POETRY IN THE NEWS
Charles Simic is our nation's new poet laureate to succeed
Donald Hall. Simic's work is problematical since
much of it is surrealism. However, he has some poems everyone can appreciate. The Week
magazine for August 17, 2007, reprinted his short poem
"Watermelons." Here is the complete poem: "Green Buddhas /
On the Fruitstand / We eat the smile / And spit out the teeth."
See the Poet of the Month section below.
John Ashbery has been named MtvU's poet laureate.
This is an exclusive network designed for college students.
Ashbery, who is 80 years old, was a surprising winner. His
early poetry was very difficult to understand; now it is more
accessible. Read the New York Times story at
Lev Grossman in the June
18, 2007, issue of TIME discusses the $200 million gift
of Ruth Lilly to Poetry magazine. Grossman asks if
this huge gift can revive a "dying art." Read Grossman's
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AMERICAN LIFE IN POETRY
Ted Kooser, former U. S. Poet Laureate, in
response to an interviewer for National Public Radio, stated that
his "project" as laureate was to establish a weekly column featuring
contemporary American poems supported by The Poetry Foundation, The
Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University
of Nebraska. This column appears in on-line publications (such
as Thirty-Seven Cents) as well as hard-copy newspapers. Poets
are asked to contact their local newspaper editors to inform them that such
a column is available free to them and to relieve the editors by
explaining that all of the poems that will appear week by week are
accessible, not obscure poems.
|American Life in Poetry: Column 125
KOOSER, U.S. POET
The American poet, Ezra Pound, once described the faces of
people in a rail station as petals on a wet black bough. That
was roughly seventy-five years ago. Here Barry Goldensohn of New
York offers a look at a contemporary subway station. Not petals,
but people all the same.
The station platform, clean and broad, his stage
for push-ups, sit-ups, hamstring stretch,
as he laid aside his back pack, from which
his necessaries bulged, as he bulged
through jeans torn at butt, knee and thigh,
in deep palaver with himself--sigh,
chatter, groan. Deranged but common.
We sat at a careful distance to spy
on his performance, beside a woman
in her thirties, dressed as in her teens--
this is L.A.--singing to herself.
How composed, complete and sane
she seemed. A book by the Dalai Lama
in her hands, her face where pain and wrong
were etched, here becalmed, with faint chirps
leaking from the headphones of her walkman.
Not talking. Singing, lost in song.
American Life in Poetry: Column 127
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET
Poet Marianne Boruch of Indiana finds a bird's nest near her
door. It is the simplest of discoveries, yet she uses it to
remind us that what at first seems ordinary, even "made a mess
of," can be miraculously transformed upon careful reflection.
I walked out, and the nest
was already there by the step. Woven basket
of a saint
sent back to life as a bird
who proceeded to make
a mess of things. Wind
right through it, and any eggs
long vanished. But in my hand it was
intricate pleasure, even the thorny reeds
softened in the weave. And the fading
leaf mold, hardly
itself anymore, merely a trick
of light, if light
can be tricked. Deep in a life
is another life. I walked out, the nest
already by the step.
American Life in Poetry:
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POETRY LAUREATE
North Carolina poet, Betty Adcock, has written scores of
beautiful poems, almost all of them too long for this space.
Here is an example of her shorter work, the telling description
of a run-down border town.
The wooden scent of wagons,
the sweat of animals--these places
keep everything--breath of the cotton gin,
black damp floors of the icehouse.
Shadows the color of a mirror's back
break across faces. The luck
is always bad. This light is brittle,
old pale hair kept in a letter.
The wheeze of porch swings and lopped gates
seeps from new mortar.
Wind from an axe that struck wood
a hundred years ago
lifts the thin flags of the town.
|American Life in Poetry: Column 126|
KOOSER, U.S. POET
The British writer Virginia Woolf wrote about the pleasures of
having a room of one's own. Here the Vermont poet Karin
Gottshall shows us her own sort of private place.
The Raspberry Room
It was solid hedge, loops of bramble and thorny
as it had to be with its berries thick as bumblebees.
It drew blood just to get there, but I was queen
of that place, at ten, though the berries shook like fists
in the wind, daring anyone to come in. I was trying
so hard to love this world--real rooms too big and full
of worry to comfortably inhabit--but believing I was born
to live in that cloistered green bower: the raspberry patch
in the back acre of my grandparents' orchard. I was cross-
stitched and beaded by its fat, dollmaker's needles. The effort
of sliding under the heavy, spiked tangles that tore
my clothes and smeared me with juice was rewarded
with space, wholly mine, a kind of room out of
the crush of the bushes with a canopy of raspberry
dagger-leaves and a syrup of sun and birdsong.
Hours would pass in the loud buzz of it, blood
made it mine--the adventure of that red sting singing
down my calves, the place the scratches brought me to:
just space enough for a girl to lie down.
American Life in Poetry: Column 128
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET
Our poet this week is 16-year-old Devon Regina DeSalva of Los
Angeles, California, who says she wrote this poem to get back at
her mother, only to find that her mother loved the poem.
Snip Your Hair
I'll snip your hair
Cut it all off until you look like a man
I will replace your weight loss bars with bars to make you gain
I will cut your credit cards in half
I will shrink all your clothes
Every trick in the book I will try
I will give all your shoes to the dog
I will do it all
Crazy is where you will be driven
Off a cliff you will want to jump
Then when I am all done
I will look at you with big doughy eyes
And I will say I am sorry
But I have my fingers crossed
American Life in Poetry: Column 130
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POETRY LAUREATE
A number of American poets are adept at describing places and
the people who inhabit them. Galway Kinnell's great poem, "The
Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ into the New World" is one
of those masterpieces, and there are many others. Here Anne
Pierson Wiese, winner of the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy
of American Poets, adds to that tradition.
Down at the end of Baxter Street, where Five Points
slum used to be, just north of Tombs, is a pocket park.
On these summer days the green plane trees' leaves
linger heavy as a noon mist above
the men playing mah jongg--more Chinese
in the air than English. The city's composed
of village greens; we rely on the Thai
place on the corner: Tom Kha for a cold,
jasmine tea for fever, squid for love, Duck Yum
for loneliness. Outside, the grove of heat,
narrow streets where people wrestle rash and unseen
angels; inside, the coolness of a glen and the wait staff
in their pale blue collars offering ice water.
Whatever you've done or undone, there's a dish for you
to take out or eat in: spice for courage, sweet for chagrin.
POEMS BY MEMBERS
JUST PASSING THROUGH
At mad O’Hare, on Concourse C
plunged into chaos, seemed to me
the clerks and agents were struck dumb
nor could they hear. From fatigue numb
we found our gate sans bonhomie.
With pretzels complimentary,
Lufthansa’s nice technology
we soon forgot our martyrdom
at mad O’Hare.
haiku, tanka, senryu
air-paints abstract circles, swoops
a modern relic
nurtures aquatic insects
pond dragons emerge on wing
remind me of dad's fossil-
stone watch fob I lost
You are my
God and King.
Therefore, I shall sing,
Rejoicing in You for all You are
Because You are my morning star.
KIN TO CATS
When my life came to a halt,
I was 66 and filled with retirement dreams.
Lymphoma, however, had other plans
for me. A steady diet of toxic chemo--
beginning in spring, ending in fall--
denied me the freedom
to come and go at will.
I was chemo's slave,
usually too sick to sleep
much less to travel.
Night after night,
I migrated from bedroom
to living room to garage
in search of elusive sleep.
On treatment nights,
I hugged the ceramic commode
and pleaded for its mercy.
One year later, a C-T Scan
revealed the disease was gone.
The cancerous lymph nodes
had been destroyed.
Hope replaced dismay and
and once again I could plan.
I had been granted a reprieve
and was reminded
that cats have nine lives.
bones & sun
Lawrence W. Thomas
bones soaking in the rain
ribs, no longer caging a sun
THE SISTINE CHAPEL
It's a long roundabout walk
to the back of St. Peter's,
then through many hallways
and many rooms lined with
We pass a souvenir stand
and I think "Moneychangers!"
At last we reach the chapel.
Other footsteps echo on the
but our soft-soled shoes are
People speak in reverent
We head for an empty bench
against a wall to sit and rest
I lean my head against the
back of the bench
and look at the ceiling.
Castel Sant Angelo has large
on stands, in corners of some
to see ceiling details and
save the neck.
Here we must look up
and I'm thankful for the
I've seen reproductions of
this artwork all my life
and I'm amazed to be here,
trying to absorb it all
so I can recall it again and
Diane Auser Stefan
Dark thick stumps
looking like a short forest
slowly cut and cleared
Up and down the rounded
the cutting relentlessly
until all is barren
all that remains in view
is a sleek smoothness
Efforts worth the end result
In spite of care and safety
that dang new razor blade
still nicked my leg!!
ARE MY CHILD
my child,” the mother says.
"I remember the day you were born.
And even though you may give
me pain and sorrow,
Even though you make choices with which I don’t agree,
Yet I love you and I want you in my life.
I desire to spend time with you and hear your voice.
You are my child and I love you very much."
my child,” the father says.
“I remember when I first gazed upon you.”
And even though I have had to discipline you,
Even though I’ve had to say 'No' to you,
I always wanted the best for you.
My discipline only proves that I love you.
You are my child and I will always love you."
my child,” God says.
“I remember the day you asked me to save you.”
And even though you may run far from me,
Even though you try to deny me,
Yet I will still pursue a love relationship with you.
I still desire for you to love me as you once did.
My discipline may cause pain for you –
But know it is only because I love you.
You are my child, and I will always love you so very much.
THE SEARCH . . . THE REWARD
As long as eyes can look and
at fern and fir,
I thank my God,
for His great rod.
I turned to Him for golden
he touched my face,
renewed my sight.
I ceased to fight.
When God in Glory will
without one tear
and no delay,
I'll fly away.
EASTER IN THE VERNACULAR
"There was a violent earthquake." (Matthew 28:2)
The thin crust
and the bedded rock, the
roots of trees, their leaves, the olive
dots along each branch, Mary--
all trembled before the
angel's loud rift through
space and the words:
He was gone
ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS
A KIND OF TRIBUTE
"Last night I dreamt I went
to Manderley again."
"Give me a triple grande 140 degree no foam
cinnamon dolce latte with caramel on the whip."
"Travel with us through a wondrous maze
of forested-island and glacier-carved fjords."
"The world would be happier if men had
the same capacity to be silent that they have
"Smart Dog: America's favorite vegetarian hot dog!"
"Place marinated salmon fillets on lightly oiled
grill rack, 4 minutes per side."
Talk to me.
"Please respect abutting private property and
posted trail rules."
"You are listening to Delilah."
and don't ever let me
hear you say that again.
"As indicated in our prior notice, reported income
and payment information (e.g., wages, interest
miscellaneous income, income tax withheld, etc.)
does not match the entries on your Form 1040."
All your moms.
"Hello, I'm Johnny Cash."
Applause . . . Silence .
. . Rapture.
As the sun goes down
There's a man
Peering through curtains
A gust of wind
And the leaves
this is the part
LIVING IN ONE ROOM
Living in one room
surrounded by life,
cluttered, treasured, insulated
from everything but fate,
we have the farm, the
forest, the pond,
the animals, tall corn, ripe beans and tomatoes--
anchors to life and eternal Life while
the calendar of the soul turns its pages.
Sunflowers, on the
yellow and brown circled, deep-seeded center
oozing powdery drops of pollen, enticing bees--
honey bees hard to find any more--
but "any mores" remind me
and that's an old story--happy-ended
like summer flowing into fall
golden, ripe, done with heat and hurry
having learned love, looking, listening.
THE COPY MACHINE
The copy machine said
Katy did. Katy did.
The copy machine said Katy did
time and again, time and again.
I thought it said she
did, she did,
because she could, she could.
Time and again, I thought it said
she did because she could.
I often thought I
what Katy did because she could,
time and again, day after day
until the day that she retired.
I thought I wouldn’t do
what Katy did,
what Katy did till she retired,
but it fell to me, what Katy did
time and again, day after day.
It fell to me to fill her
at the copy machine time and again.
At the copy machine day after day
I do what Katy did, what Katy did.
Between them was an
ancient desk, cast off
by an incumbent
congressman who thought
donating it to Rehab would
buy some image.
"Please tell me why you're
here," he asked
the slender child of
twenty-one, whose hair,
though clean, cascaded
whose eyes seemed seasoned
with a hard veneer
as lifeless as the stained
bare paneled wall before her.
Flippantly, she shrugged,
back in the slatted,
wooden chair. Her lips
curled and she tossed her
head, "No, I don't know."
Unruffled, Dr. Vogler
"The doctor who referred
you says you're sick;
you're in a highly
She bolted upright
"I'm not addicted! I can
take it up
or put it down," she
almost shouted, as
she fumbled for a
Dewell H. Byrd
over the garden.
Damp, fresh, clean
earth drinks its fill, sighs.
Picket fence releases strands of vapor.
embrace the sky
lush with early omen.
Starlings skitter about, glean.
Wind and light tease each other.
holds its breath
for a milli-second.
Grandma taps an egg
on the rim of the mixing bowl,
waits for the miracle to slip out.
I am drawn to the ocean's shore, and wonder why.
Sand stings my face and legs
as the winds force the waves to start building
far out toward the horizon.
Once in motion, they march,
row on row, straight to the shore--
never swerving--until they dash
against outcroppings of land and rock
in a booming display of spectacular water fireworks!
Sparkling, translucent, sun-created colors,
harmonizing sound and rhythm of wind and water,
create a magnificent, infinite symphony!
As my spirit races to blend with this universal music,
I become complete and know that I am . . . Home.
The anchor man on NBC
doesn’t speak grammatically
For example, he says, “It is him,”
when he should say, “It is he.”
His error in the
is not reflected in his face;
he preens as if he need not use
the nominative in its place.
Impressive is the weight
especially when he kindly yields
the screen to “experts” who disperse
the latest from their fields
of medicine, economy,
a law enforcement mystery,
or politics—yes, all the news
that’s fit for you and me.
They leave us with some
bit to quote
that’s also prone to flaws, I note.
If I can’t trust them on their pronouns,
how could they have my vote?
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