall open together."
So they told each other under the moon
One evening when the smell of leaf mould
And the beginnings of roses and potatoes
Came on a wind.

Late in the hours of the evening
They looked long at the moon and called it
A silver button, a copper coin, a bronze wafer,
A plaque of gold, a vanished diadem,
A brass hat dripping from deep waters.

"People like us,
us two,
We own the moon."