Thursday, November 4, 2010

Poetry Friday: Birthday Poems Mix Tape

I'm a huge supporter of birthdays. In a way, I feel like birthdays are the most important of all holidays. Well, today happens to be mine and once you pass a certain age and become the parent of the certain amount of children, it becomes impossible for birthdays to be as special as they once were. However, I still think everyone deserves to be treated to whatever they want on their birthday. My birthday wishes, the ones that are attainable, are pretty simple...I want to watch whatever I want on TV, and I want to share Merwin and Kunitz with the world.

Forced to choose, I am 99 percent certain that I'd have to pick W.S. Merwin and Stanley Kunitz as my all-time favorite poets. I hardly ever read anything they write that I don't like/love. So on my birthday, I turn to them. Here's a bit of W.S. Merwin's "A Birthday"...

Something continues and     I don't know what to call it
though the language is full of suggestions
in the way of language
                but they are all anonymous
and it's almost your birthday     music next to my bones

these nights we hear the horses     running in the rain
it stops and the moon comes out     and we are still here
the leaks in the roof go on dripping     after the rain has passed
smell of ginger flowers     slips through the dark house
down near the sea     the slow heart of the beacon flashes
Read the rest here. But you should also check out "In the Winter of My Thirty-Eighth Year" by Mr. Merwin:

It sounds unconvincing to say When I was young

Though I have long wondered what it would be like

To be me now
No older at all it seems from here
As far from myself as ever

Walking in fog and rain and seeing nothing
I imagine all the clocks have died in the night
Now no one is looking I could choose my age
It would be younger I suppose so I am older
It is there at hand I could take it
Except for the things I think I would do differently
They keep coming between they are what I am
They have taught me little I did not know when I was young 
For this poem, you can read the rest here.

This may not be the best birthday poem ever, though. That title may belong to Mr. Kunitz's "Passing Through:"

—on my seventy-ninth birthday

Nobody in the widow’s household   
ever celebrated anniversaries.   
In the secrecy of my room
I would not admit I cared
that my friends were given parties.   
Before I left town for school
my birthday went up in smoke   
in a fire at City Hall that gutted   
the Department of Vital Statistics.   
If it weren’t for a census report   
of a five-year-old White Male   
sharing my mother’s address
at the Green Street tenement in Worcester   
I’d have no documentary proof   
that I exist. You are the first,   
my dear, to bully me
into these festive occasions.

Read the rest of this amazing poem here. And if today is your birthday, too, (I'm talking to you, P. Diddy) or even if it's not, please take the time to enjoy these beautiful birthday poems. 


  1. Oh, I love these mix tapes! Thank you! I am going to pass this one along today to Mary Lee Hahn at A Year of Reading. I'll be back! A.

  2. I love this! I'm off to send it to a friend. Poetry mix tape - great idea! I'll be back. A.

  3. Happy Belated Birthday to you, and exactly one month later, happy birthday to ME! Thanks for the mix tape and thanks to Amy for sending it to me!

    That Kunitz poem...oh, my. "I only borrowed this dust." So very true.

  4. Amy LV, glad you like the mix tapes. It's been awhile so I'm going to have to conjure one up soon, eh?

  5. Mary Lee,
    Thanks for the birthday wishes and Happiest of Birthdays to you!
    There's so much you can say about Kunitz...but sometimes he just leaves me speechless. Like the ending you mention...I have no words.

  6. Oh and Amy and Mary Lee, thanks for commenting. Rereading this post I realized that I foolishly left off a poet in my list of favorites...the triumvirate is not complete without the third poet I adore, Naomi Shihab Nye.