Monday, January 31, 2011

A Brief For The Defense, by Jack Gilbert


A Brief For The Defense

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafes and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowing out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

by Jack Gilbert, from Refusing Heaven: Poems, 2005

Friday, January 28, 2011

Poetry, by Pablo Neruda

Hello Poets,
"The truth of who you are calls to you through the poems you love."
This from Pablo Neruda is one of those poems. A vital, voiced wisdom when spoken aloud, an invitation to make the first faint line of your life.


And it was at that age . . . Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
that fire,
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
and open,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.

    by Pablo Neruda, translated by Alastair Reid,
    from Memorial de IslaNegra, 1964.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Love After Love, by Derek Walcott

Hello Poets,
Glyn Maxwell ascribes the Caribbean poet Derek Walcott’s power to his verse which ". . . is constantly trembling with a sense of the body in time, the self slung across meter, whether meter is steps, or nights, or breath, whether lines are days, or years, or tides."

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door,
in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread.
Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

by Derek Walcott, from Collected Poems 1948-1984, 1986

Friday, January 14, 2011

Hymnus Ad Patrem Sinensis, by Philip Whalen

Hymnus Ad Patrem Sinensis

I praise those ancient Chinamen
Who left me a few words,
Usually a pointless joke or a silly question
A line of poetry drunkenly scrawled on the margin of a quick
                        splashed picture- bug, leaf,
                        caricature of Teacher
            on paper held together now by little more than ink
            & their own strength brushed momentarily over it

Their world & several others since
Gone to hell in a handbasket, they knew it-
Cheered as it whizzed by-
& conked out among the busted spring rain cherryblossom winejars
Happy to have saved us all.

by Philip Whalen, from Overtime, 1999

Monday, January 3, 2011

I Am Going To Start Living Like A Mystic, Ed Hirsch

Hello Poets,
Looking for something to be this year? Ed Hirsch takes a walk to find his path.

I Am Going To Start Living Like A Mystic

Today I am pulling on a green wool sweater
and walking across the park in a dusty snowfall.

The trees stand like twenty-seven prophets in a field,
each a station in a pilgrimage – silent, pondering.

Blue flakes of light falling across their bodies
are the ciphers of a secret, an occultation.

I will examine their leaves as pages in a text
and consider the bookish pigeons, students of winter.

I will kneel on the track of a vanquished squirrel
and stare into a blank pond for the figure of Sophia.

I shall begin scouring the sky for signs
as if my whole future were constellated upon it.

I will walk home alone with the deep alone,
a disciple of shadows, in praise of the mysteries.

by Edward Hirsch, from Lay Back the Darkness, 2003