Category Archives: poetry

Thinking of me

My buddy, WalkingRaven, emailed me the following, including appropriate highlighting. (I added one highlight.) Hall describes the ideal life that is not all that different from my life with Mer, if one substitutes ‘blog/blogger’ for ‘poem/poet’. Little does WR know that Donald Hall is a favorite poet of my oldest friend, John Stewart. I recommend you follow the link to read Church Fair, by Jane Kenyon.

Church Fair by Jane Kenyon | The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor

It’s the birthday of poet Jane Kenyon (books by this author), born in Ann Arbor, Michigan (1947). She married fellow poet Donald Hall, whom she met as a student at the University of Michigan, where he was a professor. They lived in his family farmhouse in New Hampshire. Hall wrote: "[W]e got up early in the morning. I brought Jane coffee in bed. She walked the dog as I started writing, then climbed the stairs to work at her own desk on her own poems. We had lunch. We lay down together. We rose and worked at secondary things. I read aloud to Jane; we played scoreless ping-pong; we read the mail; we worked again. We ate supper, talked, read books sitting across from each other in the living room, and went to sleep. If we were lucky the phone didn’t ring all day. In January Jane dreamed of flowers, planning expansion and refinement of the garden. From late March into October she spent hours digging, applying fifty-year-old Holstein manure from under the barn, planting, transplanting, and weeding."

She published only four books of poetry before she died from leukemia at the age of 47. She was the state poet of New Hampshire at the time.

Church Fair by Jane Kenyon | The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor

Size matters … in poems

Here at the Café Poetica, where the wireless is ethereal, the server sets down a small plate with a little morsel I pop into my mouth. These appetizers are almost always "good enough." In the worst cases, they’re gone before I think about spitting them out. In the best cases, I ask, "May I have some more, please?"

Next up: a large plate. This is no empanada: it’s a calzone. I take a bite as Walt Whitman looks at me from the pass-thru, smiling expectantly, wiping his hands on an apron. I stall, "h-h-hot." A few bites in, I’m enjoying this. Before long, I’m stuffed and the plate is still half full. No matter how good this dish is, it’s more than I want at one sitting. And if it’s an off day, I wouldn’t give the leftovers to my dog.

My metaphor is as tart as a lemon (and my similes juicy). You take my point and yet I go on and on, testing your resolve. Let me be brief: be brief. I do not offer advice, especially to poets, whom I have nothing to teach. I’ll just say what I like: a tasty morsel. If I can’t stop my eye from wandering ahead — just how long is this? — I probably won’t get to the end. (Haven’t you already scanned ahead? Would your patience increase if these lines didn’t reach the edge of the page?) There’s a difference between rhetoric and poetry. Get a blog. Keep a journal. Pour your heart out in detail — that could produce great writing and surely produces cheap therapy. But if you have 10 things to say or 10 ways to say one thing, consider which is "best" (don’t ask me) or write 10 poems to figure it out.

That said, please yourself first. If you also please someone else, that’s gravy. Not that everything is better with gravy.

Raven’s Rule: If your poem is longer than The Raven, it should be better. Good luck with that.

Our New US Poet Laureate

Even dim Duhbya supports poetry, when the chimps are at the vet. A hearty welcome to Kay Ryan! peace, mjh

Dana Gioia Online – Kay Ryan

Here is “Paired Things” from Flamingo Watching in which image and abstraction dance so consummate a pas de deux that one wonders why modern poetics ever considered the two imaginative impulses at odds:

Paired Things

    Who, who had only seen wings,
    could extrapolate the
    skinny sticks of things
    birds use for land,
    the backward way they bend,
    the silly way they stand?
    And who, only studying
    birdtracks in the sand,
    could think those little forks
    had decamped on the wind?
    So many paired things seem odd.
    Who ever would have dreamed
    the broad winged raven of despair
    would quit the air and go
    bandylegged upon the ground,
    a common crow?

“Paired Things” displays Ryans characteristic style: dense figurative language, varied diction, internal rhyme, the interrogative mode, and playful vers libre, which elusively alternates between iambic and unmetered lines. One of Ryans signature devices is the counterpoint of sight and sound in the placement of her poetic language. Her hidden rhymes and metrical passages only became fully apparent when the poem is spoken aloud. “Paired Things” also hovers, as so many Ryan poems do, on the edge of allegory.

Dana Gioia Online – Kay Ryan

PS: In farewell, thanks to her predecessor, Ted Kooser.

After Years

Today, from a distance, I saw you
walking away, and without a sound
the glittering face of a glacier
slid into the sea. An ancient oak
fell in the Cumberlands, holding only
a handful of leaves, and an old woman
scattering corn to her chickens looked up
for an instant. At the other side
of the galaxy, a star thirty-five times
the size of our own sun exploded
and vanished, leaving a small green spot
on the astronomer’s retina
as he stood on the great open dome
of my heart with no one to tell.