Friday, August 31, 2012

Poetry Friday: A.R. Ammons

Is there a greater gift than a book of poetry? A friend and colleague of mine made a special trip to my school earlier this month to deliver a book of poems by A.R. Ammons. He even wrote an inscription and highlighted his favorites! That's how poetry lovers give gifts.

So I've been sort of slowly soaking myself in Ammons's work. He's not a poet I was really familiar with beyond recognizing his name. But I'm definitely a fan.

My favorite so far is called "Staking Claim." But, I can't find a copy online that I'm authorized to use. So instead I bring you the beginning portion of a long but elegant poem called "Corsons Inlet:"

Corsons Inlet

I went for a walk over the dunes again this morning
to the sea,
then turned right along
   the surf
                         rounded a naked headland
                         and returned

   along the inlet shore:

it was muggy sunny, the wind from the sea steady and high,   
crisp in the running sand,
       some breakthroughs of sun
   but after a bit

continuous overcast:

the walk liberating, I was released from forms,   
from the perpendiculars,
      straight lines, blocks, boxes, binds
of thought
into the hues, shadings, rises, flowing bends and blends   
               of sight:

                         I allow myself eddies of meaning:   
yield to a direction of significance
like a stream through the geography of my work:   
   you can find
in my sayings
                         swerves of action
                         like the inlet’s cutting edge

Explore the rest of this beauty at the Poetry Foundation. And be sure to check out the Poetry Friday
roundup at Poetry for Children

photo credit: Beaulawrence via photo pin cc

Friday, August 17, 2012

Poetry Friday: Birthday Poems

I set out this morning to find a poem about birthdays to share with my wife, whose birthday is today. It turned out to be more difficult than I thought.

When it comes to good birthday poems, it seems there have been a lot of them written from parent, to child. These don't suit the occasion at all, really.

There are also many poems that reference a specific age--15, 64, etc. These were a little too specific for my tastes.

There are also several birthday poems out there that are pretty good...but kind of dark. Yea, that won't do for me.

I did find this gem about birthdays by Stanley Kunitz, though. I like it a lot, but it might not make a good "gift:"

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 at the Poetry Foundation.

I settled on a poem called "Crossroads" by Joyce Sutphen. It references "middle age," which doesn't apply to my wife, but I like what it's trying to say, so I think I'll share it with her...and you!


by Joyce Sutphen

The second half of my life will be black 
to the white rind of the old and fading moon. 
The second half of my life will be water 
over the cracked floor of these desert years. 
I will land on my feet this time, 
knowing at least two languages and who 
my friends are. I will dress for the 
occasion, and my hair shall be 
whatever color I please.
Everyone will go on celebrating the old 
birthday, counting the years as usual, 
but I will count myself new from this 
inception, this imprint of my own desire.

The second half of my life will be swift, 
past leaning fenceposts, a gravel shoulder, 
asphalt tickets, the beckon of open road. 
The second half of my life will be wide-eyed, 
fingers shifting through fine sands, 
arms loose at my sides, wandering feet. 
There will be new dreams every night, 
and the drapes will never be closed. 
I will toss my string of keys into a deep 
well and old letters into the grate.

Read the rest here.

Today's Poetry Roundup location, at the time of this posting, is difficult to determine. Check with Julie Larios, who posted that she's looking into it. See you next week!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Poetry Friday: A Poet to Know--Heather McHugh

Ok, so you probably already know Heather McHugh. If you don't, though, don't feel bad. Neither did I until a few years ago. Ok, so I knew nothing about poetry until a few years ago. But that is neither here nor there.

Last week, I wrote about Elise Paschen and shared some of her amazing work. I came across a poem by Heather McHugh that I really liked, and I thought, "I should do the same thing for her." So now, I bring you "Glass House:"

Glass House

by Heather McHugh

Everything obeyed our laws and
we just went on self-improving
till a window gave us pause and
there the outside world was, moving.

Five apartment blocks swept by,
the trees and ironwork and headstones
of the next town's cemetery.
Auto lots. Golf courses. Rest homes.
Blue-green fields and perishable vistas
wars had underscored in red
were sweeping past

Read the rest of the poem here. Gosh, how I love a poem with a good ending. Make sure you click through, it's totally worth it. And I just love the word "nonplussed." I think I will start using it more.

If you thought that was good, wait until you read "Ghazal of the Better-Unbegun:"

Ghazal of the Better-Unbegun

by Heather McHugh

A book is a suicide postponed.
Too volatile, am I?  too voluble?  too much a word-person?
I blame the soup:  I'm a primordially
stirred person.

Two pronouns and a vehicle was Icarus with wings.
The apparatus of his selves made an ab-
surd person.

The sound I make is sympathy's:  sad dogs are tied afar.
But howling I become an ever more un-
heard person.

I need a hundred more of you to make a likelihood.
The mirror's not convincing-- that at-best in-
ferred person.

Check out the rest of this poem here. If you're not familiar with the ghazal poetic form (I wasn't until...well, you know), click here. And that one's ending might have been better than "Glass House's," don't you think? "McHugh, you'll be the death of me." The poet talking to herself (or her offspring???). Nice move, McHugh. Halfway to the third person" (a.k.a. the second person) is really, really smart (for lack of a better word), too. Wow! Love those poems.

Here are 2 more you'll like:
Heck, she's so good, just go to the Poetry Foundation and read all that she has there!

This week's Poetry Friday is hosted by Violet Nesdody HERE. Be sure to check it out.

Photo source:

Friday, August 3, 2012

Poetry Friday: A Poet to Love--Elise Paschen

Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago

Four Poetry Fridays in a row...after such a long hiatus, I'd say that's pretty good. Today I was going to share a short poem I found and adored. It was so good that I couldn't help but start searching for other poems by the poet. Here's the first bit of the first one I found, "Division Street" by Elise Paschen.

Division Street

by Elise Paschen

                         ". . . Prayer book and Mother, shot themselves last Sunday."
                                        Gwendolyn Brooks

The spire of Holy Name Cathedral rose like a prayer
above Chicago Avenue. I thumbed a leather-bound book
in catechism class, recited the Hail Mary. Fire and
devils blazed at night. The nuns told my mother
I had a calling.

Read the rest of the poem here at

You really have to love a short poem. I've written before about how fascinating I find them. Brevity is not a strength of mine, so I'm awestruck when a poet can weave magic using a few short lines.

But I digress...I was so enamored with this poem that I absolutely had to find more by Elise Paschen. Here's a bit from one that tells sort of a heart-wrenching and uncomfortable story, it's called "Voir Dire:"

When he phoned the next morning from another state,
saying that, after our dance,
after my exit, in full view of the guests,
the waiters at long tables
of open bars, she lunged at him, tearing his tux,
his dress shirt, scratching his chest,
drawing blood with her nails, demanding a response:
"Why can't you love only me?"

You can read the rest here, at The Poetry Foundation.

Finally, I'll share two more, that you can click these links to read. They're worth it...

Be sure to check out the Poetry Friday roundup over at On the Way to Somewhere, a new member of the Poetry Friday host club.