Posts Tagged ‘ars poetica’

Spirits of the Dead

October 20, 2014


Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness—for then
The spirits of the dead who stood
In life before thee are again
In death around thee—and their will
Shall overshadow thee: be still.

From “Spirits of the Dead” by Edgar Allan Poe via The Poetry Foundation.


July 4, 2014


So much cold
even the moon can’t swallow it
or the harbour in its fishy dark. You
balance your breath like a bowl of dry
ice. It’s all a mistake, this body,
this job, this love. Somewhere inside
where the heart spins hard on its string
is an animal watching. It scratches
at night, perhaps a beak or a tusk,
is neither kind nor unkind, just restless.

So much rain
even the deepest hill can’t filter it
or the river with its open gills. You
carry your heart like a full dish of blood.
It’s all such a blessing, this body,
this job, this love. Somewhere inside
where the lungs stretch their intricate wings
is an animal watching. It wriggles
at night and shows its belly or its tender scales,
is neither kind nor unkind, just restless.


Tiffany Atkinson, via The Guardian.

Khaleesi Says

February 2, 2014


Khaleesi Says
Game of Thrones

In this story, she is fire born:
knee-deep in the shuddering world.

In this story, she knows no fear,
for what is fractured is a near-bitten star,
a false-bearing tree,
or a dishonest wind.

In this story, fear is a house gone dry.
Fear is not being a woman.

I’m no ordinary woman, she says.
My dreams come true.

And she says and she is
and I say, yesgive me that.


Game of Thrones

Follow where all is./Follow the transfused./Follow what is still and
what is still-attracting.

That light/That beauty/That love/That, that is massy-borne and
rising up, like a drifting star.

Like stars lift./Like lifting stars./Like the lifting of stars, I rose. I rise.

Rose. Rose. Like a thing beyond words: satiated.

Let lie in the ravage./Let lie in what is ravaged-wrought.

Why fear what hasn’t become?

I beckon, like light./Like a star, I will beckon./You will oblige./You
will lend the want. You will eclipse my blinding.

You will know nothing. Nothing. You will know nothing of what
has been dark.


Leah Umansky, “Khaleesi Says” and “Follow”, Poetry 203.4
(Jan., 2014): 314-15. I subscribed to Poetry late last year,
and it’s just about the greatest thing to discover in your
mailbox after a long day at work. ♥

A highly original woman

January 3, 2013


I remember the sky behind her was purple she
came towards me saying
Why are you alone in this huge blank garden
like a piece of electricity? Electricity?
Maybe she said cakes and tea true we were drinking gin it was long past
teatime but she was a highly original woman


Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red, Vintage: New York, 1999: 58.

September 17, 2012

“Late August”, Margaret Atwood.

via Fox on the Run

I have to tell you

April 16, 2012

I have to tell you,
there are times when
the sun strikes me
like a gong,
and I remember everything,
even your ears.


Dorothea Grossman, “I have to tell you”, Poetry (March, 2010)/here.

Love Songs in Age

February 21, 2012


She kept her songs, they took so little space,
The covers pleased her:
One bleached from lying in a sunny place,
One marked in circles by a vase of water,
One mended, when a tidy fit had seized her,
And coloured by her daughter–
So they had waited, till in widowhood
She found them, looking for something else, and stood

Relearning how each frank submissive chord
Had ushered in
Word after sprawling hyphenated word,
And the unfailing sense of being young
Spread out like a spring-woken tree, wherein
That hidden freshness, sung,
That certainty of time laid up in store
As when she played them first. But, even more,

The glare of that much-mentioned brilliance, love,
Broke out, to show
Its bright incipience sailing above,
Still promising to solve, and satisfy,
And set unchangeably in order. So
To pile them back, to cry,
Was hard, without lamely admitting how
It had not done so then, and could not now.

Philip Larkin, The Whitsun Weddings, London: Faber, 1973: 12.


So, I had decided not to like Larkin, because all the poems I’d ever known of his had been read to me and mostly forgotten, except for his one about Mr Bleaney, which I’d had read to me several times very poorly and so was forced to remember. That all changed when I was going through mum’s bookcases the other day, was accosted by a silm, winsome little edition of his Whitsun Weddings, and found myself forced to admit that his poems are beautiful. They are smooth and firm and deliberate, yet he works them into things of such conversational subtlety that it seems as though his thoughts are unfolding so freely and perfectly. Perhaps just as there are poems made to be read and held before audiences (the sensory and dramatic grandeur of Paradise Lost comes to mind), there are also poems made to be read, curled up by yourself, in a happy or compassionate intimacy (I’m thinking now of Milton’s sonnets on blindness or his wife). Larkin’s beauty only came to me in privacy.

Anyway. Crudely underthought generalisations aside, Larkin is a total dude, and there might be a lot of him to come over the next little while. Such as this, from “For Sidney Bechet“, which sent me into conniptions of ecstasy when I got to it last night:

On me your voice falls as they say love should,
Like an enormous yes.

You must speak not only of great devastation

February 14, 2012


From Deaf Republic: 4

Ilya Kaminsky


“You must speak not only of great devastation
but of women kissing in the yellow grass!”

I heard this not from a great philosopher
but from my brother Tony

who could do four haircuts in thirteen minutes,
his eyes closed, reciting our National Anthem to the mirror.

“You must drink cucumber vodka and naked sing all night
Unite women and boys of the earth!”

He played the accordion out of tune in a country
where the only musical instrument is the door.

“Speak not only of great devastation”
so said my brother, who could not write or read

but spent his days covered in other people’s hair.


[Poet’s note:] These poems are from the unfinished manuscript Deaf Republic. This story of a pregnant woman and her husband living during an epidemic of deafness and civil unrest was found beneath the floorboards in a house in Eastern Europe. Several versions of the manuscript exist.—IK


From Poetry (May, 2009)/here. I love discovering a poet for the first time!

New Year, and the amassing of absences

January 4, 2012

Snowshoe to Otter Creek

I’m mapping this new year’s vanishings:
lover, yellow house, the knowledge of surfaces.
This is not a story of return.
There are times I wish I could erase
the mind’s lucidity, the difficulty of Sundays,
my fervor to be touched
by a woman two Februarys gone. What brings the body
back, grieved and cloven, tromping these woods
with nothing to confide in? New snow reassumes
the circleting trees, the bridge above the creek
where I stand like a stranger to my life.
There is no single moment of loss, there is
an amassing. The disbeliever sleeps at an angle
in the bed. The orchard is a graveyard.
Is this the real end? Someone shoveling her way out
with cold intention? Someone naming her missing?

Stacie Cassarino, Zero at the Bone (2009)/here.

Oh, I am happy though. It’s a strange confluence of things.

Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib

November 25, 2011

No, I wasn’t meant to love and be loved.
If I’d lived longer, I would have waited longer.
Knowing you are faithless keeps me alive and hungry.
Knowing you faithful would kill me with joy.
Delicate are you, and your vows are delicate, too,
so easily do they break.
You are a laconic marksman. You leave me
not dead but perpetually dying.
I want my friends to heal me, succor me.
Instead, I get analysis.
Conflagrations that would make stones drip blood
are campfires compared to my anguish.
Two-headed, inescapable anguish!—
Love’s anguish or the anguish of time.
Another dark, severing, incommunicable night.
Death would be fine, if I only died once.
I would have liked a solitary death,
not this lavish funeral, this grave anyone can visit.
You are mystical, Ghalib, and, also, you speak beautifully.
Are you a saint, or just drunk as usual?

By nineteenth-century Urdu poet, Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, trans. Vijay Seshadri, in Poetry (Apr., 2009)/here.

Also interesting: the translator’s notes.