Thursday, April 30, 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Under the April Moon
Oh, well the world is dreaming
Under the April moon,
Her soul in love with beauty,
Her senses all a-swoon!
Pure hangs the silver crescent
Above the twilight wood,
And pure the silver music
Wakes from the marshy flood.
O Earth, with all thy transport,
How comes it life should seem
A shadow in the moonlight,
A murmur in a dream?
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
From this hilltop, dusty vistas of crushed
stone, unrestricted zones of brown
gravel. Under your feet the first
purple syllable of saxifrage
breaks rock, puckered heads of poppies
prepare to bellow small yellow
shouts. Over that hill,
in the valley, the river runs
black with the backs of char,
one muscle, a ford. The bay's
thousand whitecaps aren't waves,
they're beluga. And that noise you hear
is not merely the wind.
Monday, April 27, 2009
And what is she working on next? Well, a new collection is coming out in 2010, and according to her recent interview in the National Post's Afterword, she's also working on a book of poems set in Ukraine called The Unmemntioable (Yes, she assures us, that's spelled wrong on purpose). Can not wait to see that!
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Anyway, all this investigation of pinhole photography made me wonder if there were any Canadian poets writing on photographic themes. I recalled faintly that there might be something about it in Stephanie Bolster's 1998 Governor General's award-winning collection White Stone: the Alice poems. Yes -- and here it is -- this collection is made up of poems about Alice Liddell, and the infamy thrust upon her by Lewis Carroll's attachment to her and her influence on his Alice in Wonderland. It's a wonderful set of poems, do try to find White Stone --reading it all at once is fantastic.
of a raising of eyebrows, curiouser
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Wild nights! Wild nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild nights should be
Futile the winds
To a heart in port,
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart.
Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in thee!
Friday, April 24, 2009
Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
But sad mortality o'ersways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?
O! how shall summer's honey breath hold out,
Against the wrackful siege of battering days,
When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
Nor gates of steel so strong but Time decays?
O fearful meditation! where, alack,
Shall Time's best jewel from Time's chest lie hid?
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?
O! none, unless this miracle have might,
That in black ink my love may still shine bright.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
The Sonnets / Warwick Collins
This small novel aims to tell us the story behind the creation of Shakespeare's sonnets. It is set on the Earl of Southampton's estate during the Plague years in London when the theatres were closed, and actors and playwrights had to find refuge elsewhere (1592 and on). Shakespeare has been taken in by the young Earl and is biding his time by writing plays and using the library of the Earl's tutor John Florio to spark ideas. He also begins writing a series of sonnets addressed to the Earl.
Collins is a wonderful writer, and this is a well constructed and plausible tale of the genesis of Shakespeare's sonnets. It includes many sonnets within the text, but is not simply an attempt to link them all together with a vague narrative. The story actually makes sense and makes Collins' explanation feel organic. Shakespeare is politically neutral, but observes the machinations of Southampton and his puritanical and politically powerfully guardian, Lord Burghley. There are skulking spies who come and go, including Christopher Marlowe, whose actions are contrasted with Will's. The issue of the Dark Lady of the sonnets is also approached; there are two Italian women in this closed circle who appear to be candidates for the position, one of whom is Florio's wife and the Earl's mistress. There are many characters to this story, some of the most overbearing ones appearing only offstage (ie: Lord Burghley or Southampton's mother). Each one seemed to me like an individual with layers of complexity; issues of sexuality and politically motivated actions loom large. We enter right into the story without much background or buildup, so a familiarity with Shakespeare's life and the political climate of Elizabethan England helps, but is not necessary. The story stands on its own.
I enjoyed this; it was not a difficult or abstruse read, rather providing a possible context which added layers of meanings to the sonnets. Collins includes two sonnets he wrote himself, which appear in the story as Shakespeare's try at political commentary -- these sonnets are judged faintly amusing and then destroyed. (I found that subtle dig at his own skills as compared to Shakespeare's quite entertaining - and he notes clearly in the afterword that they were his own poems, to avoid confusion). The writing itself is also clear and without excessive ornamentation, bringing a distant Elizabethan setting into focus, from its dreamy opening to realistically long sleepness nights, sexual encounters, hunger, exhaustion and so on. It provides fascinating material for speculation for anyone who is a Shakespeare aficionado. Even if Shakespeare himself, or his sonnets, don't seem so intriguing to you, as an historical novel this has much to recommend it. Great characters, a well drawn setting and descriptive, engaging writing make this one a winner.
A few other opinions:
Jen at Devourer of Books
John Self at Asylum
Sally at Sally's Book Blog
And if you are interested in the fictional quest for the source of Shakespeare's short-lived spurt of sonnet writing, here are a couple of other novels which may be of interest.
The Sonnet Lover / Carol Goodman
This one posits that Shakespeare spent those Plague years in Tuscany and wrote a lost series of sonnets to his Italian lover, the infamous Dark Lady. Rose Archer, academic, is bound and determined to locate the lost sonnets.
Nothing Like the Sun / Anthony Burgess
A bawdy and dense retelling of Shakespeare's life, from youth to maturity and his writing. Who is the Dark Lady this time? A Moorish lover with whom he has a son. See a variety of covers!
So do our minutes hasten to their end,
Each changing place with that which goes before
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith, being crowned,
Crooked eclipses 'gainst his glory fight
And Time that gave, doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth,
And delves the parallels in beauty's brow,
Feeds on the rarities of natures truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow;
And yet, to times, in hope, my verse shall stand,
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Today's poem celebrates the beauty of the world, and the realization which nature's power brings us to: we are all part of the same world. Enjoy!
Voices of Earth
We have not heard the music of the spheres,
The song of star to star, but there are sounds
More deep than human joy and human tears,
That Nature uses in her common rounds;
The fall of streams, the cry of winds that strain
The oak, the roaring of the sea's surge, might
Of thunder breaking afar off, or rain
That falls by minutes in the summer night.
These are the voices of earth's secret soul,
Uttering the mystery from which she came.
To him who hears them grief beyond control,
Or joy inscrutable without a name,
Wakes in his heart thoughts bedded there, impearled,
Before the birth and making of the world.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Come into the garden, Maud,
for the black bat, night, has flown
Break, break, break,
On thy cold grey stones, O Sea!
Can you tell me whose lines those are? Or what about:
'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
(that's a bit easier but still fun)
For today, though, a rainy, cloudy Spring day, I want to share a poem by a poet I know nothing much about. His name is John Gray -- poor fellow -- but he lived 1866-1934, and moved in Oscar Wilde's circle.
Monday, April 20, 2009
The lake lay blue below the hill,
O'er it, as I looked, there flew
Across the waters, cold and still,
A bird whose wings were palest blue.
The sky above was blue at last,
The sky beneath me blue in blue,
A moment, ere the bird had passed,
It caught his image as he flew.
There's another Coleridge poem which is quite suitable for bloggers, I think; it's for those days when we wonder if we are talking into a great, dark void...
As darting swallows skim across a pool,
Whose tranquil depths reflect a tranquil sky,
So, o'er the depths of silence, dark and cool,
Our winged words dart playfully,
And seldom break
The quiet surface of the lake,
As they flit by.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Saturday, April 18, 2009
This is a poem by Eleanor Farjeon, a writer I really love -- I recently read her novel Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard. All of her work is infused with the rhythms of poetry, either in nursery rhyme or songs or poems embedded in her fiction. Here is a short verse she wrote for children.
What worlds of wonder are our books!
As one opens them and looks,
New ideas and people rise
In our fancies and our eyes.
The room we sit in melts away,
And we find ourselves at play
With some one who, before the end,
May become our chosen friend.
Or we sail along the page
To some other land or age.
Here's our body in the chair,
But our mind is over there.
Each book is a magic box
Which with a touch a child unlocks.
In between their outside covers
Books hold all things for their lovers.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Thursday, April 16, 2009
This April I thought I would share a hockey poem from a more feminine point of view. Lorna Crozier, a poet I absolutely love, wrote a poem in 2002 for the Canadian Women's Olympic hockey team. I recall hearing her read it on the CBC, during an interview with Sheila Rogers, and despite my almost total lack of interest in hockey I loved it. It was quite memorable; however, I have not been able to locate it in the books by Crozier which I own, so I am not sure where it appears in print. Please let me know if you do! I have cribbed this version from the CBC archives and thus am completely uncertain as to the correctness of the line breaks. Sorry, Lorna!!
by Lorna Crozier
(written for our women's hockey team at the Olympics for the final against the Americans, February 21, 2002)
Angels of the House, Angels of Mercy-
yes, they've called women that.
But these are Angels of Ice.
Hard-muscled, sharp, dangerous as winter's cold.
How else do you explain their speed,
the light streaming from their helmets,
the slivers of water under their burning blades that cut across the blue lines
like scissors slicing through the cotton for a quilt?
Lace to these gals is lacing up.
Cinnamon and allspice is slapshot, snapshot, backhand, wrist-
that's the recipe they're passing on from mothers to daughters, to women like me whose brothers in our races at outdoor rinks, skated backwards and beat us every time.
Break away, break away, swift angels carrying the puck,
invisible wings beating, your goalie a blaze of glory in the crease.
All across the North we'll roar and cheer.
You'll fly us far above the boards, above the rooftop of the rink tonight,
fly us into the skate-blade brightness of the winter stars.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Say it were true that thou outliv'st us all,
Thy tale of old Greek isles where thy youth grew
Or tell me how the eagle let thee fall
O Tortoise, Tortoise, there are weights, alack!
Which, ever and anon, we men must bear --
Come Thou Tortoise / Jessica Grant
She has a unique way of speaking, disdaining most punctuation beyond the period. It works wonderfully. For example, upon leaving Winnifred she says:
My own heart is all apatter. This is being alive. Can you feel the body worry before every beat. I can. Will this be the last. No. Will this be the last. No.
And then my favourite, in reference to two swans swimming in lonely splendour on an apparently bottomless pond behind Audrey's St. John's home:
When the swans put their heads underwater, they look like baby icebergs. When they lift their heads, they look surprised. Did you see the bottom. No. Did you. No. Let's check again.
When Audrey returns home she finds that her father has already died, and her grief intrudes on the light tone of the narration. The emotion is very real but not at all sentimental. Her Uncle Thoby's grief is also all-consuming, and it leads to the action of the rest of the story: he flees back to England, from whence he came when Audrey was seven years old. Audrey must first cope with his absence and then follow him to England to figure out the mystery of her life and upbringing. The elements of the story which are necessary to the 'mystery' are pretty clear to the reader, but it is handled so much from Audrey's point of view that you are still waiting for her to figure everything out. It is clear that she is much loved, both by her father and Uncle Thoby as well as their neighbours and friends (ie: Clint the Taxi Driver, neighbour Byrne Doyle, her father's secretary Verlaine). Her developing romance with a Christmas tree light technician is perfect as well.
It's a touching story, both moving and very funny. Grant's use of language is clever and Audrey is a truly original narrator. Winnifred's existence as a kind of reality check, a tortoise who has seen everything and will be straight with us about it, is a good foil to the very personal perceptions that Audrey shares with us. I found this book a fresh, intellectually invigorating experience but I also just fell in love with nearly every character. I recommend it.
Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention, I found the perfect new word to add to my vocabulary -- in reference to her father, Audrey comments that he has his "grognard face" on. What's that?
"A grognard is someone who has just woken up and is not yet happy about it."
Now if that isn't the perfect word for me I don't know what is! ;)
Kerry at Pickle Me This
Jay at The Quickie Book Review
Jessica herself guest-editing the National Post's weekend Afterword
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
A prime example of this that I have always enjoyed is the chief ornithologist in Quebec, Dr. David Bird. He is professor of Wildlife Biology and Director of the Avian Science and Conservation Centre of McGill University, as well as being a long time essayist and author. There is also a book on jam making in my library written by Jan Berry, which makes me smile. Does anyone else notice this phenomenon?
But, as it is Poetry Month, this is one name I really wanted to share. Although it's her first name in this case, Canadian poet Sonnet L'Abbé really couldn't be anything but a poet, could she? How lovely to have such a name to inspire you throughout your life. Somehow mine seems very mundane... but anyway, here is an example of Sonnet L'Abbé's poetry, from her second collection:
The shyness, the delay to say
I'm thinking, I'm processing,
the silence before the words
string into coherence I can't leave
unfilled, all my ignorance,
the mice scurrying in the maze,
please wait while the images
load, sound saying I'm not
or the coyness, the delay to say
I'm answering, when I'm processing
the first thought into a string of words
less hurtful, less assessing,
less revealing of the blunt fact
of my unkindness, all my interiority,
the scurry to hide it behind my back
please wait while I remember
your heart, sound the safety on a sharp
(McClelland & Stewart, c2007)
Monday, April 13, 2009
No use going hunting for angels,
for a Christ in the tree-mops,
a Moses winding his way up the mount
into the fire of God’s fresh stubble.
There is just a serious rain,
a steady crutch for the air,
colder than any April should be.
I am up to my neck in chores:
the cat needs more food,
my daughter’s clutter piles up like ant hills,
I fold her little sleeves, ghost by ghost.
What melody springs from the heart so well?
These lone trees can’t be dazzled by sun today,
they have such tremors like the Pope’s.
Lost loons pitched into sky folds,
their crusty buds just blinking
as if to test how fierce the light is.
They sag and meander from their stems,
they bleed from transparency.
Needless or hopeless, as overused fountains,
they are my metrics, my fortitude;
plants with lemony grass spigots
that will never go dry.
by Judith Harris
from The Bad Secret: Poems by Judith Harris.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Easter Sunday, 1985
To take steps toward the reappearance alive of the disappeared is a subversive act,
and measures will be adopted to deal with it.
—General Oscar Mejia Victores,
President of Guatemala
In the Palace of the President this morning,
The General is gripped by the suspicion
That those who were disappeared will be returning
In a subversive act of resurrection.
Why do you worry? The disappeared can never
Be brought back from wherever they were taken;
The age of miracles is gone forever;
These are not sleeping, nor will they awaken.
And if some tell you Christ once reappeared
Alive, one Easter morning, that he was seen—
Give them the lie, for who today can find him?
He is perhaps with those who were disappeared,
Broken and killed, flung into some ravine
With his arms safely wired up behind him.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
‘To the Countesse of Bedford. Begun in France but never perfected’ (Poems, 1633)
Though I be dead, and buried, yet I have
(Living in you,) Court enough in my grave,
As oft as there I thinke my selfe to bee,
So many resurrections waken mee.
That thankfullnesse your favours have forgot
In mee, embalmes mee; that I doe not rot;
This season as ’tis Easter, as ’tis spring,
Must both to growth and to confession bring
My thoughts dispos’d unto your influence, so,
These verses bud, so these confessions grow;
First I confesse I have to others lent
Your stock, and over prodigally spent
Your treasure, for since I had never knowne
Vertue or beautie, but as they are growne
In you, I should not thinke or say they shine,
(So as I have) in any other Mine;
Next I confesse this my confession,
For, ’tis some fault thus much to touch upon,
Your praise to you, where half rights seeme too much,
And make your minds sincere complexion blush.
Next I confesse my’impenitence, for I
Can scarce repent my first fault, since thereby
Remote low Spirits, which shall ne’r read you,
May in lesse lessons finde enough to doe,
By studying copies, not Originals,
Friday, April 10, 2009
Stand-To: Good Friday Morning
I’d been on duty from two till four.
I went and stared at the dug-out door.
Down in the frowst I heard them snore.
‘Stand to!’ Somebody grunted and swore.
Dawn was misty; the skies were still;
Larks were singing, discordant, shrill;
They seemed happy; but I felt ill.
Deep in water I splashed my way
Up the trench to our bogged front line.
Rain had fallen the whole damned night.
O Jesus, send me a wound to-day,
And I’ll believe in Your bread and wine,
And get my bloody old sins washed white!
- Siegfried Sassoon
Thursday, April 09, 2009
There was a young lady from Lynn
Who was so excessively thin
That when she essayed
To drink lemonade
She slipped through the straw and fell in.
And here is one of my husband's favourites, by Arnold Bennett:
There was a young man of Montrose
Who had pockets in none of his clothes.
When asked by his lass
Where he carried his brass,
He said, ‘Darling, I pay through the nose.’
Still, as explained on the Wikipedia entry for limericks:
Gershon Legman, who compiled the largest and most scholarly anthology, held that the true limerick as a folk form is always obscene, describing the clean limerick as a periodic fad and object of magazine contests, rarely rising above mediocrity. From a folkloric point of view, the form is essentially transgressive; violation of taboo is part of its function.
Which is true enough, I suppose, but I don't want to post any off colour poetry today. ;)
Stephen Fry has written a book on poetic form, The Ode less travelled (yes, the man in a cross-disciplinary genius). He includes a section on the limerick, which has caused a bit of difficulty for a British school which had purchased many copies for student instruction. Discovering that they'd forgotten about the lascivious limericks, the school solved their problem by only giving out the textbooks to students in the higher grades.* (I think it was the limerick about the female parts which gave them trouble, because we all know that female parts are much more scandalous than those of the male).
*I read this in his Twitter feed but don't remember when.
Here's one last one to go (by anonymous):
The limerick packs laughs anatomical
In space that is quite economical,
But the good ones I've seen
So seldom are clean,
And the clean ones so seldom are comical.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
And take a moment to read this poem, one of the selections from his nominated book, Revolver.
You can also find this poem, as well as a few links to great interviews with Connolly, at his Griffin Poetry Prize profile.
Hello, lady people! Pigeons are good.
Winter is good. Stoolpigeons are good –
though they’re in league with the government,
trying to kill all spontaneity.
Hello everyone! Time to start losing.
Losing is good. Losing is what we came
here to do, and it’s going quite well,
thanks for asking.
This morning I was passed by a minivan,
“Someday” printed on the vanity plate.
I wonder what she meant? “Someday soon,
goin' with you” or “I’m gonna get out of
here someday?” or “Someday my prince,
or a real rain’s going to come.”
Given the words in advance, it
might all be easier. Interpretation –
that’s where the problems start.
Take counterpane, for an example.
Sounds like a magician’s con,
a glass counter you’d bounce coins
off, but really it means something
comforting – a blanket to keep you warm.
Coins bounce off the counterpane
and under that blanket, where they exist
now in the mind only, and so will multiply
at my request. Nothing too greedy,
enough for coffee and a newspaper,
somewhere I can look for a job, anything
to reverse the recent downturn.
People like people who stand for things.
Like Shakespeare arrived at Ellis Island with
a trussed-up suitcase and the equivalent of
$3.50 in badly out-of-date currency.
And look where he ended up.
A real job – I’d like that.
People like people who have jobs.
People like people who stand for things.
From Revolver, by Kevin Connolly
Copyright © 2008 Kevin Connolly
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
Toronto: Anansi, c2008
The plot of this one is pretty well known by now, at least in Canada -- from the publisher:
In 1903 a mysterious, desperate young woman flees alone across the west, one quick step ahead of the law. She has just become a widow by her own hand. Gil Adamson's extraordinary novel opens in heart-pounding mid-flight and propels the reader through a gripping road trip with a twist -- the steely outlaw in this story is a grief-struck nineteen-year-old woman.
Mary Boulton, the aforementioned widow, was an interesting character; she has a relentless drive to make it through the wilderness after fleeing from the murder of her husband. She seems to have very good luck in running across men (always men) who help her in this process. Her story begins powerfully, in the dark with Mary in full flight, pursued by dogs and her malignant ex-brothers-in-law. The writing is exquisitely descriptive and the scene draws you into the book before you even realize you've turned so many pages. The sense of pursuit remains throughout the book, adding tension to even the most mundane scenes.
While I enjoyed the story overall, the problem I had with Mary was that I never felt that I understood her. We learn of her childhood, of how she came to marry and leave her civilized upbringing, of what exactly happened to drive her to murder and flight. However, there is never a clear why to any of it, and I could not get a sense of Mary's motivations. She seems to suffer from postpartum depression, or is it just the voices she's heard all her life? Not really sure. I am also not really sure if I bought the brothers' actions near the end of the book; they are drawn so clearly as vengeful harbingers of justice that I expected them to do away with Mary when they found her, but their meeting is strangely anticlimactic.
Still, I found the writing, especially the descriptive passages, generally strong. I enjoyed the writing style probably as much or more than the plot -- the story moved along and carried me with it, but on reflection I did find I had some problems with the plotline. One part of the book I found most satisfying was Mary's eventual existence in the real town of Frank, Alberta. Adamson describes it as a mining camp of rough and ready workers, where Mary stands out as the "beloved sister" of local preacher and the only trustworthy man, Angus Lorne Bonnycastle. Mary started to come together as a character once she stopped moving, although unfortunately it was only a brief hiatus for her. Her time in Frank ends when the real life tragedy known as the Frank Slide occurs. In the early morning hours of April 29, 1903, the top of Turtle Mountain collapsed, causing an extensive landslide that wiped out a swathe of the town of Frank, killing an estimated 70 people. However, the reality of this occurrence also tells us that the "bustling town of Frank was home to approximately 600 people in 1903" and that many of the survivors were children. Frank was a town with proper homes, families, and a railway line as well as just coal mines, so I am not certain that Mary would have stood out as such an anomaly as a woman. Still, it does make for very dramatic storytelling, and when she returns to the town at the end of the book it is suitably ambiguous. Just as in the beginning we are not quite sure what or why Mary is doing what she does. It was a thought-provoking story, but you can likely tell that my reactions to it are rather ambiguous as well. I appreciated the skill and talent Adamson brings to the book, but I am not sure that the story fully engaged my imagination or sympathies. Read a few other reviews for a less muddled take on this one!
Pickle Me This
Keepin' It Real Bookclub
Random Jottings of a Book and Opera Lover
Lizzy's Literary Life
Brother and Me
It's a mad day to run away from home, brother. Trees fall drunk in the orchard, heads swarming with bees.
Finally, the river has slapped the fields away, so no harvest, no singing, the roads all gobbled up.
Down in the city, women shoot darts, fed up with their lives, or so we’re told. They drown men, sleep in movie theatres, sing the same song over and over until someone gets murderous.
Today wind rushes the empty house, licks the dinner bell inside and out. We settle down to wait.
Our lives are not what we expected.
We eat little crisp buns under the awning and peep out at the sun, the big white fury booming around in heaven.
One tanned arm.
At night the road sweats.
riddled with light.
I can't smell anything now
no sound in the dark halls
and I wake up
kicking sheets to the floor.
My mother always said
never forget where
you come from.
I drive deeper into
the hopeful quiet
I do my best.
These hills grow dark
the air shines.
Any hopes I once had
Imagine that relief.
Listen for them, the babies
the bombs in the ground
shining under your car
as you pass.
Soon you won't hear
How could this be wrong?
all my bad dreams
crushed between my teeth.
I feel a state line
a cobweb, float by.
Monday, April 06, 2009
Erin, ON: Porcupine's Quill Press, c2008.
The second in the Porcupine's Quill series of Essential Poets, this is a quick gathering up of some of the many, many poems of P.K. Page. As they say in the introduction,
the collection is admittedly wildly idiosyncratic and certain to be controversial. Arranged alphabetically for easy reference, these poems do not reflect a `young' or a `mature' voice; for Page, time is not linear and change does not occur along a narrow path. Think of this volume as a sort of pocket P. K. Page making its way into backpacks, carry-on luggage, doctors' waiting rooms ...
P. K. Page has been writing for around 60 years; she's in her 90s now and put out a new volume of short stories just over a year ago, entitled Up on the Roof. She's best known as a poet, however, and this is a good introduction to a wide variety of her work. I can see it carried in a pocket and being pulled out to read one or two from time to time. Here are a couple for your delectation:
The very stars are justified.
I have proofread
the beautiful script.
There are no
Evening Dance of the Grey Flies
Grey flies, fragile, slender-winged and slender-legged
scribble a pencilled script across the sunlit lawn.
As grass and leaves grow black
the grey flies gleam --
their cursive flight a gold calligraphy.
It is the light that gilds their frail
bodies, makes them fat and bright as bees --
reflected or refracted light --
as once my fist
burnished by some beam I could not see
glowed like gold mail and conjured Charlemagne
as once your face
grey with illness and with age --
a silverpoint against the pillow's white --
shone suddenly like the sun
before you died.
Sunday, April 05, 2009
How We All Swiftly
My God how we all swiftly, swiftly
Saturday, April 04, 2009
Well, here is a way to combine both. Who knew that Leonard Cohen wrote such a great poem using kite imagery? He's been in the news lately because he is on tour through Canada, the US and with a few European appearances; the tour just began yesterday. He has a new tour cd out from his concert in London last year as well, which has all his hits on it, including my favourite, Hallelujah. The latest volume of poetry he's put out is The Book of Longing, and if you really like Cohen, you must take a look at the collection at the CBC Archives (video and radio clips from age 22 on...it's wonderful!) But, on to the poem, celebrating both poetry and the kite:
A Kite is a Victim
A kite is a victim you are sure of.
You love it because it pulls
gentle enough to call you master,
strong enough to call you fool;
because it lives
like a desperate trained falcon
in the high sweet air,
and you can always haul it down
to tame it in your drawer.
A kite is a fish you have already caught
in a pool where no fish come,
so you play him carefully and long,
and hope he won't give up,
or the wind die down.
A kite is the last poem you've written,
so you give it to the wind,
but you don't let it go
until someone finds you
something else to do.
A kite is a contract of glory
that must be made with the sun,
so you make friends with the field
the river and the wind,
then you pray the whole cold night before,
under the travelling cordless moon,
to make you worthy and lyric and pure.
Friday, April 03, 2009
In any case, if you are at all familiar with fairy tales you will know there are certain rules to follow if you happen to be in the middle of a story yourself -- Neil Gaiman has thoughtfully put together a poem called Instructions for just that instance.
Here is the beginning:
by Neil Gaiman
Touch the wooden gate in the wall you never
Say "please" before you open the latch,
walk down the path.
A red metal imp hangs from the green-painted
as a knocker,
do not touch it; it will bite your fingers.
.......now go read the poem in its entirety.......
(Or you can find the poem in his story collection, Fragile Things)
And then perhaps you'd like to hear the man himself read his poem to you. It is a wonderful experience.
Thursday, April 02, 2009
And in celebration of the joys of selling and buying and coveting books, here's a fun poem by the entertaining versifier Eugene Field (1850-1895)
Keep me, I pray, in wisdom's way