Poem of the Week

Tell all the truth but tell it slant

by Emily Dickinson

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

Poem of the Week

Look It Over

by Wendell Berry

I leave behind even
my walking stick. My knife
is in my pocket, but that
I have forgot. I bring
no car, no cell phone,
no computer, no camera,
no CD player, no fax, no
TV, not even a book. I go
into the woods. I sit on
a log provided at no cost.
It is the earth I’ve come to,
the earth itself, sadly
abused by the stupidity
only humans are capable of
but, as ever, itself. Free.
A bargain! Get it while it lasts.

Poem of the Week

Above a friend I taught with in Guangdong reads a poem he wrote. I had no idea he was a poet. Go figure.

Do watch it’s very good.

Poem of the Week


Seamus Heaney

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.

Poem of the Week

The Vacation

by Wendell Berry

Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving his vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch, there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it.

Poem of the Week

The BluesM

by Billy Collins
Much of what is said here
must be said twice,
a reminder that no one
takes an immediate interest in the pain of others.

Nobody will listen, it would seem,
if you simply admit
your baby left you early this morning
she didn’t even stop to say good-bye.
But if you sing it again
with the help of the band
which will now lift you to a higher,
more ardent and beseeching key,
people will not only listen;
they will shift to the sympathetic
edges of their chairs,
moved to such acute anticipation
by that chord and the delay that follows,
they will not be able to sleep
unless you release with one finger
a scream from the throat of your guitar
and turn your head back to the microphone
to let them know
you’re a hard-hearted man
but that woman’s sure going to make you cry.

“The Blues” by Billy Collins from Sailing Alone Around the Room. © Random House, 2002.

Poems of the Week

Last weekend I went to a friend’s family’s cabin and was introduced to the “Little Willy” poems, which I’d never heard. Evidently, they were first written in the late 19th century and published in the early 20th. They consist of little Willy doing some ghastly violent act and are followed with a ho hum response.

Into the cistern little Willie
Pushed his little sister Lily.
Father couldn’t find his daughter,
Now we sterilize our water.

Willie in his roguish way
Tipped Grandpa on the fire one day.
Mother said “My dear that’s cruel!
But of course it does save fuel.”


Little Willie Licked The Mirror

Little Willie from his mirror
Sucked the mercury all off,
Thinking, in his childish error,
It would cure his whooping-cough.

At the funeral, Willie’s mother
Smartly said to Mrs. Brown,
“T was a chilly day for William
When the mercury went down.”

Chorus —
“‘Ah, ah, ah!’ said Willie’s mother.
‘Oh, oh, oh!” said Mrs. Brown.
‘ ‘T was a chilly day for William
When the mercury went down.’”


Have you ever heard these? Do you know of any other old nonsense poems?

Poem of the Week

The Sound of a Train
by Faith Shearin

Even now, I hear one and I long to leave
without a suitcase or a plan; I want to step
onto the platform and reach for
the porter’s hand and buy a ticket
to some other life; I want to sit
in the big seats and watch fields
turn into rivers or cities. I want to eat
cake on the dining car’s
unsteady tablecloths, to sleep
while whole seasons
slip by. I want to be a passenger
again: a person who hears the name
of a place and stands up, a person
who steps into the steam of arrival.

Poem of the Week

The World Is Too Much With Us

by William Wordsworth

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

A Poem for Fathers

Father and Son

by Delmore Schwartz

“From a certain point onward there is no longer any turning back. That is the point that must be reached.”

On these occasions, the feelings surprise,
Spontaneous as rain, and they compel

Explicitness, embarrassed eyes——

Father, you’re not Polonius, you’re reticent,
But sure. I can already tell
The unction and falsetto of the sentiment
Which gratifies the facile mouth, but springs

From no felt, had, and wholly known things.

You must let me tell you what you fear
When you wake up from sleep, still drunk with sleep:
You are afraid of time and its slow drip,
Like melting ice, like smoke upon the air
In February’s glittering sunny day.
Your guilt is nameless, because its name is time,
Because its name is death. But you can stop

Time as it dribbles from you, drop by drop.

But I thought time was full of promises,

Even as now, the emotion of going away——

That is the first of all its menaces,
The lure of a future different from today;
All of us always are turning away
To the cinema and Asia. All of us go
To one indeterminate nothing.


                                          Must it be so?
I question the sentiment you give to me,
As premature, not to be given, learned alone
When experience shrinks upon the chilling bone.
I would be sudden now and rash in joy,
As if I lived forever, the future my toy.
Time is a dancing fire at twenty-one,
Singing and shouting and drinking to the sun,
Powerful at the wheel of a motor-car,
Not thinking of death which is foreign and far.
If time flowed from your will and were a feast
I would be wrong to question your zest.
But each age betrays the same weak shape.
Each moment is dying. You will try to escape
From melting time and your dissipating soul
By hiding your head in a warm and dark hole.
See the evasions which so many don,
To flee the guilt of time they become one,
That is, the one number among masses,
The one anonymous in the audience,
The one expressionless in the subway,
In the subway evening among so many faces,
The one who reads the daily newspaper,
Separate from actor and act, a member
Of public opinion, never involved.
Integrated in the revery of a fine cigar,
Fleeing to childhood at the symphony concert,
Buying sleep at the drugstore, grandeur
At the band concert, Hawaii
On the screen, and everywhere a specious splendor:
One, when he is sad, has something to eat,
An ice cream soda, a toasted sandwich,
Or has his teeth fixed, but can always retreat
From the actual pain, and dream of the rich.
This is what one does, what one becomes
Because one is afraid to be alone,
Each with his own death in the lonely room.
But there is a stay. You can stop
Time as it dribbles from you, drop by drop.
Now I am afraid. What is there to be known?
Guilt, guilt of time, nameless guilt.
Grasp firmly your fear, thus grasping your self,
Your actual will. Stand in mastery,
Keeping time in you, its terrifying mystery.
Face yourself, constantly go back
To what you were, your own history.
You are always in debt. Do not forget
The dream postponed which would not quickly get
Pleasure immediate as drink, but takes
The travail of building, patience with means.
See the wart on your face and on your friend’s face,
On your friend’s face and indeed on your own face.
The loveliest woman sweats, the animal stains
The ideal which is with us like the sky …


Because of that, some laugh, and others cry.


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