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."
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 121
KOOSER, U.S. POET
A large white umbrella blown into the street and an aproned
waiter rushing to the rescue. A poem need not have a big
subject, but what's there does need to add up to more than the
surface details. Notice the way this poem by Mike White of
Utah moves beyond realistic description into another, deeper
realm of suggestion.
Not a remarkable wind.
So when the bistro's patio umbrella
blew suddenly free and pitched
into the middle of the road,
it put a stop to the afternoon.
Something white and amazing
was blocking the way.
A waiter in a clean apron
appeared, not quite
certain, shielding his eyes, wary
of our rumbling engines.
He knelt in the hot road,
making two figures in white, one
leaning over the sprawled,
broken shape of the other,
and now so carefully gathered in.
American Life in Poetry: Column 123
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET
There is a type of poem, the Found Poem, that records
an author's discovery of the beauty that occasionally occurs in
the everyday discourse of others. Such a poem might be words
scrawled on a wadded scrap of paper, or buried in the classified
ads, or on a billboard by the road. The poet makes it his or her
poem by holding it up for us to look at. Here the Washington,
D.C., poet Joshua Weiner directs us to the poetry in a letter
written not by him but to him.
What makes for a happier life, Josh, comes to this:
Gifts freely given, that you never earned;
Open affection with your wife and kids;
Clear pipes in winter, in summer screens that fit;
Few days in court, with little consequence;
A quiet mind, a strong body, short hours
In the office; close friends who speak the truth;
Good food, cooked simply; a memory that's rich
Enough to build the future with; a bed
In which to love, read, dream, and re-imagine love;
A warm, dry field for laying down in sleep,
And sleep to trim the long night coming;
Knowledge of who you are, the wish to be
None other; freedom to forget the time;
To know the soul exceeds where it's confined
Yet does not seek the terms of its release,
Like a child's kite catching at the wind
That flies because the hand holds tight the line.
|American Life in Poetry: Column 122|
KOOSER, U.S. POET
The chances are very good that you are within a
thousand yards of a man with a comb-over, and he may even be
somewhere in your house. Here's Maine poet, Wesley McNair, with
his commentary on these valorous attempts to disguise hair loss.
HYMN TO THE COMB-OVER
How the thickest of them erupt just
above the ear, cresting in waves so stiff
no wind can move them. Let us praise them
in all of their varieties, some skinny
as the bands of headphones, some rising
from a part that extends halfway around
the head, others four or five strings
stretched so taut the scalp resembles
a musical instrument. Let us praise the sprays
that hold them, and the combs that coax
such abundance to the front of the head
in the mirror, the combers entirely forget
the back. And let us celebrate the combers,
who address the old sorrow of time's passing
day after day, bringing out of the barrenness
of mid-life this ridiculous and wonderful
harvest, no wishful flag of hope, but, thick,
or thin, the flag itself, unfurled for us all
in subways, offices, and malls across America.
American Life in Poetry: Column 124
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET
Here is a lovely poem about survival by Patrick Phillips of New
York. People sometimes ask me "What are poems for?" and
"Matinee" is an example of the kind of writing that serves its
readers, that shows us a way of carrying on.
After the biopsy,
after the bone scan,
after the consult and the crying,
for a few hours no one could find them,
not even my sister,
because it turns out
they'd gone to the movies.
Something tragic was playing,
and so they went to the comedy
with their popcorn
and their cokes,
the old wife whispering everything twice,
the old husband
cupping a palm to his ear,
as the late sun lit up an orchard
behind the strip mall,
and they sat in the dark holding hands.
POEMS BY MEMBERS
DEEP IN EUROPE
We walked on cobblestones laid
down by Turks,
we drank a bitter herb apéritif
under a café canopy outdoors,
we dined on specialties of Serbia—
all this while gypsy beggars shuffled by.
The private flat provided by our host
looked over red-tile roofs and varied trees,
the river Sava, and a heavy cart
a gypsy woman pushed, collecting things
she pulled from bins. What residents put in
she added to her haul of cardboard that
would build a shelter in their shanty camp,
under the bridge that spans the Sava, by
the river’s edge, some hodge-podge huddled huts.
We walked on cobblestones laid down by Turks
and sipped a bottled Coca-Cola, ate
an apple pastry rolled in phyllo dough.
In Novi Sad, a gypsy, dragging feet
like clubs, shouted to all and moaned for alms.
Those gypsies move around, they beg, they steal,
and do whatever works for criminals,
our host explained. They’re just part of the scene.
In Bohemian Skadarlija, we sat
where intellectuals discussed reform
a hundred years ago, and do today.
We walked on cobblestones laid down by Turks.
Diane Auser Stefan
Dandelions seems to be our name,
we deep-rooted, wage the green grass game.
many praise our independent drive,
see how on our own we can survive.
Spring begins the territory war
by gardeners who cry, “No More!”
only those who hate us, stopped to stare,
our stems rest golden crowns so fair.
look as children look--when you pass,
us as sundrops scattered in the grass.
THE SOUND OF SUNDAY
After it rains there’s a
and I feel a change, much the same way
my apartment must have in the progression
of my nursing her fragile frame.
Upon arrival I vowed to extract uncleanliness from
within her and around her foggy windows,
sunken floors, cracked ceilings.
The fan/air conditioner pair cool her,
reminding her to rest my couch without legs.
Soon she delights in Sunday traffic,
their wheels picking up recently fallen clouds,
music only a century-old apartment
(and her physician) may enjoy as
she lets loose a liquid tap through the
ceilings of her mind.
As I slipped through the pantry door,
face to face:
smile. You whispered, “Patience now;
someday . . . somehow.”
Despite the risk,
dared to kiss.
Then passing to the drawing room,
I left the bloom
none to find.
cut me swatches of ripened green
for my memory book.
I will carry with me
keepsakes of each perfect swoop
in which they grazed
the foraging geese
deafened by an invisible breeze.
about these birds
with overlapping tails
who pose for snapshots
by the sun.
The ivory of their feathers
and the curvature of their wings
wrap magic all the way around
the first dawn of July.
Laurence W. Thomas
The moon’s face wrinkles
not unlike yours when you’re thinking
of things that we will do
beneath the moon’s wrinkled face.
Branches caress the water’s skin
like your insistent groping fingers
reaching for my outspread limbs
gently to caress their skin.
Stars flare up and quickly fade
the way your eyes seek mine
penetrating my inner darkness
to make me flare up like stars.
Meteors shower their beguiling light
warm as your enfolding aura
where I immerse myself and wallow
in a meteoric gratifying shower.
The opaque shadows of the night
like my misery in your absence
palliate at your approach
the moon’s face wrinkles.
ODE TO MARRIAGE
Dedicated to my daughter on her first anniversary
A wedding band, a circlet of gold
Let it remind you “to have and to hold.”
A commitment made, a promise, too.
Each one to the other when you said “I do.”
It won’t always be easy, there’s health and there’s woe.
Good days and bad--sorrow and joy.
Think of the other more highly than self.
Remember your vows you pledged so well.
Sometimes the rain causes flowers to grow.
Sometimes the rain means clouds of sorrow.
Bear each other’s burdens--it lightens the load.
Joys shared are doubled and priceless like gold.
Read in the Good Book, there’s wisdom inside.
Pray for each other and also alongside.
A strand of three is not easily broken.
Let God be the One that keeps you in yoke.
A wedding band, a circlet of gold,
Each time you see it say “Thank you” to God
For the spouse that He’s given you to walk with through
This glorious treasure – a husband and wife.
TWO WHEELS OF TIME
I see the cyclist
in the last of today's sun
he keeps his head down
a faster yellow
two wheels of clock
in their way
the voice of
leaving one place
for some place else
I looked around
saw your smile
watched as you
Busy in life
hailing from afar
we'll visit longer
Too soon, Lord,
We are not ready
to let go
This precious life
too soon--reached its period.
I repose where waters rush
High in the mountains’ silent hush,
In shadowed greens the mossy floor
Of woods drinks up the river’s roar.
I watch dried leaves float down then surge
Over falls until they merge
With twigs and branches in their course
A hold against the water’s force.
I watch the waters pool and swell
Behind the dam, a deepening well
Until they grow too strong to stop
And waters pour forth o’er the top.
Like waters are my thoughts and words
Silent pools that go unheard
That gather strength, that build and grow
‘Til with a pen’s release they flow.
TRAVEL LOG EXCERPT 294:
WONDERS FROM THE AZURE PLANET
Some Earthlings really know
how to make an impression:
take little Audrey in the tenth grade,
such a pretty boat to be lost at sea
with those wide eyes reflecting
storms still swirling on the horizon.
Even now I see the sweet girl
drifting sadly through Geometry
with solid D's. True, we've all
known rough seas, but look:
she's gone and jumped overboard,
become a frantic minnow
swimming away with all her might
from dreaded questions, those
great whites forming on the teacher’s
lips to stalk her: "Audrey, what
don't you understand? 'Everything'?
Well then, what questions
would you like to ask?" She's trapped:
only silence and a blank, blank stare.
Silence and dreams of a beach
somewhere . . .
RED AND WHITE
CHECKERED OIL CLOTH
Dewell H. Byrd
on the kitchen table
left little grainy, sandy points
on my homework papers.
No one had to explain their
presence to Miss Doris
‘cause hers had been the same
when she did her times-tables
for Miss Iota in third grade.
The cloth got a little thin
at Grandpa’s end of the table,
where he sat to sharpen
his pocket knife, do his whittlin‘,
when front porch weather was bad.
And his extra-hot cup of coffee
drew the oil right out, color and all.
That oil cloth took a beatin’
at cannin’ time: hot jars, big pans,
acidy tomatoes and more green beans
than a body would ever want to eat.
Babies got bathed, changed and cooed there.
The edge of the cloth was great for fidgetin’
when you was getting’ a talkin’ to.
Kid’s shoes got dried overnight,
polished for Sunday School.
When all the chores was done,
includin’ homework, Papa would
talk soft and low ‘bout olden times,
kin folk, fishin‘, huntin’, Bible stories
‘til yawnin’ closed the lil’ one’s eyes
an’ everbody skittered off to bed.
Mamma would give that ol’ oil cloth
one last cleanin’ and blow out the light
to end the day.
NOVEL READING DURING ACADEMIC
We all love a good story
read in the warmth of mother
punctuated with the strength of dad
wrestled free of sibling rivalry
Stories take us back to
of preschool when naps were torture
snacks were guilt-free and outside
was a wild call answered in spite of inclement weather
We all love a good story
read aloud so any public
distance reduces to intimate syrup
dripping off adulthood
FUSSING 'BOUT FLYING
Sometimes taking an airplane trip
seems almost too much for me.
I give my bags a final zip.
They're as full as they can be.
A last-minute check, and to my dismay,
there are more things than I meant to take.
No way to repack, at least not today--
doesn't that just take the cake?
No troubles en route . . .
airport on time.
check my bags (and start to pray).
Won't bet my life or even a dime
they'll arrive the same place or day.
If I change planes, the odds will double
that the luggage will probably stray.
Plane's on time . . . there still could be trouble,
the connecting flight's full today.
Boarded at last, and I'm in the middle.
Why do the small ones get seats on the aisle?
Finding my seat belt, I start to fiddle--
when it's fastened, at last I can smile.
I'll look back and laugh when this trip is over.
They assure me that's always true.
But to my daughter, I vow once more,
"With flying--till next time--I'm through."
To live your life
and try to bend the rules
where God would grieve
is just a dream, another dream,
of Adam or of Eve.
LIFE IS A LONELY PLACE
Life is a lonely place--
come dance with me.
Hear the night voice
calling to the day voice
through a hole
in the moon
where tomorrow comes
to comfort you.
slide a silken hue
across a splintered
Life is a lonely place--
come dance with me.
Golden leaves are falling; a chill is in the air.
Drag out our jackets, pumpkins everywhere.
Children riding bikes playing in the street
Call hellos to their friends and everyone they meet.
Hot summer days are gone, cooler days are here.
Lawn mowing is over; Dad has yelled a cheer.
Autumn is a favorite season when folks get together
For pumpkin pie, wiener roasts and good times forever.
SAID THE EGO ONE DAY
of Phyllis Moutray
"Go away, Super Ego,
I want to play!
It's Id I want
to hear from today.
SIGNING THE SONG OF
It was Sunday,
and the woman dressed in flowing white
stood down front to sign the song of praise.
Her lips mouthed some of the words,
but her hands untroubled,
knew the way, cooed and flew like a dove—
no motion wasted.
The good news rose in her
and in her palms-swinging arms—
no way to measure this kind of pleasure.
Were they the hands of God,
an artist at work, or a bird on the wing?
Her hands spoke of a twig of green.
The signer seemed white on dark—
hands lively and fluid,
floating like the Milky Way
sending her light into the blackest night.
The winged woman ended
by lifting her eyes, nodding meekly
and holding the last note with outstretched arms.
Then she wrote across the air:
“Thank you, Lord,”
sending out the word of life to be heard
by birds, saints and fools alike
until the end of time.
THE INSCRUTABLE ART
Who would not praise poetry
as inscrutable art,
we hold, when distant,
like Persian beauties pale
behind their silks and veils
Who cares if some consumers
droop when held arm’s length
by poems grown impenetrable.
They’d strip “inscrutable” down to “scrut”
and squander the “in” and “able”
Let die each simple early English
“snout” and “lug” and “yap”
and all common thought
like “Leaf smoke rises in the air”
and “Sheila clamped her wild hair”
too bare of noble Latinizing.
Art’s wasted as a knob that invites pulling,
a path unduly shown,
wasted as is a good wife’s good
for being skillfully known.
THE COLOR OF AUTUMN
A prose poem
I lie on the grass, still green and soft as a featherbed
underneath, lift my eyes upward to the sky and feast
on robin's-egg blue and bleached cotton candy. Miniature
butterflies drink the last drops of nectar from faded blossoms.
Tiny yellow wings fan the heated air while leaves drift to
land softly on my skin and spray orange bubbles through
my lazy view. I close my eyes, absorb autumn's bright notes
and relax with heart and soul full of gratitude and peace.
We used to go to movies; now we don’t anymore.
Then we went to rent them from a video store.
caught them later with commercials on our old TV.
The family room was crowded, but the popcorn was free.
came Netflix with eighty thousand picks
for those who live in cities and those out in the sticks.
The postman brings us movies in packs of one or
We used to go to movies--now they’re at the door.
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