Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Find

Miller Williams 
I threw a snowball across the backyard.
My dog ran after it to bring it back.
It broke as it fell, scattering snow over snow.
She stood confused, seeing and smelling nothing.
She searched in widening circles until I called her.

She looked at me and said as clearly in silence
as if she had spoken,
I know it's here, I'll find it,
went back to the center and started the circles again.

I called her two more times before she came
slowly, stopping once to look back.

That was this morning. I'm sure that she's forgotten.
I've had some trouble putting it out of my mind.
Photo by: Valerie Owens

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Loss (And a Find)

Dear Reader,

It has been snowing constantly all day long. It snowed all last weekend. It snowed the week before that as well. I have had a poem gnawing at the back of my mind. It is a poem about a confused dog searching for a shattered snowball in a sea of white. But, for the life of me I can remember neither title nor poet. I turned to the world wide web for help. After a Google search of "snow poems" and various other terms failed me, I searched for the index of the book I thought it might be in, Garrison Keillor's brilliant Good Poems. This led me to a list of sixteen snow poems. The title refused to give any hints, thus I began Google-ing them, one by one, each proving harder to find than the last. 

Amidst this process I stumbled upon Bob's Road Raps of the CKUA Radio Network. Bob's Road Raps is, among other things, a rich plethora of poetry readings, including the works of Billy Collins, Sharon Olds, Emily Dickinson, James Tate, even Richard Brautigan, among many others. I did not find the poem I sought, but I will in due time. And when I do, I will share with you, dear reader, as well as photography of this snowy winter. For tonight, please enjoy the poetry within Bob's Road Raps. 

Photo by: Valerie Owens

Sunday, January 17, 2010

These are Not the Times to Come to Poetry

This is the face of Patrick Rosal:

Nice face, huh?

This is the work of Patrick Rosal:

The Woman You Love Cuts Apples for You
Patrick Rosal
and stirs them in sea salt and vinegar
She takes a drag from her Silk Cut

eases again through the fruit's flesh
the blade stopping short of her thumb

You are both sweating at the shoulder
(East Ham's hottest summer) And you realize

these are not the times to come to poetry
You have everything you need

and your father's bone-hard stare
can't reach across the Atlantic

so you save yourself for another day
because there is this woman slicing apples

stirring them in vinegar reminding you
of an afternoon twenty-five years ago when

you knelt with your brothers at your mother's
feet to pluck apple slices from a small basin

pinched between her legs And one of you
would lift that bowl—almost completely empty

except for a sour clouded liquid
and a few seeds shifting at the bottom

You'd just taste at first but soon you're handing it
from brother to brother gulping lung-fulls

of that tart cider You'd sweat sniffle gasp chug
'til your lips turned white and numb

And before you went out into those Jersey streets
you'd rinse your chin You'd soap your hands

because the girls would hold their breath
for every reason and stink on your fingers and neck

You won't dare tell anyone you've learned
to love the taste of something so strange until this

woman cuts apples for you in vinegar
and the familiar fumes fill your nostrils and gullet

She will lift the bowl to drink She'll twist her face
and laugh when she offers it and you will drink

and she will drink and you will drink again
She will kiss your cut knuckle She'll kiss your eyes

Of course the vinegar stings
It's the hottest summer ever in London

And you and the woman you love fall asleep side by side
like this—reeking and unwashed—breathing in

each other's dreams of open skin
Thank you, dear reader, for the suggestion of this amazing poet. Did you have any particular favorites by him?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

You Can Stop Shouting Now

This semester in college includes three literature courses, which means a hefty amount of reading! Fortunately, some of that reading is poetry. Here's one poem introduced to me today in British Literature. Click here for a reading of the poem from the poet himself.
The Shout
Simon Armitage

We went out
into the school yard together, me and the boy
whose name and face

I don't remember. We were testing the range
of the human voice:
he had to shout for all he was worth,

I had to raise an arm
from across the divide to signal back
that the sound had carried.

He called from over the park—I lifted an arm.
Out of bounds,
he yelled from the end of the road,

from the foot of the hill,
from beyond the look-out post of Fretwell's Farm—
I lifted an arm.

He left town, went to be twenty years dead
with a gunshot hole
in the roof of his mouth, in Western Australia.

Boy with the name and face I don't remember,
you can stop shouting now, I can still hear you.
Simon Armitage is a popular poet of England, still currently writing. "The Shout" was published in a book by the same title in 2005. I like to find poets, new to me, who have a solid career in the past and more to come in the future. I think Mr. Armitage and I could become good friends. I am eager to read more of his work.

Feel free to visit the Simon Armitage Web Site to peruse his impressive work, which expands well beyond the world of poetry.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sarah Kay

A little more performance poetry from Sarah Kay, the same poet I highlighted in a recent post on Def Poetry. My sister introduced me to this gem. Thanks, Lisa.

Oh I just love her work. She doesn't leave you a moment to dwell on any of her lines, just whisks you on to the next one. And for me, that means I've got to watch it again and again, just trying to catch it all.

Who are some of your favorite performance poets?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Poetic Escapades

More adventures with Poem in Your Pocket. I rather enjoy this tearing and sharing of poetry.

Today, I slipped the following poem into a journal at Staples, again requesting the finder email me their favorite poem. The world will have poetry if I have to travel the whole planet over to share it.

(To see the first Poem in Your Pocket escapade, click here.)

Frank O'Hara

Have you forgotten what we were like then
when we were still first rate
and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth

it's no use worrying about Time
but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
and turned some sharp corners

the whole pasture looked like our meal
we didn't need speedometers
we could manage cocktails out of ice and water

I wouldn't want to be faster
or greener than now if you were with me O you
were the best of all my days


And who is Frank O'Hara? I was not familiar with him until tonight. He lived only a short time, 1926 to 1966, but during these forty years he put out a dozen and half books of poetry, a handful of prose books, and even a play. From the limited selection of poetry on his site, I still haven't formed an opinion yet of what I think. I do, however, like "Animals." Click here for the link to his website.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Rain is Full of Ghosts Tonight

I recently moved back to a college town I lived in last school year. It's good to be back, really good to be back, but this place is a ghost town of memories. This poem doesn't really have much to do with my move, but the lines "...the rain / Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh / Upon the glass and listen for reply" keep running through my mind. So tonight, I give you a little Millay. I tend to turn to her when I am, as Wordsworth would describe, "in vacant or in pensive mood."
Edna St. Vincent Millay 
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply;
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands a lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet know its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone;
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Def Poetry

If you, as a poetry lover, are not yet familiar with Def Poetry, please become acquainted. The poetry presented is passionate, powerful, emotional, and often humorous. Just search for Def Poetry on YouTube to open a world of amazing poetry or visit the Def Poetry episode guide on the HBO site.

Here are two shows, among many others, I particularly enjoyed.