Poem of the Week

Hearing a Flute on a Spring Night in Luoyang

From whose home secretly flies the sound of a jade flute?
It’s lost amid the spring wind which fills Luoyang city.
In the middle of this nocturne I remember the snapped willow,
What person would not start to think of home!

Li Bai

Poem of the Week

The crowd at the ball game

by William Carlos Williams

The crowd at the ball game
is moved uniformly

by a spirit of uselessness
which delights them—

all the exciting detail
of the chase

and the escape, the error
the flash of genius—

all to no end save beauty
the eternal—

So in detail they, the crowd,
are beautiful

for this
to be warned against

saluted and defied—
It is alive, venomous

it smiles grimly
its words cut—

The flashy female with her
mother, gets it—

The Jew gets it straight— it
is deadly, terrifying—

It is the Inquisition, the
Revolution

It is beauty itself
that lives

day by day in them
idly—

This is
the power of their faces

It is summer, it is the solstice
the crowd is

cheering, the crowd is laughing
in detail

permanently, seriously
without thought

Poem of the Week

A Coat

BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS
I made my song a coat
Covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat;
But the fools caught it,
Wore it in the world’s eyes
As though they’d wrought it.
Song, let them take it
For there’s more enterprise
In walking naked.

Poems of the Week

Never give all the Heart

By William Butler Yeats
Never give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
For everything that’s lovely is
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.
O never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
He that made this knows all the cost,
For he gave all his heart and lost.

love is more thicker than forget
e.e. cummings

love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail

it is most mad and moonly
and less it shall unbe
than all the sea which only
is deeper than the sea

love is less always than to win
less never than alive
less bigger than the least begin
less littler than forgive

it is most sane and sunly
and more it cannot die
than all the sky which only
is higher than the sky

Poem of the Week

Travellers

By Philip Larkin

In trains we need not choose our company
For all the logic of departure is
That recognition is suspended; we
Are islanded in unawareness, as
Our minds reach out to where we want to be.

But carried thus impersonally on,
We hardly see that person opposite
Who, if we only knew it, might be one
Who, far more than the other waiting at
Some distant place, knows our true destination.

Poem of the Week

Sonnet 97

William Shakespeare

How like a winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December’s bareness everywhere!
And yet this time remov’d was summer’s time,
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,
Bearing the wanton burthen of the prime,
Like widow’d wombs after their lords’ decease:
Yet this abundant issue seem’d to me
But hope of orphans and unfather’d fruit;
For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,
And thou away, the very birds are mute;
Or if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer
That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near.

Poem of the Week

The Students

by Mark Halliday

The students eat something and then watch the news,
a little, then go to sleep. When morning breaks in
they find they have not forgotten all: they recall
the speckle of words on certain pages of
the chapter assigned, a phrase of strange weight
from a chapter that was not assigned, and something
said almost flippantly by a classmate on the Green
which put much of the 18th century into perspective.
Noticing themselves at the sink they are aware
the hands they wash are the “same” hands
as in high school—though the face is different.
Arriving in the breakfast hall having hardly felt
the transit, they set down their trays on one table;
presently, glance at another corner of the space:
that was where we mostly sat two years ago,
that was where Gerry said what he said
about circles, the concept of, and Leonardo da Vinci.

Poem of the Week

How To Be a Poet

BY WENDELL BERRY

(to remind myself)

i
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.
ii
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
iii
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

Happy Birthday, Wendell!

From the Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the 80th birthday of writer Wendell Berry (books by this author), born near Port Royal, Kentucky (1934). He came from a long line of tobacco farmers who had farmed in the same place in rural Kentucky for generations . His father was a farmer and a lawyer, and his brother also went into law, but Berry said: “My father and my brother have very quick minds. I have a fairly slow one. I don’t think I could have stood the pressure of a courtroom practice.” Instead he went to the University of Kentucky and received a Wallace Stegner Fellowship to study creative writing at Stanford, where he was mentored by Stegner himself. Berry planned to move around teaching at various universities. He said of Port Royal: “My education had implied, over and again, that you couldn’t amount to anything in a place like this. I grieved over that. I liked the work of the farms. I liked this country, this place. But, at Stanford, I thought I was at the commencement of some kind of an academic vagabondage that would carry me I didn’t know where.” He won a Guggenheim Fellowship and lived in Italy, then taught at New York University.
Then he got a job offer to teach at the University of Kentucky — and although Berry never knew for sure, he thought the offer had been arranged by Wallace Stegner. Berry and his wife decided to move back to Kentucky, even though all his literary friends thought he was ruining his career by leaving New York City. He bought a farm in the Kentucky River Valley, near where he grew up. It had limestone soils, and sloped fields held in place by oaks, ash, hickory, and sycamore. He and his wife raised sheep, hay, and small grains. He said: “Port Royal is what a lot of people have been schooled to call ‘nowhere.’ […] It’s extremely important, it seems to me, that those nowhere places should be inhabited by people who will speak for them.”
He began writing about Kentucky in poems, essays, stories, and novels. His first novel, Nathan Coulter (1960), was set in Port William, a fictional version of Port Royal. Over the years, he continued to write about Port William, using the same characters, re-creating the voices of the people around him. He said: “I always loved to listen to the old people, and I heard a lot of talk. At least until the 1980s, I was working in the fields a lot with people whose language had not been the least bit touched by the media. They spoke a beautiful language, direct and strongly referential, as far as possible from ‘pure poetry.’ I grew up around people who would entertain themselves by talking. There’d be a crew at work and something remarkable would happen, and they would start telling about it as soon as it was over. Three or four would each tell a different version of it, and they’d be trying to get the language right.”
In 2011, Berry protested mountaintop removal by participating in a three-day sit-in in the Kentucky governor’s office. He was prepared to be arrested, but the governor didn’t want any pictures circulating of the famous writer in handcuffs. A couple of weeks later, Berry received the National Humanities Medal. Berry didn’t mention mountaintop removal to President Obama because he didn’t want to be rude, but he thought about the possibility of protesting in the future. He said, “I did examine the rugs in the White House to see how comfortable they’d be to sleep on.”
His books include The Unsettling of America (1977), Jayber Crow (2000), Hannah Coulter (2004), and The Mad Farmer Poems (2008).
He said: “I never felt like I had to write in order to be happy. It has given me great freedom as a writer.”
And: “I’ve known writers — I think it’s true also of other artists — who thought that you had to put your art before everything. But if you have a marriage and a family and a farm, you’re just going to find that you can’t always put your art first, and moreover that you shouldn’t. There are a number of things more important than your art. It’s wrong to favor it over your family, or over your place, or over your animals.”

Poem of the Week

Portrait of Alexander Pope

Portrait of Alexander Pope (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Solitude

by Alexander Pope
Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air
In his own ground.

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire;
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter, fire.

Blest, who can unconcernedly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away
In health of body, peace of mind;
Quiet by day.

Sound sleep by night; study and ease
Together mixed, sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please
With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die,
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lie.

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