Wednesday, January 25, 2012
(Spring Beauty by Andrew Wyeth, 1917-2009, American
How can you become a poet?
The poet W. H. Auden once proposed a curriculum for his “daydream College for Bards,” which he set forth in an essay, The Poet & The City.
1. In addition to English, at least one ancient language, probably Greek or Hebrew, and two modern languages would be required.
2. Thousands of lines of poetry in these languages would be learned by heart.
3. The library would contain no books of literary criticism, and the only critical exercise required of students would be the writing of parodies.
4. Courses in prosody [versification], rhetoric and comparative philology [linguistics] would be required of all students, and every student would have to select three courses out of courses in archaeology, mythology, liturgics, cooking.
5. Every student would be required to look after a domestic animal and cultivate a garden plot.
The poet Eve Merriam suggests another approach.
REPLY TO THE QUESTION: “HOW CAN YOU BECOME A POET?”
take the leaf of a tree
trace its exact shape
the outside edges
and inner lines
memorize the way it is fastened to the twig
(and how the twig arches from the branch)
how it springs forth in April
how it is panoplied in July
by late August
crumple it in your hand
so that you smell its end-of-summer sadness
chew its woody stem
listen to its autumn rattle
watch it as it atomizes in the November air
then in winter
when there is no leaf left
~ Eve Merriam (1916-1992), American poet and playwright
Monday, November 28, 2011
(Long Limb by Andrew Wyeth, 1917-2009, American
The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.
I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:
Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful
Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.
~ Philip Larkin (1922-1985), English poet, novelist, and jazz critic
Thursday, November 17, 2011
(Cranes, a mural by N. C. Wyeth, 1882-1945, American
artist and illustrator)
Mother Teresa was speaking to members of her order, the Missionaries of Christ:
“What we need is to love without getting tired.
“How does a lamp burn? Through the continuous input of small drops of oil. If the drops of oil run out, the light of the lamp will cease. . . .
“My daughters, what are the drops of oil in our lamps? They are the small things of daily life: faithfulness, punctuality, small words of kindness, a thought for others, our way of being silent, of looking, of speaking, and of acting.”
~ Mother Teresa (1910-1997), Albanian-born Indian Catholic nun, from Heart of Joy
TO PLAY PIANISSIMO
To play pianissimo¹
Does not mean silence.
The absence of moon in the day sky,
Does not mean barely to speak,
the way a child’s whisper
makes only warm air
on his mother’s right ear.
To play pianissimo
is to carry sweet words
to the old woman in the last dark row
who cannot hear anything else,
and to lay them across her lap like a shawl.
~ Lola Haskins, American poet and essayist
¹ pianissimo – in musical direction: passage to be performed very softly (Italian – piano, soft)
Monday, February 21, 2011
(Foot Print, illustration by N. C. Wyeth,
1882-1945, American artist and illustrator)
“It happen'd one Day about Noon going towards my Boat, I was exceedingly surpriz'd with the Print of a Man's naked Foot on the Shore, which was very plain to be seen in the Sand: I stood like one Thunder-struck, or as if I had seen an Apparition.” ~ from Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (1660?-1731), English writer, pamphleteer, and novelist
Although commonly referred to simply as Robinson Crusoe, the book’s complete original title as it appears on the title page of the first edition is The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un‐inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by Pyrates. Written by Himself.
This novel is one example of many works originally intended for adult readers, like The Last of the Mohicans and Gulliver’s Travels, which have also, over the years, become popular as great children’s literature.
The poem today is directed at the adult reader.
On lonely strand
Works hard all day
To tame the land,
Takes time to pray;
Makes clothes by hand.
For eighteen years
His skill he plies,
Then lo! A footprint
He espies —
“Thank God it’s Friday!”
Take heart from his
Work hard, produce;
Complete your sums;
~ Michael Sagoff, American poet (1910-1998), from Shrink-Lit: Seventy of the world’s towering classics cut down to size
Thursday, November 4, 2010
(Geraniums by Andrew Wyeth, 1917-2009,
We need Love. “We are born helpless,” C. S. Lewis wrote in his introduction to The Four Loves. “As soon as we are fully conscious we discover loneliness. We need others physically, emotionally, intellectually; we need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves.”
AT THE MOMENT
Suddenly, I stopped thinking about Love,
after so many years of only that,
after thinking that nothing else mattered.
And what was I thinking of when I stopped
thinking about Love? Death, of course — what else
could take Love’s place? What else could hold such force?
I thought about how far away Death once
had seemed, how unexpected that it could
happen to someone I knew quite well,
how impossible that this should be the
normal thing, as natural as frost and
winter. I thought about the way we’d aged,
how skin fell into wrinkles, how eyes grew
dim; then (of course) my love, I thought of you.
~ Joyce Sutphen, born 1949, American poet
Thursday, September 16, 2010
(The Scythers, 1908 by N. C. Wyeth,
1882-1945, American artist and illustrator)
The poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins are always best read out loud.
HURRAHING IN HARVEST
Summer ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks rise
Around; up above, what wind-walks! what lovely behavior
Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, willful-wavier
Meal-drift molded ever and melted across skies?
I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes,
Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Savior;
And, eyes, heart, what looks, what lips yet gave you a
Rapturous love’s greeting of realer, of rounder replies?
And the azurous hung hills are his world-wielding shoulder
Majestic — as a stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet! —
These things, these things were here and but the beholder
Wanting; which two when they once meet,
The heart rears wings bold and bolder
And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet.
~ Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., 1844-1899, British poet whose work has had a profound influence on modern poetry