Category Archives: Poems

“Unpacking a Globe” — Poem in Your Pocket Day, April 30th

Unpacking a Globe
by Arthur Sze

I gaze at the Pacific and don’t expect
to ever see the heads on Easter Island,

though I guess at sunlight rippling
the yellow grasses sloping to shore;

yesterday a doe ate grass in the orchard:
it lifted its ears and stopped eating

when it sensed us watching from
a glass hallway—in his sleep, a veteran

sweats, defusing a land mine.
On the globe, I mark the Battle of

the Coral Sea—no one frets at that now.
A poem can never be too dark,

I nod and, staring at the Kenai, hear
ice breaking up along an inlet;

yesterday a coyote trotted across
my headlights and turned his head

but didn’t break stride; that’s how
I want to live on this planet:

alive to a rabbit at a glass door—
and flower where there is no flower.

(Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 10, 2015)

Notes: the Kenai is a river in Alaska

ArthurSzePhoto1                ArthurSzePhoto2 (2)         

Arthur Sze, Chinese American poet (born 1950 in New York City)
Among this poet’s honors and awards, he was the first Poet Laureate
of Sante Fe, New Mexico 2006-2008 where Mr. Sze lives.

Canadian Poet, Lucy Maud Montgomery

SmallposterNationalPoetryMonthApril2020                 SmallNationalPoetryMonthCanadianPosterApril2020

Created in the U.S. in 1996, and joined by Canada in 1998, April is National Poetry Month

A Canadian writer/poet, often considered a children’s author, actually wrote and published poetry in various North American publications before she published her first novel in 1908.  This writer/poet is Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874 – 1942), famous for creating the character, “Anne” Shirley, of the Anne of Green Gables book series.  Ms. Montgomery is, also, known publicly as L.M. Montgomery and to her friends and family as “Maud.”

It wasn’t until 45 years after Lucy Maud Montgomery’s death that a book compilation of her poetry was published.  Entitled The Poetry of Lucy Maud Montgomery, this book of poems appeared in October 1987.

205px-Lucy_Maud_Montgomery      lucymaudwrite              LucymaudMontgomery-Lucy-Maud

In Port 

Out of the fires of the sunset come we again to our own­
We have girdled the world in our sailing under many an orient star;
Still to our battered canvas the scents of the spice gales cling,
And our hearts are swelling within us as we cross the harbor bar.

Beyond are the dusky hills where the twilight hangs in the pine trees,
Below are the lights of home where are watching the tender eyes
We have dreamed of on fretted seas in the hours of long night-watches,
Ever a beacon to us as we looked to the stranger skies.

Hark! how the wind comes out of the haven’s arms to greet us,
Bringing with it the song that is sung on the ancient shore!
Shipmates, furl we our sails we have left the seas behind us,
Gladly finding at last our homes and our loves once more.

Night

A pale enchanted moon is sinking low
Behind the dunes that fringe the shadowy lea,
And there is haunted starlight on the flow
Of immemorial sea.

I am alone and need no more pretend
Laughter or smile to hide a hungry heart;
I walk with solitude as with a friend
Enfolded and apart.

I tread an eerie road across the moor
Where shadows weave upon their ghostly looms,
And winds sing an old lyric that might lure
Sad queens from ancient tombs.

I am a sister to the loveliness
Of cool far hill and long-remembered shore,
Finding in it a sweet forgetfulness
Of all that hurt before.

The world of day, and its bitterness and cark,
No longer have the power to make me weep;
I welcome this communion of the dark
As toilers welcome sleep.

 

Countee Cullen — Poet

CounteeCulleenWarrenGoodsonPaintingCropped                    cullen_counteephoto2

            Countee Cullen —
Portrait by Warren Goodson

Poet Countee Cullen (1903-1946), during the 1920s, was a beacon of the Harlem Renaissance era as his poetry was often published to considerable acclaim during that time.  An adopted son of a Methodist minister in New York City, Cullen was able to receive the benefits of education, attending a reputable boys’ high school in Manhattan and earning college degrees at both New York University (NYU) and Harvard.  It was while attending NYU that Cullen established his substance and style as a poet.

From 1925 until 1929 Cullen published four books of poetry: Color (1925); Copper Sun (1927); The Ballad of the Brown Girl (1927) and The Black Christ and Other Poems (1929).  He was the recipient of several poetry prizes as well as a Guggenheim Fellowship during these years.

In the early 1930s Cullen published his novel One Way to Heaven (1932) and also acquired his teaching certification from the New York Board of Education.  This certification fulfilled a way for him to continue to live in New York City, and by 1934 Cullen began teaching in the New York public schools full time. From the mid-1930s into the 1940s he published a translation of a Greek drama, The Medea and other Poems and two children’s books The Lost Zoo (1940) and My Lives and How I Lost Them (1942).

After Cullen’s death in January 1946, at age 42, the work On These I Stand: An Anthology of the Best Poems of Countee Cullen, selected by the author was published posthumously in 1947.

If I Should Go

Love, leave me like the light,
The gently passing day;
We would not know, but for the night,
When it has slipped away.

Go quietly; a dream,
When done, should leave no trace
That it has lived, except a gleam
Across the dreamer’s face

Saturday’s Child

Some are teethed on a silver spoon,
With the stars strung for a rattle;
I cut my teeth as the black raccoon—
For implements of battle.

Some are swaddled in silk and down,
And heralded by a star;
They swathed my limbs in a sackcloth gown
On a night that was black as tar.

For some, godfather and goddame
The opulent fairies be;
Dame Poverty gave me my name,
And Pain godfathered me.

For I was born on Saturday—
“Bad time for planting a seed,”
Was all my father had to say,
And, “one mouth more to feed.”

Death cut the strings that gave me life,
And handed me to Sorrow,
The only kind of middle wife
My folks could beg or borrow.

— Countee Cullen (poems from: Color published 1925)

ColorbyCCullen                CopperSunCounteeCullen                     TheBlackChristAndOtherPoems1929CounteeCullenVersion2

 

The Rider

“The Rider” by Naomi Shihab Nye is from a group of suggested poems designated for this April 2019’s “Poem in Your Pocket Day.”  Part of National Poetry Month and sponsored by the National Academy of Poets and the League of Canadian Poets, April 18th was the day this year people were encouraged to “carry a poem, share a poem, or start your own Poem in Your Pocket Day event.”

The Rider

A boy told me
if he roller-skated fast enough
his loneliness couldn’t catch up to him,
the best reason I ever heard
for trying to be a champion.
What I wonder tonight
pedaling hard down King William Street
is if it translates to bicycles.
A victory! To leave your loneliness
panting behind you on some street corner
while you float into a cloud of sudden azaleas,
pink petals that have never felt loneliness,
no matter how slowly they fell.

–Naomi Shihab Nye (1952 – )
from Fuel: Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye, 1998

naomi-shihab-nyeFuelNaomiShihabNye

A poem for Earth Day

Pragmatics

In your story of bees,
they slowly fill an outside wall—
three stud-spaces wide, two storeys high—
in the front bay of your old farmhouse.
You first try all the poisons,

even your pickup set
to run all day, its exhaust
piped into a hole in the wall—
while you go away, hoping the fumes
will kill them. But no.

So on a winter’s icy morning
you pull the siding off
and scrape out, storey by tall storey,
thick clots of comb and honey,
clumps of stiff, chilled bees.

They had to go. No question.
But tell me again, please,
how you stood inside and breathed—
in summer’s reckless heat—
the fragrance of their work,
wild perfume of wax and flower.
Say again how you pressed your ear
tight to the wall, heard the house humming,
felt its blur of countless wings,
a fine, even tremble.

— Paulann Petersen, 1998 (born in Portland, 1942)
Oregon’s sixth Poet Laureate (serving two terms: 2010 – 2012 and 2012-2014)

Refuge

“Refuge”

by Kirah Van Sickle
Mixed media and collage on paper

 

“How Poetry Comes to Me It comes blundering over the Boulders at night…” Gary Snyder

Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout

Down valley a smoke haze
Three days heat, after five days rain
Pitch glows in the fir-cones
Across rocks and meadows
Swarms of new flies.

I cannot remember things I once read
A few friends, but they are in the cities.
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.

Dawn

Rolling snow turned peach-color
the moon
left alone in the fading night
makes a soft cry in the heavens
and once more
drinks up the scattered light

–From the collection of poems The Back Country by Gary Snyder, published 1968.

TheBackCountryGarySnyder1959                     gary-snyder2SnyderGary (1).jpg

Gary Snyder (1930-) is an American award-winning poet, environmental activist, Zen Buddhist and educator (also considered one of the Beat movement poets.)

 

From COLD MOUNTAIN POEMS – The poems of Chinese
poet, Han Shan (c. 680-760) in a translation by Gary Snyder

ColdMountainPoemsTranslatedbyGarySnyder.jpg

There’s a Naked Bug at Cold Mountain

There’s a naked bug at Cold Mountain
With a white body and a black head.
His hands hold two book-scrolls,
One the Way and one its Power.
His shack’s got no pots or oven,
He goes for a walk with his shirt and pants askew.
But he always carries the sword of wisdom:
He means to cut down senseless craving.

 

“How Poetry Comes to Me It comes blundering over the Boulders at night, it stays Frightened outside the Range of my campfire I go to meet it at the Edge of the light”
–Gary Snyder

 

Another one for nature and National Poetry Month

BuffaloSkullFullPhotoApril2018Cropped

A Buffalo Skull

No fine white bone-sheen now;
a hundred hard years
have worn it away, this stump
washed up on a bar
in the river, its horns
like broken roots,
its muzzle filled with sand
and the thin gray breath
of spider webs.  Once,
they covered the grasslands
like the shadows of clouds,
and now the river gives up
just one skull, a hive of bone
like a fallen wasp’s nest,
heavy, empty, and
full of the whine of the wind
and old thunder.

–Ted Kooser (American Poet — born in Ames, Iowa, 1939)  This poem is from One World at a Time, published 1985

TedKooserAmericanPoet                       TedKooserAmericanPoetPhoto4

Poems – Earth Day 2018 (April 22)

EarthDayRiverApril2018.jpg

History

All night the wind
Yelled at the house,
The trees squeaked and hushed
But the wind would not.
All night the trees complained
And the rain rushed and rained.

Now in the cool
Morning the trees stand, tall,
Still and all composed—
Sun on their sunny pages.
Of the storm only the riled
Creek remembers; and rages.

–Thomas McGrath (American poet, 1916 – 1990)
This poem is from Selected Poems 1938 – 1988, pub. 1988

 

EarthDayGraphic2April2018

Praising Spring

The day is taken by each thing and grows complete.
I go out and come in and go out again,
confused by a beauty that knows nothing of delay,
rushing like fire.  All things move faster
than time and make a stillness thereby.  My mind
leans back and smiles, having nothing to say.
Even at night I go out with a light and look
at the growing.  I kneel and look at one thing
at a time.  A white spider on a peony bud.
I have nothing to give, and make a poor servant,
but I can praise the spring.  Praise this wildness
that does not heed the hour.  The doe that does not
stop at dark but continues to grow all night long.
The beauty in every degree of flourishing.  Violets
lift to the rain and the brook gets louder than ever.
The old German farmer is asleep and the flowers go on
opening.  There are stars.  Mint grows high.  Leaves
bend in the sunlight as the rain begins to fall.

–Linda Gregg (American poet, born 1942)
This poem is from Alma: Poems, pub. 1985.

Paterson, Poetry & William Carlos Williams

Directed by filmmaker Jim Jarmusch and featuring actors Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani, “Paterson” is a quiet lyrical movie about day-to-day life and work and poetry and art.  There is in the film, between the characters, some discussion concerning the New Jersey poet, William Carlos Williams, who wrote the poem entitled “Paterson.”  This poem “Paterson” was initially published as an 85 line poem in 1927, and Williams later expanded it into a five volume work.

“Poet, artist, and practicing physician of Rutherford, New Jersey, William Carlos Williams wrote poetry that was experimental in form, ranging from imagism to objectivism, with great originality of idiom and human vitality. Credited with changing and directing American poetry toward a new metric and language, he also wrote a large number of short stories and novels. Paterson (1946–58), about the New Jersey city of that name, was his epic and places him with Ezra Pound (his friend) of the Cantos as one of the great shapers of the long poem in this century.”

(from “About the Author,” two Google “Books” webpages – years cited as 1969 and 2004)

The Hunter

In the flashes and black shadows
of July
the days, locked in each other’s arms,
seem still
so that squirrels and colored birds
go about at ease over
the branches and through the air.

Where will a shoulder split or
a forehead open and victory be?

Nowhere.
Both sides grow older.

And you may be sure
not one leaf will lift itself
from the ground
and become fast to a twig again.

–William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) from Collected Earlier Poems, pub. 1938

SourGrapesWCW        TheEarlierCollectedPoems           Paterson

The Great Figure

Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
firetruck
moving
tense
unheeded
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city.

–William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) from Sour Grapes: A Book of Poems, pub. 1921

428px-Charles_Demuth_-_Figure_5.png    “I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold,” painting by Charles Demuth, 1928
(owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC)

 

 

 

Robert Creeley — a poet

RobertCreeleyPoetApril2017

On this, the day after the final day of National Poetry Month (April 2017), a poet who wore more than one hat (in that he was affiliated with more than one group of American poets in the 20th century) is Robert Creeley (1926 – 2005).  He was considered among the Beat poets in the 1960s to be a contemporary, and prior to this, when he was a teacher at Black Mountain College when it existed in the 1950s in North Carolina, he was regarded as one of the “Black Mountain Poets.”  Later in the 1980s, and until his death in 2005, Creeley forged his own way, breaking away from the solely spare style he’d been known for, while still creating a distinctive style.  He is also considered influential in shifting poetry from depending on history and tradition as being sources of poetic inspiration and giving instead the ongoing experiences of a person’s life more significance.

I was introduced to Robert Creeley by a friend who gave me a miniature book about him entitled “Robert Creeley Autobiography.”  It turns out this small book is a reprint of Creely’s autobiography that appears in the resource “Contemporary Authors, Autobiography Series,” Volume 10 published in 1989.

I would like to read more of this poet – he is considered fairly prolific and also wrote prose and essays as well.

OLD STORY

Like kid on float
of ice block sinking
in pond the field had made
from winter’s melting snow

so wisdom accumulated
to disintegrate 
in conduits of brain
in neural circuits faded

while gloomy muscles shrank
mind padded the paths
its thought had wrought
its habits had created

till like kid afloat
on ice block broken
on or inside the thing it stood
or was forsaken.

–Robert Creeley, 1994