Friday, November 13, 2009

Poetry Friday

Back in the days when I blogged on politics, every now and then we'd cool things off with a poetry invitational. The comment threads here have been mostly civil this week, but the truly awesome poem that Randall Anderson posted by Mark Strand in the "Role of Intent" thread reminded me of how much I missed those poetry breaks.

There is a word count limit in blogger (and an attention span limit in most of us), so share on the shorter side if you would. But in general, whether penned by you or your favorite poet (whether formal or "street" or songwriter, etc.), consider this an open thread on, IMO, the most difficult of all the arts.

To start us off, here is one of my all-time favorites, followed by a simply spectacular parody of it:
This Is Just To Say
by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
And by a commenter on Obsidian Wings who goes by the moniker "st" (in an invitational that had to deal with "crocodiles"):
This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the eco-tourist
that was in
the river

and whom
you were probably
relying upon
to pay your guide fees.

Forgive me
he was delicious
so crunchy
and screamy.

-- Obviously Not William Carlos Williams

Labels: open thread, poetry


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Musee des Beaux Arts W.H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

submitted by Cathy

11/13/2009 10:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this, Ed!

11/13/2009 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Holy Kayak, said Andy Rondak
There is an Elephant in my Igloo

Tomi Ungerer

11/13/2009 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger Justin Neely said...

in love
you die of love
have talent
you die of talent
name it, you die

Ishikawa Takuboku (trans. Carl Sesar)

11/13/2009 01:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Ah well, I'm so bad with words, might as well invent them:

Sundern Grazie A-days
Myll The Gonser Zador
Frack, Brold, Si Janoite
Mahlord: Dreil Picator!

(first and second sentances must be pronunced in american english accent)
(third sentance must be pronunced in french accent)
(fourth sentance must be pronunced in irish english accent)

Cedric C

11/13/2009 01:43:00 PM  
Blogger Dalen said...

Just this morning, seeing the fog rise from countryside valleys as I drove into work, I was reminded of a poem I'd written probably ten years ago. I don't think I ever settled on a title for it:

November's misty morning rays
Tell of coming wintry days
Golden birds fluttering 'round
Turn to leaves upon the ground
Trees exchange somber glances
Wind flows through barren branches
Evening gives to crimson sky
As autumn breathes a final sigh

11/13/2009 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger Mab MacMoragh said...

Re-statement of Romance

The night knows nothing of the chants of night.
It is what it is as I am what I am:
And in perceiving this I best perceive myself

And you. Only we two may interchange
Each in the other what each has to give.
Only we two are one, not you and night,

Nor night and I, but you and I, alone,
So much alone, so deeply by ourselves,
So far beyond the casual solitudes,

That night is only the background of our selves,
Supremely true each to its separate self,
In the pale light that each upon the other throws.

-- Wallace Stevens

11/13/2009 02:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

The wind's eye
to see into the wind.
The eye in its hollow
looking out
through the black frame
at the waves the wind
drives up the river,
whitecaps, a wild day,
the white sky
traveled by snow squalls,
the trees thrashing,
the corn blades driven,
quivering, straight out.

- Wendell Berry, from Window Poems

11/13/2009 02:34:00 PM  
Blogger tony said...

The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold,
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon....

Louis MacNiece
- The Sunlight on the Garden

11/13/2009 02:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Philip Larkin - This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

11/13/2009 02:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i loved Musee des Beaux Arts W.H. Auden, Cathy. it echoed something.

...И он забыл этот светлый город
который в детстве ему приснился
behind the dust of infusing hopes
behind the darkness of gaze and lowness
behind the foggy site of unknown
behind ideas seen imbecile
il ne regrette pas les mots qui volent
cassant ses ailes embêtantes...

11/13/2009 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

There is no cloth
that warms,
covers my skin,
the way his palms do.

Hungry hands that swallow hips,
fingers held in place of ribs,
enclose me.
Remind me small.

I forget this.
Forget the curves that shape me woman,
forget my fists not made of stone,
my breasts
a metal plate.
My tongue
for more than pointed words.

He folds me

My armor
in silent disarray
along the floor.

-Amanda Mathews

11/13/2009 03:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Please forgive me along with the plum eater - you may enjoy this.

11/13/2009 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

you may enjoy this.

:-) Thanks.

11/13/2009 04:44:00 PM  
Blogger David Cauchi said...







Painting music literature
hothouse flowers
yes no


One must distrust
picturesque beings
one must distrust
antique-dealer painters
one must distrust
even painting
painted without distrust


Serious people
have a faint odour
of carrion


the infinite
what a fashionable spectacle
but nature
has a little declaration
to make to you my dear sir
it doesn't borrow fire
from the conflagration


Perhaps I made
painting sick
but what a pastime
to be doctor

tomorrow I am counting on painting
to be my doctor


Right from the start of my life
the public cast
its sentence on me

he's making fun of us

what has always amused me
is this public
who knows me
but doesn't know itself


I'm only working against my interests
I don't know any other way
of dealing with myself


The profound mediocrity
of painters
depresses me


Old mediocrities
are in fashion
new ones too

knowing my strength
I am tolerant of myself
and nothing more is forbidden


I experienced painting
as an object of passion
my paintings are acts of love
that's my way of working


My painting is a contradiction
between life and sleep


Success is a liar
the liar loves success


People want others to talk about them
because they're only interested in the people
whom others talk about
others hide behind
a mask
which they think they've chosen
seducer like...


Gestures are silent
they rely on noise
and noise relies on gestures


Those who like the sun
have no need of noise
all these poor idiots who think
that noise
can make them shine


People always talk
about little things
they cannot talk about great ones
their hearts being too small


For many people
lies in imitating


To understand everything
makes life monotonous
to love everything
without understanding
lots of people
understand that


Is the sky beneath
or above us
one has to guess
if you could see me
my smile would tell you


I love the sea
the mountains hide the stars
if only the sun could make
the mountains melt
like snow


I hate clouds
their ridiculous forms
they don't even have
the beauty of tigers
on their prey
these idiotic clouds
which live only on the sun
and spend their time
hiding it


Cats that look at birds
have eyes that meditate
birds that look at cats
have eyes that doubt
my own close
to think of miracles


In the near future fables
and lovely fairy tales
will come back into fashion


Only the contemplators
of constellations
can still
move us


Now if you like
let's talk about my painting
for I am perhaps
my own disciple


- Francis Picabia

11/13/2009 07:10:00 PM  
Blogger David Cauchi said...

Well, no-one else was pushing the word limit.

11/13/2009 07:10:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

thanks David... :-)

i have to say that

"he was delicious
so crunchy
and screamy"

cracks me up every time i think of it...

11/13/2009 07:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Larry said...

Since I don't believe poetry is necessarily "the most difficult of all the arts" (IMO, that attribute is fungible with music, playwriting, painting, film, choreography, architecture, etc. - since if it weren't, all those things would be easier to do and I don't believe they are), I will submit the third movement of Beethoven's string quartet in Bb major, Op. 130, which is as poetic as it gets.

But if you need a poem in words, this atypically deft and droll example by TS Eliot, supposedly a portrait of Bertrand Russell, is one I very much like:

When Mr. Apollinax visited the United States
His laughter tinkled among the teacups.
I thought of Fragilion, that shy figure among the birch-trees,
And of Priapus in the shrubbery
Gaping at the lady in the swing.
In the palace of Mrs. Phlaccus, at Professor Channing-Cheetah's
He laughed like an irresponsible foetus.
His laughter was submarine and profound
Like the old man of the seats
Hidden under coral islands
Where worried bodies of drowned men drift down in the green silence,
Dropping from fingers of surf.
I looked for the head of Mr. Apollinax rolling under a chair.

Or grinning over a screen
With seaweed in its hair.
I heard the beat of centaurs' hoofs over the hard turf
As his dry and passionate talk devoured the afternoon.
"He is a charming man"--"But after all what did he mean?"--
"He has pointed ears ... he must be unbalanced,"--
"There was something he said that I might have challenged."
Of dowager Mrs. Phlaccus, and Professor and Mrs. Cheetah
I remember a slice of lemon and a bitten macaroon.

11/13/2009 09:21:00 PM  
Blogger Jay Erker said...

Yay, poetry!

Wanted to share a Wallace Stevens but Mab beat me to it. I'll share a short one of my own, untitled:

The man with the pageboy cut
Tears my ears
I like that.

He’s much older now
His voice once young and cutting
No wonder I bleed
When I see his pictures.

11/13/2009 11:43:00 PM  
Blogger The Reader said...

Hip hop often get left out of the poetry discussion but in it you can find some of the most intricate rhyme structures and metrical patterning that you will find anywhere in the poetry world. Here's a sample from one of my favourite Emcees MF DOOM. This is an excerpt from his track "Monkey Suit"

"When he sees the mask and the microphone gizmo
He's the broke host this is like his own quiz show
This go out to all my brothers doin long bids and sisters
Who got brothers bein fathers to the wrong kids
Stay strong and ride like the funky flute
Won't find the Villain in the street inside no monkey suit
Or either at the bar in no gorilly bra
Nor raceway park scorin on no silly car"

This track also has a great video that you can watch here

I was also fortunate enough to be at that residency with Mark Strand. One of the best parts about the poem that Randall posted was hearing Mark read it. He's a well known poet in his seventies so he seems to be very comfortable in reading his work. His reading really did add another dimension to the words. For me this is definitely one of plus sides to poetry in the hip hop context i.e. the way it emphasises performance.

11/14/2009 01:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why does that ugly sounding word 'fungible' keep entering the discussion? Surely there's a substitute.

I don't know that poetry is a more difficult art (though I'm open to that argument) but it is the most neglected art in this country. There are more poets than readers of poetry or attendees at poetry readings. It's amazing how many eyes immediately glaze over at its mention. When people bemoan the life of the visual artist, I think about the life of the poet. It's harder, I think, in many ways.


11/14/2009 09:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Larry said...

"Why does that ugly sounding word 'fungible' keep entering the discussion? Surely there's a substitute."

Indeed. But is there a fungible one?

Possibly the best thing that quirky but uneven poet ee cummings ever wrote:

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully, mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

11/14/2009 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger José said...


Was that tourist eaten by the Lacoste crocodile ? :-)



11/14/2009 01:15:00 PM  
Blogger trailer star said...


A breeze ruffling the neck feathers,
head and beak disjointed
by the sudden impact,
the bird rests on the artist’s table.

Having battered my way to 30
and an uneasy alliance with a press
I find myself sat in the shadows
amongst printer’s ink and type

attempting to capture its likeness.
Laid flat, barely six inches long,
the vibrant green of its plumage
bright as any museum specimen,

I scrape with pencil and rubber
at an outline on white paper.
Beyond the silence of the converted stable
wind thrashes the chestnuts

and lorries spill grain as they trundle
a harvest away to the malt-house.
I stare out at the patio window
where this bird’s last image was taken

one split second before impact.
A perfect shot, Audobon’s negative.
Above me the printer’s colour chart sang,
hues flaring like a chest of hummingbirds.

I struggle to hold a likeness
as fake Bewick’s flutter on the wall.
My heart is not in it, the sun setting,
I leave the drawings, latch the door.

As I scoot my bike up the gravel path
I turn and look at the glass plate
and imagine that bird’s last fatal attempt
to smash through its own image.

Instead of clear blue sky
it slithered into a reality of dust and brick.
I ended up back in my father’s truck
chopping away time in a trench.

I left Oxfordshire, left pencil and paper behind
veered north, washed out my brushes
and now, five years later, return
mind sharpened, feathers bristling

to stab again at that still warm heart
of a country I only saw reflected
in a series of mirrors as I left it behind.
That woodpecker,my totem, re-animated

drills through the barren years,
all the misconceptions,to a clear,bright beginning.
I see again the roadside bushes seething
with a harvest of berries, a thousand redwings.

Shaun Belcher part-time cartoonist, theorist, painter, poet, songwriter. Lives in Nottingham U.K.

11/15/2009 07:48:00 AM  
Blogger donna said...

I use that plum poem with my humanities students. It always sparks an interesting discussion.

Here is my favorite (short) poem, "Late Fragment" by Raymond Carver:

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

(formatting changed slightly by the constraints of this comments window)

11/15/2009 03:40:00 PM  
Blogger pelacus said...

Ed, here's the parody your parody was paroydying!

Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams
Kenneth Koch

I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next summer.
I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do
and its wooden beams were so inviting.

We laughed at the hollyhocks together
and then I sprayed them with lye.
Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.

I gave away the money that you had been saving to live on for the next ten years.
The man who asked for it was shabby
and the firm March wind on the porch was so juicy and cold.

Last evening we went dancing and I broke your leg.
Forgive me. I was clumsy and
I wanted you here in the wards, where I am the doctor!

11/17/2009 10:10:00 AM  

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