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?