Thursday, December 31, 2009

Adventures with Poem in Your Pocket

Christmas miracles do occur!
Or maybe Santa reads my blog...
Either way, I am now the delighted owner of Poem in Your Pocket, an awesome collection of poems to tear and share.

I began my tearing and sharing of poetry by leaving this poem:
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Was it for this I uttered prayers,
And sobbed and cursed and kicked the stairs,
That now, domestic as a plate,
I should retire at half-past eight?
On this shelf, in an undisclosed location.

I left a note on the back of the poem with an email address, requesting the favorite poem of whomever should find it. And hopefully, I will someday hear back.

This poetry tearing and sharing is quite thrilling.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

On the To-Read Shelf

Starting this post, I have no set agenda, just the mood to blog about poetry.

Currently I'm reading a poetry anthology called Enduring Ties, edited by Grant Hardy. Okay it could be that Grant Hardy gave me the book and I think very highly of Grant Hardy, but I must say I am loving the anthology. It is a collection of "poems of family relationships." Poetry about family usually gets a bad rap for being overly sentimental, but Hardy has put together a solid collection, far from gushy Hallmark sentiments. It includes work by the poets Whitman, Bronte, Blake, Plath, Milton, Shakespeare, and Dickinson, just name a few, even one by quirky favorites of mine, James Tate (!). The work also includes a substantial amount of translations of Chinese poetry, which is kind of new to me, and I like it. The organization, notes, and biographical tidbits are terrific. My only suggestion would be a new title, a revamped cover, and an emphasis on the gems this work has to offer.

And, its not poetry, but I've just began The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton. Thus far, I love the wit, satire, and humor of the work.

I was also reading (and loving) James Tate's newest, The Ghost Soldiers, but a necessary return to the library cut my pleasure short. Still, I recommend it to you, dear reader.

My long list of what to read doesn't include much poetry, but here's a sample of what it does include: Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand; Fountainhead, Ayn Rand; Selected Poems 1934-1952, Dylan Thomas;  1984, George Orwell; The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams; Boy's Life, Robert C. McCammon, all Jane Austen novels; Jesus the Christ, James E. Talmage; and a work of Dickens.

I promise though, poetry will wind up in the mix. It always does. I owe you a posting of an awesome poem. I'll give you one soon. I'd also like to share with you more Performance Poetry, as well as some great YouTube videos.

I'm curious for any opinions on the works on my list, particularly those of Ayn Rand and Dylan Thomas. And, any suggestions of what to add to my ever growing long to-read list?

Friday, November 27, 2009

You've Just Got to Hear This

This you've got to hear.
Click here for an audio clip of Jared Singer performing his poem, "When Contemplating Super Powers (The Letter to Sarah)."
Click here for the Performance Poetry website, where you can find more fabulous poetry.
Amazing, wouldn't you agree?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

When I am Suddenly Wealthy

When I am suddenly a very, very wealthy woman, here are just a few (a very small few) the poetry books I'd like to own:
  •  Poem in Your Pocket: 200 Poems to Read and Carry, The Academy of American Poets. This nifty little collection is poems to tear out, and just as the title suggest, read and carry. There is something immensely appealing to me about this whole idea.

  • Seven Poets, Four Days, One Book, multiple authors. Another quirky idea for a poetry book! I'm just going to copy Amazon's little blurb to explain the idea behind the project. I think you'll agree, it sounds pretty awesome.
Lauded poet Christopher Merrill hatched a brilliant plan: invite six other poets to join him in four days of writing in Iowa City. The poets would write for 30 minutes, creating a poem of 15 lines, and then read it aloud to the group. As poets heard the poems, they noted memorable words, images, and lines, which they would borrow to insert in subsequent poems of their own. These rounds continued, until, in a process of call and response and unprecedented collaboration, 80 poems had been composed. Those 80 poems are collected in this book, penned by authors who represent some of the best and brightest the world of poetry has to offer. Transcending differences of generation, gender, language, and vision, these poets have invented an entirely new facet of the poet's creative process.
~ Amazon product description

  • Richard Brautigan poetry.  I am hoping to find a book of his in a moment of sweet serendipity in a used book shop or receive in some quirky fashion. It would be too easy to simply order off of Amazon.
What's on your list?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

You're Wondering If I'm Lonely

For months, Adrienne Rich's The Fact of a Doorframe has been sitting on my shelf, waiting until it was time to study Rich in my Modern Poetry class. I skimmed the book once or twice and decide Rich is not for me. Well, the time has come to study Adrienne Rich, and I have to say I was sorely mistaken that Rich is not for me. Her work is something impressive! I love her charged her imagery is, how passionate her passages can be, and how bold the body of work is.  

This is the young Adrienne Rich.
You most often see images of her in her later years, but I think
I can relate with this younger woman better.

Image found at

The fact of a Doorframe is a good introduction to Rich, as it presents poetry spanning half a century from a dozen different books. It is interesting to see her work progress as the reader moves chronologically through the segments of each book.

I have not read enough to give a comprehensive recommendation, but tonight, I'd like to offer just one, "Song." I had to read through that final stanza a few times, trying to wrap my mind around the imagery presented. Please, I beg of you, try reading this poem out loud.

Adrienne Rich

You're wondering if I'm lonely:
OK then, yes, I'm lonely
as a plane rides lonely and level
on its radio beam, aiming
across the Rockies
for the blue-strung aisles
of an airfield on the ocean.

You want to ask, am I lonely?
Well, of course, lonely
as a woman driving across country
day after day, leaving behind
mile after mile
little towns she might have stopped
and lived and died in, lonely

If I'm lonely
it must be the loneliness
of waking first, of breathing
dawn's first cold breath on the city
of being the one awake
in a house wrapped in sleep

If I'm lonely
it's with the rowboat ice-fast on the shore
in the last red light of the year
that knows what it is, that knows it's neither
ice nor mud nor winter light
but wood, with a gift for burning.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Brautigan, Again

Below is a nibble of Brautigan. Also, check out other poems of Brautigan I've posted in the past. If you like what you see, check out the above posted website.
"Alas, Measured Perfectly"
Richard Brautigan

Saturday, August 25, 1888. 5:20 P.M.
is the name of a photograph of two
old women in a front yard, beside
a white house. One of the women is
sitting in a chair with a dog in her
lap. The other woman is looking at
some flowers. Perhaps the women are
happy, but then it is Saturday, August
25, 1888. 5:21 P.M., and all over.

Click here to listen to recordings of Brautigan reading his poetry. Scroll towards the end until you reach Side 1, number 6 to listen this particular poem in a collection with others. Brautigan doesn't sound at all like he thought I did. Also, the recording is slightly distorted, but still, how incredible is it to hear the words of the poet from the poet himself?

Brautigan's work is almost entirely out of print. However, cheap used copies are available on Amazon. When I get a little extra cash, I think it would be a very worthy investment for my library. I've gone through a love/hate relationship with Brautigan, but now I must simply consent to love.

P.S. This is my 99th post! 9 being my eternally lucky number, this is a particularly good day!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Apologies Dear Reader

Sorry to be neglectful of this dear little blog.
I have just been having so much fun with a new project,
Please, check it out. Hope you enjoy.

But alas, don't worry. I am still an avid poetry lover.
What am I reading these days? Well, in a class I'm taking I've been examining the works of Elizabeth Bishop, Adrienne Rich, Wallace Stevens, and William Carlos Williams.
But, these last couple nights, I've been feeling a little blue and I can't help but turn to old favorites, particularly Edna St. Vincent Millay and Richard Brautigan.

Who are your particular favorites? And what are you reading these days?

Forgive me, its a quarter to two in the morning, but I promise to share poetry soon. Tomorrow? Its a deal.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bright Star

Hey poetry lovers, I think you'll enjoy this beautiful new film, detailing the love story of the poet John Keats and his "bright star," Fanny Brawne.
What a breathtaking story of poetic romance.
Watch. Weep. Love.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wing by Wing

We have recently begun to study William Carlos Williams in Modern Poetry. I think he is a poet I shall quite enjoy. Rather than offering a deep interpretation of his work, tonight I simply offer a bit of Williams for you to enjoy.
Aux Imagistes
William Carlos Williams

I think I have never been so exalted
As I am now by you,
O frost bitten blossoms,
That are unfolding your wings
From out the envious black branches.

Bloom quickly and make much of the sunshine
The twigs conspire against you
Hear them!
They hold you from behind

You shall not take wing
Except wing by wing, brokenly,
And yet—
Even they
Shall not endure for ever.
Photo by: Valerie Owens

Friday, October 2, 2009

Poetry 180

Last year, Santa Claus, or maybe my mother gave me the terrific gift of a book entitled, Poetry 180. This book is actually a printing of a fabulous project also called Poetry 180 which offers a poem a day for American high school students. The project is the work of Billy Collins, former Poet Laureate of the United States. Collins started the project in hopes of creating a turning back, a 180, if you will, to poetry, an art so often forgotten in these days. For more about the project, click here.

Today, I'd like to post just one of the poems of Poetry 180. The poem is by Ted Kooser, whose project American Life in Poetry, I highlighted in my last post. Hopefully, by highlighting a few of the phenomenal poetry projects out there, I can perhaps encourage a few more people into incorporating poetry into their daily lives. Also, its a good example of just what the Poet Laureate of the United States actually does. We live at an age where poetry is perhaps more accessible that it has ever been. Why not take advantage of it?

Selecting a Reader

Ted Kooser

First, I would have her be beautiful,
and walking carefully up on my poetry
at the loneliest moment of an afternoon,
her hair still damp at the neck
from washing it. She should be wearing
a raincoat, an old one, dirty
from not having money enough for the cleaners.
She will take out her glasses, and there
in the bookstore, she will thumb
over my poems, then put the book back
up on its shelf. She will say to herself,
"For that kind of money, I can get
my raincoat cleaned." And she will.

from Sure Signs, 1980
University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

American Life in Poetry Project

I recently stumbled upon a fabulous project, American Life in Poetry. The project, a pet child of Ted Kooser, is aimed at promoting poetry. Each week, a new poem is posted. I have three main reasons to love the project:
  1. It's free!
  2. The poems are brief!
  3. It's contemporary poetry from all ranges and talents of poets; anywhere from a 12 year old beginner to a budding college student to a middle aged old pro.
Below, I have posted the link as well as the column of one week. Feel free to check out the project for yourself. And forgive me if I post a few more of these poems. I, for one, am a fan!

Self-Portrait by Zozan Hawez : American Life in Poetry

American Life in Poetry: Column 198


This column has had the privilege of publishing a number of poems by young people, but this is the first we’ve published by a young person who is also a political refugee. The poet, Zozan Hawez, is from Iraq, and goes to Foster High School in Tukwila, Washington. Seattle Arts & Lectures sponsors a Writers in the Schools program, and Zozan’s poem was encouraged by that initiative.


Born in a safe family
But a dangerous area, Iraq,
I heard guns at a young age, so young
They made a decision to raise us safe
So packed our things
And went far away.

Now, in the city of rain,
I try to forget my past,
But memories never fade.

This is my life,
It happened for a reason,
I happened for a reason.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2007 by Seattle Arts & Lectures. Reprinted from “We Will Carry Ourselves As Long As We Gaze Into The Sun,” Seattle Arts & Lectures, 2007, by permission of Zozan Hawez and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.
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Friday, September 18, 2009


10 Things I Have Collected In my Past (And some in the present)
  1. Quotes: I have pages and pages of quotes on every topic imaginable. I don't know what it is I love so much about quotes. Perhaps it is the view of a quote as the best possible use of a sentence.
  2. Book lines: You know those lines that you hit when reading a novel that just wow you? Those lines that linger on your mind after you've put the book down? I write those down in a small book. I'm selective in my book lines. It's got to really be something to make it into my book.
  3. Books: There are few things I love more than books. I am not a particular fan of buying new books, and not just because of the cost. There is a certain thrill in finding the well-loved book you've been searching for amidst cluttered shelves of used books. It is nice to know someone else loved the book once too (or at least I'd like to believe). I am picky about my books. I want my shelves to be filled with books I have not only read, but loved. It's a beautiful lifetime project.
  4. Rocks: What child didn't collect rocks? And with my father being a geologist, it was my fate. I was always pretty choosy when it came to my rocks. Nothing boring or ordinary in my collection. I think I've still got my rocks on a shelf somewhere. Thinking back now, I realize the best ones were probably actually discovered by my dad, who was kind enough to let me claim them. Parents are great.
  5. Sea shells: I still collect sea shells. Since I've been to the beach so little, the few shells I have are memories of good times. In my collection I also have a few collected by good friends, and those mean even more.
  6. Stickers: As a child I loved, loved, loved stickers. The odd thing is I never actually did anything with my stickers. I found stickers to be messy and difficult to remove when off of their original sheet. So, I just had pages and pages of unused stickers. Long after my collecting days were over, I eventually used my stickers in craft projects with kids. I gave some away to kids I babysit, and some to a friend's little sister who collects stickers. What was the appeal of those things?
  7. Erasers: Another really odd childhood obsession of mine. I actually did use the erasers. I wonder what happened to all of those... I think I donated them to a thrift shop or gave them away to some little kids. The stupidest one I owned was an enormous pink eraser that read, "My Dad Never Makes Mistakes. This Is only A Paperweight." I didn't know what a paperweight was. I'm finicky about erasers. So many are too rubbery or leave unattractive streaks across the page. For years I have preferred the soft pink erasers found atop a good Ticonderoga #2. They don't call them The World's Best Pencil for nothing.
  8. Butterfly hair clips and assorted hair accessories: I was a victim of the nineties. I plead silence.
  9. Stuffed animals: I had the whole dang animal kingdom. There are still teddy bears on my bed (great to cuddle with). My favorite stuffed animals are in a drawer in my closet. Someday, they'll go to my kids. ]
  10. Barbies: Raise of hands please, who hates the Bratz dolls?
What is it about human nature that compels us to collect?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Poetic Snippets

Snippets, because who says you have to like the whole poem?
From "Song of Myself"
Walt Whitman

Loafe with me on the grass, loose the stop from your throat,
Not words, not music or rhyme I want, not custom or lecture, not even the best,
Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice.

From "Why Regret?"
Galway Kinnell

Doesn't it outdo the pleasures of the brilliant concert
to wake in the night and find ourselves
holding hands in our sleep?
Yeah. That's all for tonight.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Something in me...

Millay tonight, because I'm in the mood. This is a particular favorite of mine--primarily the first two stanzas. I have often felt that urge to get out, to go, anywhere, just go. I always return. Unlike Millay, I have no romantic notions of a lonely death. I never desire not to return home. I only need an hour or so alone. My preferred method of transportation is the car, as it is the fastest way to escape the city. But this fall I am without a car. The roads are calling to me and I am itching to drive, to explore, and to go. For now, I retreat on foot to the groves and gardens nearby, grateful for trees, river, and the solitude.

Photo by: Valerie Owens

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

It's little I care what path I take,
And where it leads it's little I care;
But out of this house, lest my heart break,
I must go, and off somewhere.

It's little I know what's in my heart,
What's in my mind it's little I know,
But there's that in me must up and start,
And it's little I care where my feet go.

I wish I could walk for a day and a night,
And find me at dawn in a desolate place
With never the rut of a road in sight,
Nor the roof of a house, nor the eyes of a face.

I wish I could walk till my blood should spout,
And drop me, never to stir again,
On a shore that is wide, for the tide is out,
And the weedy rocks are bare to the rain.

But dump or dock, where the path I take
Brings up, it's little enough I care;
And it's little I'd mind the fuss they'll make,
Huddled dead in a ditch somewhere.

"Is something the matter, dear," she said,
"That you sit at your work so silently?"
"No, mother, no, 'twas a knot in my thread.
There goes the kettle, I'll make the tea."

Monday, August 31, 2009

Purple. Lovely. Inconceivable.

Tonight's mood: Odd. Restless. Anxious. Melancholy. Stubborn. Contemplative.

Today I checked out a few books of Richard Brautigan's. I'd briefly explored his poetry last year, gave up on him, and once again I have returned. It's not that I think his work is particularly good. In fact, I think most of it's pretty pathetic, cheap, and of no literary merit whatsoever. And yet, I like it. So there.
I Live in the Twentieth Century
Richard Brautigan

I live in the Twentieth Century
and you lie here beside me. You
were unhappy when you fell asleep.
There was nothing I could do about
it. I felt hopeless. Your face
is so beautiful that I cannot stop
to describe it, and there's nothing
I can do to make you happy while
you sleep.

Richard Brautigan

She tries to get things out of men
that she can't get because she's not
15% prettier.

April 7, 1969
Richard Brautigan

I feel so bad today
that I want to write a poem.
I don't care: any poem, this
And this last one, he wrote for me. Hey thanks Brautigan! Forgive my editing.
All Girls Should Have a Poem
For Valerie
Richard Brautigan

All girls should have a poem
written for them even if
we have to turn this ***** world
upside down to do it.

New Mexico
March 16, 1969

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I Praised What Gave Me Joy

Tonight, I praise that which gives me joy. This poem was introduced to me in a modern poetry class I recently enrolled in. (You, dear reader, will likely be hearing much of this class these next few months!) The poem of this evening is Tony Hoagland's "Personal." It is refreshingly new-sprung, published originally in the July/August 2009 issue of Poetry. How beautiful to see good poetry alive and flourishing! Three cheers for Hoagland!

All week long Hoagland's line, "Oh Life! Can you blame me / for making a scene?" has been running through my mind. It is my recent call out to the world; my mental mantra for the week. So now, dear reader, I give you the fabulous Tony Hoagland.


by Tony Hoagland

Don’t take it personal, they said;
but I did, I took it all quite personal—

the breeze and the river and the color of the fields;
the price of grapefruit and stamps,

the wet hair of women in the rain—
And I cursed what hurt me

and I praised what gave me joy,
the most simple-minded of possible responses.

The government reminded me of my father,
with its deafness and its laws,

and the weather reminded me of my mom,
with her tropical squalls.

Enjoy it while you can, they said of Happiness
Think first, they said of Talk

Get over it, they said
at the School of Broken Hearts

but I couldn’t and I didn’t and I don’t
believe in the clean break;

I believe in the compound fracture
served with a sauce of dirty regret,

I believe in saying it all
and taking it all back

and saying it again for good measure
while the air fills up with I’m-Sorries

like wheeling birds
and the trees look seasick in the wind.

Oh life! Can you blame me
for making a scene?

You were that yellow caboose, the moon
disappearing over a ridge of cloud.

I was the dog, chained in some fool’s backyard;
barking and barking:

trying to convince everything else
to take it personal too.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The World; A Little Closer Up

I am currently taking a pause from reading Walt Whitman's incredibly long "Song of Myself." I have never read "Song of Myself" in its entirety, so when the assignment was given for a class to read the 1855 version, I welcomed the challenge. But oh Whitman! It is a challenge indeed! For now I rest my weary mind and direct my attention to another love of mine: the world behind the lense of camera. Recently, I have discovered the joys of the closeup function of my camera. Enjoy these pictures. Or not, I suppose. These photos are all the work of Valerie Owens. Please do not copy without permission.

And to give this the guise of being poetry related, I will intermingle quotes with pictures.

"Seeing hearing and feeling are miracles." ~ Walt Whitman, 1855 version of "Song of Myself"

"I am waylaid by Beauty [...] Oh, savage Beauty, suffer me to pass." ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay, "Assault"

"Oh World! I cannot hold thee close enough!" ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay, "God's World"

"Life is a series of thousands of tiny miracles." ~ Mike Greenberg

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Love is so short; forgetting is so long...

Beautiful visual representation of Pablo Neruda's "Tonight I Can Write The Saddest Lines."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hopelessly Flawed

I am writing this entry from a hotel room about two thousand miles from home and about that far from a familiar face. I am beginning a bold new adventure and I have no idea what I am getting myself into. Tonight my only company is a few well loved books: Edna St. Vincent Millay Collected Lyrics, Whitman's Leaves of Grass, Alcott's Little Women, The Seagull Reader Poems, my own journal, a few religious texts, and finally, a little notebook where I keep track of passages that have moved me from books and poems I have read. Tonight, I share with you a few beloved passages from my little notebook. Oh but it is hard to choose which ones!

"Distracted by hopefullness: That explained me to myself. I was counting days until."
~ Cynthia Voigt, Glass Mountain

"By the time I was twenty it was clear to me that I was good for--and good at--nothing else. I hated every job I had... picking cucumbers, hoeing beets, selling popcorn, lifeguarding, waitressing, selling Kentucky Fried Chicken... I knew if I were to have any chance at all for happiness in work, I had better throw myself at the writing life."
~ Louise Erdich, when asked why she decided to become a writer.

"You find beauty in ordinary things; do not lose this ability."
~ Fortune Cookie

"Cautious and stubborn, unwilling to fail,"
~ Lawrence Raab, "My Life Before I Knew It"

"The world is large, / and without a fuss has absorbed stranger things than this."
~ Sarah Lindsay, "Cheese Penguin"

"In the sanctuary of my thoughts, I am a fearless renegade."
~ Mark Dunn, Ella Minnow Pea, P. 18

"I think we are all hopelessly flawed."
~ Mr. Bhaer, in the screenplay of Little Women

Thursday, August 6, 2009


This will be a long entry; be patient with me please. I suppose I owe you a long post after my lazy July blogging.

Recently, I have seen a few "gratitude lists" popping up on blogs and Facebook, lists of fifty things to be grateful for. I was reading through one such list the other night. I was thinking of my own long list of things to be grateful for. As I was thinking, Jane Kenyon's "Otherwise" came to mind. What a beautiful reminder that each day is a small miracle, one not be taken for granted.


Jane Kenyon

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together

at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

I awoke this morning young, healthy, and happy. It might have been otherwise. Truly, I am blessed. So in addition to Kenyon's simple expression of gratitude, I include my own gratitude list. Fifty? Here it goes.

I am grateful for:
  1. Sunflowers that grow by the August roadside
  2. Wheels on luggage
  3. A family that will be with me for all of eternity
  4. My Savior and my faith in Him
  5. Digital cameras and the memories they preserve
  6. Sunrises
  7. Sunsets
  8. Being young at this time and in the place
  9. The kindness of strangers
  10. The people I've met this summer
  11. The easy accessibility of poetry
  12. The opportunity for higher education
  13. Serendipitous moments
  14. The quirks and flaws of those I love
  15. My dearly beloved and carefully selected collection of books
  16. Being a sister and sister-in-law
  17. Mascara
  18. The miracle of cell phones
  19. Brown sugar and fig scented lotion
  20. Being an American
  21. The seemingly endless choices of words
  22. Music and how easy it is to share it.
  23. The chance that I have to try a new adventure this fall
  24. Laughter
  25. Surprises
  26. Dried roses and the memories they hold
  27. Time to do what I'd like with my life
  28. My religion
  29. A blow dryer and spell-check to tell me that it is two words, and not one
  30. Modern transportation; from mini-vans to jet planes
  31. The internet and the conveniences it brings
  32. Google
  33. Hope
  34. The great unknown
  35. High heels
  36. Air conditioning
  37. Chapstick
  38. Those who I have been lucky enough to call a friend at one point or another in my life
  39. Not-socks, no show socks, whatever they are called
  40. Snail mail
  41. Hairspray
  42. My health
  43. The talents God has given me
  44. Summer thunderstorms
  45. Extended family reunions
  46. Babies
  47. The faithful readers of this little blog
  48. Being me
  49. The past that has shaped the present
  50. Tomorrows
Photography by: Valerie Owens

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Slow Days Passing

Ah! The haiku! I have yet to post any haiku poems upon this site, largely because I myself am unfamiliar with the haiku. I found a small gem the other day in a used bookstore; Silent Flowers, a 1967 collection of Japanese haiku poems, complete with delicate little illustrations. How I would like to be able to know each haiku in its first language! In the book, much of the poetry comes off as stupidly simplistic in translation. The beauty is lost. So, next on my list is to discover American haiku poems, untainted by language barriers. For now, I'd like to share a few beautiful little poems from Silent Flowers. Enjoy the beautiful simplicity.

The halo of the moon,--
Is it not the scent of plum-blossoms
Rising up to heaven?
~ Buson

From what flowering tree
I know not,--
But, ah, the fragrance!
~ Basho

The butterfly
Even when pursued,
Never appears in a hurry.
~ Garuku

Slow days passing, accumulating,
How distant they are,
The things of the past!
~ Buson

Saturday, July 4, 2009

In Some Quite Casual Way...

Beautiful video of Edna St. Vincent Millay's "If I Should Learn, In Some Quite Casual Way." I love the mood the music gives the whole piece. Audio and visuals give poetry a whole new depth, as this video so elegantly illustrates. I love finding works like this. The words do move a little fast. You may have to watch in a few times to catch it all. I hope LimeyTwist doesn't mind me posting this. Thanks!

Any suggestions of poetic audio or visuals worth checking out?

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Dark Star Passes

The other week I ordered James Tate's Selected Poems through Amazon. I was so delighted at the swift arrival of the small package! Three cheers for snail mail! I was even more delighted by what was inside... So thus to give you a break from my ongoing love of Edna St. Vincent Millay, I offer a little James Tate. His poetry is definitely the sort to be read out loud.
James Tate

Why should you believe in magic,
pretend an interest in astrology
or the tarot? Truth is, you are

free, and what might happen to you
today, nobody knows. And your
personality may undergo a radical

transformation in the next half
hour. So it goes. You are consumed
by your faith in justice, your

hope for a better day, the rightness
of fate, the dreams, the lies,
the taunts. —Nobody gets what he

wants. A dark star passes through
you on your way home from
the grocery: never again are you

the same—an experience which is
impossible to forget, impossible
to share. The longing to be pure

is over. You are the stranger
who gets stranger by the hour.
James Tate. Image From Famous Poets and Poems

This is one of Tate's more mellow poems. I'll post some crazier stuff on here one day. What I love about Tate is he does his own thing. His poems appear almost wacky. Yet amidst the wackiness he is able to express emotion purely through word choice. The words don't even have to make sense together, the plot need not exist, the poem doesn't even need to be understood to feel the passion of Tate's poetry. His poems, "The Radish" and "Distance From Loved Ones" made my heart ache for reasons completely unknown to me, especially "The Radish" which is about nothing more than a bizarre moment in the grocery store.

In "Consumed" I particularly love the second to last stanza. In his own words, Tate summarizes what his poetry is to me; "an experience which is impossible to forget, impossible to share." Try as I might, I don't have the words to fully share my experience with Tate's poetry. Thus, you will have to have your own experience and see just what he's all about. The greatest thing? He's hilarious. Who says poetry can't be fun?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Audio Recording of "The Philosopher"

Click here for a public domain audio recording of "The Philosopher," as posted below. I think it's a great reading. Hopefully I will be able to post recordings of my own readings soon!

Image from

And What Am I?

Last week I visited a fabulous bookstore in Carlsbad, California called Farenheit 451 (I believe it is purposely spelled without an "h" before "n"). There I found a 1959 copy of Edna St. Vincent Millay's Collected Lyrics. Loved the collection. I read her work while watching the sunset over the Pacific. Beautiful sunset. Beautiful poetry. I couldn't have been happier.

Photo by: Lisa Owens

I posted Millay's "Recuerdo" a couple months ago, but other than that I have been largely unfamilar with her work. There is so much Millay I would love to post. But for today I give you "The Philosopher."

The Philosopher
Edna St. Vincent Millay

And what are you that, wanting you,
I should be kept awake
As many nights as there are days
With weeping for your sake?

And what are you that, missing you,
As many days as crawl
I should be listening to the wind
And looking at the wall?

I know a man that's a braver man
And twenty men as kind,
And what are you, that you should be
The one man in my mind?

Yet women's ways are witless ways,
As any sage will tell,—
And what am I, that I should love
So wisely and so well?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Have You No Thought, O Dreamer?

I know, I know, I promised sunshine and such. But it's a harder promise to fulfill than I realized.

Summertime. I love summer nights. The past couple nights I've driven my car out to a good view of the sunset. I've parked and read poetry aloud, letting my little car absorb my words. Oh what poems that car has heard!

Whitman is a recent favorite of mine. I reread Mary Downing Hahn's The Wind Blows Backward just a few short weeks ago. The novel was loaded with Whitman's work. It launched me into giving him a closer look. There is something so moving, so raw, so familiar about Whitman. I hope you enjoy tonight's poem. It certainly lingered in my mind long after I read it.

Are You the New Person Drawn Toward Me?
Walt Whitman

ARE you the new person drawn toward me?
To begin with take warning, I am surely far different from what you
Do you suppose you will find in me your ideal?
Do you think it so easy to have me become your lover?
Do you think the friendship of me would be unalloy'd satisfaction?
Do you think I am trusty and faithful?
Do you see no further than this facade, this smooth and tolerant
manner of me?
Do you suppose yourself advancing on real ground toward a real
heroic man?
Have you no thought O dreamer that it may be all maya, illusion?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Forcast: Sunshine

Photo by: Valerie Owens

This blog seems so serious, it's sad. I am a lighthearted optimist who loves more than anything to laugh and smile. But, poetry always puts me in a relaxed, reflective mood. How might I brighten this little blog up? I shall try to share some happy poetry and spread a little sunshine. My apologies for a blog too serious.

Photo by: Valerie Owens

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Love's Austere and Lonely Offices

Years, decades, even half a century, has passed since my grandpa was a farm boy. Yet even now, in his eighties, he recalls with tender clarity the love of his father. Every Christmas, his father would let his sons sleep while he went quietly to the barn and milked the cows all on his own. When the milking was done he would make his way back to the house and rap on his sons' window and say "Christmas gift! Christmas gift!" Every year. This was one small way my grandfather's father said, "I love you." What came to my mind when I heard this simple tale was Robert Hayden's poem, "Those Winter Sundays."

Those Winter Sundays
Robert Hayden
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

"Love's austere and lonely offices." I love that line. Today is Mother's Day and I'm thinking of the many austere and lonely offices my mother's love holds--the things for which she is never thanked. I would like to thank her for a great deal of many things, like roses in the garden, music on the piano, and meals on the table. I would like to thank her for smiles, hugs, laughter, and beauty. It is her quirks that I love, like the way she leaves a dozen pairs of reading glasses scattered throughout the house. Or, her forgetful moments and silly sayings that she kindly lets us chide her about. I know little of love's austere and lonely offices, but I do know my mother is a good woman and I love her for this goodness.

Also, search this blog for Owen Sheers' "Not Yet My Mother" and Billy Collins' "Lanyard," both posted last May, and Collins again just recently. Great poems with a nod to mothers.

And to my sister, thank you for reading this little blog of mine.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ceaselessly Musing

My life is on the verge of change once again... I am thinking of the college years and how fast they will fly away and how now is the time for so many, many opportunities that will never come by again.

So tonight, a little Walt Whitman.

A Noiseless Patient Spider
Walt Whitman

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to
connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

I chose this poem because these are the years, most of all, to be "ceaselessly musing" and "venturing" and forming the bridge of my life, the anchor of who I am. I suppose my whole life should be filled with ceaseless musing, but I feel now is most important and most opportune to do so.

And lastly, two quotes.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
~ Mark Twain

This is the place where I learned to live this life, to curse this life and to claim this life for my very own.
~Jodie Foster

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

YouTube meets Poetry

As of lately, I have discovered the joy of poetry meeting animation and sound. A simple Google search can pull up readings of many of my favorite poems. YouTube has awesome videos available, like animated poetry, clips from Def Poetry Jam, and videos of poets reading their own stuff. It adds a whole new dimension to poetry. Billy Collins also has an awesome Action Poetry website. So today, I post a video of Billy Collins reading his poem, "Lanyard." I've previously posted this poem, but hearing it gives the poem a whole new layer of dry humor. So it isn't really all that exciting to watch, but listen and I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Very Tired, Very Merry

Spring has finally arrived! I simply cannot get enough of the sunshine. I had forgotten how passionately blue the sky could be. The blossoms on the trees and newly planted flowers delight me incessantly. I am in love with spring. I am thinking of poems previously posted, Gerard Manley Hopkins, "Pied Beauty" and e.e. cummings' "little you-i" and "i thank you God for most this amazing;" poems that speak to me of beauty and spring.

So why then am I not posting poetry about spring? Because I'm finicky and want to post this one. I enjoy the feel of the poem, that melancholy beauty that prevails through life.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

WE were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed "Good morrow, mother!" to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, "God bless you!" for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

Nothing explicitly states the two as lovers, but it can be felt. I enjoy the tangibility of their relationship. I would like a lover such as that. I am waiting for a man who likes long drives, blue skies, sunsets, and star gazing. I am waiting for the man who likes to rest his head upon my lap, while I idly read poetry, sitting against a tree with the grass beneath and the blue sky above me. But, I'd be happy with the guy who is able to smile about my love for poetry without understanding, just as I will smile about his love for basketball, or whatever it might be.

And that has nothing to do with anything. Apologies for the scattered nature of recent posts.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Forks and April

Well, I suppose I'd better post something for April. This month's choice, Jefrey Harrison's "Fork." It was the humor that first struck me. I wish I had more to say on it, but I'm not really in the mood for commentary. Though, I realize, without commentary this little blog doesn't have much going for it. I think its purpose is more for my benefit than any other; a place to collect poetry that has moved me at one point or another.

On second thought, I don't really want to post "Fork." But, dear reader, if you so desire you are welcome to seek this poem out on your own. Its just a little long, and if you are like me, longer poems often take patience I do not possess. In fact, I wouldn't have ever taken note of "Fork" were it not read a class I'm currently taking.

So how about I admit to lameness and not post a poem this month? To make up for this atrocious entry, I will post a truly beautiful quote.

I have sometimes dreamt...that when the Day of Judgment dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards--their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon impershable marble--the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when He sees us coming with our books under our arms, "Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading."

~ Virginia Woolfe, The Second Common Reader

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Do What You Are Going To Do

Here's an interesting one... I'd be curious to know how much of the poem is autobiographical. Sharon Olds is very private about her personal life, and she has every right to be. Still, it makes one wonder. And this poem leads back to the age old question, "If you could change the past, would you?"

I Go Back to May 1937
by Sharon Olds

I see them standing at the formal gates of their colleges,
I see my father strolling out
under the ochre sandstone arch, the
red tiles glinting like bent
plates of blood behind his head, I
see my mother with a few light books at her hip
standing at the pillar made of tiny bricks,
the wrought-iron gate still open behind her, its
sword-tips aglow in the May air,
they are about to graduate, they are about to get married,
they are kids, they are dumb, all they know is they are
innocent, they would never hurt anybody.
I want to go up to them and say Stop,
don’t do it—she’s the wrong woman,
he’s the wrong man, you are going to do things
you cannot imagine you would ever do,
you are going to do bad things to children,
you are going to suffer in ways you have not heard of,
you are going to want to die. I want to go
up to them there in the late May sunlight and say it,
her hungry pretty face turning to me,
her pitiful beautiful untouched body,
his arrogant handsome face turning to me,
his pitiful beautiful untouched body,
but I don’t do it. I want to live. I
take them up like the male and female
paper dolls and bang them together
at the hips, like chips of flint, as if to
strike sparks from them, I say
Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Annabel Lee

This is one you may know. How can I have a poetry blog without including Poe?

Edgar Allan Poe
It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;--
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

She was a child and I was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love--
I and my Annabel Lee--
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud by night
Chilling my Annabel Lee;
So that her high-born kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulcher
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
Went envying her and me:--
Yes! that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of a cloud, chilling
And killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we--
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:--

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I see the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the nighttide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride,
In her sepulcher there by the sea--
In her tomb by the side of the sea.

There are slight variations in the version posted than one might be familiar with. I refer to The Mentor Book of Major American Poets, edited by Oscar Williams and Edwin Honig for this version.

In comparison to "Annabel Lee," check out Frank Desprez's "Lasca." I'm curious if any one else was struck by similarity between the two.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Identity Crisis

I am going through a bit of an blogging identity crisis. Having bid farewell to this blog, I am now unsure what to blog about on my new blog. Thus like a child returning to a security blanket, I am blogging here, because here I have a clear message of what the point of the blog is--and that is to spread the love of poetry.

I am currently taking an Intro to Poetry class. Initially I was disappointed to find there is no writing of poetry in this class, only writing about poetry. But as the class has progressed, I have loved delving deep into the mechanisms of poetry.

One particular poem has recently stuck out to me,

Dulce et Decorum Est

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

1 DULCE ET DECORUM EST PRO PATRIA MORI: Latin for, "It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country."
I love the vibrant imagery of the poem--violent though it be. It's real, it's passionate, and in it's own way, beautiful. What do you think of it?