Poem of the Week

Invitation to Hsiao Chü-shih

Written by Po Chü-i | Translated by Arthur Waley

Within the Gorges there is no lack of men;
They are people one meets, not people one cares for.
At my front door guests also arrive;
They are people one sits with, not people one knows.
When I look up, there are only clouds and trees;
When I look down–only my wife and child.
I sleep, eat, get up or sit still,
Apart from that, nothing happens at all.
But beyond the sixty Hsiao the hermit dwells;
And with him at least I find myself at ease.
For he can drink a full flagon of wine
And is good at reciting long-line poems
Some afternoon, when the clerks have all gone home,
At a season when the path by the river bank is dry,
I beg you, take up your staff of bamboo-wood
And find your way to the parlor of the Government House

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Poem of the Week


Charlotte Parsons

You passed me on the street
I rode the subway with you
You lived down the hall from me
I admired your dog in the park one morning
We waited in line for a concert
I ate with you in the cafes
You stood next to me at the bar
We huddled under an awning during a downpour
We dashed across the street to beat the light
I bumped into you coming round the corner
You stepped on my foot
I held the door for you
You helped me up when I slipped on the ice
I grabbed the last Sunday Times
You stole my cab
We waited forever at the bus stop
We sweated in steamy August
We hunched our shoulders against the sleet
We laughed at the movies
We groaned after the election
We sang in church
Tonight I lit a candle for you
All of you

Elegy for a sad day all Americans will remember

From the Writer’s Almanac

I never knew this:

It was on this day in 1958 that the U.S. Government dropped its treason charges against the poet Ezra Pound.

Pound had been arrested in 1945 because of speeches he had been delivering on Italian radio, in which he praised Mussolini and fascism, and criticized American policy. He was extremely anti-Semitic, blaming the world’s problem’s on the Jews. He practiced each speech before he delivered it, and he used various down-home American voices for each of them — he might be folksy one broadcast, speak in a drawl the next, and in a nasal Boston accent for the third. He kept careful notes of each broadcast and his performance — for one, he wrote: “Excellent delivery last night. Voice absolutely clear and every word ‘visible,’ except for a few Orful KRRumpzzz! of static or atmospheric or whatever that BLITZED out a few phrases.” He continued with his speeches even after the United States joined World War II in December of 1941, so it was at that point that his work became not just offensive but treasonous.

After his arrest, Pound was extradited to the United States and committed to a federal asylum, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Over his 13 year confinement Pound was visited by an odd combination of white supremacists who admired his politics, and distinguished American writers who admired his poetry or his history of generosity to other artists, among them Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, Thornton Wilder, Randall Jarrell, Katherine Anne Porter, and T.S. Eliot.

Ernest Hemingway wrote to his friend Archibald MacLeish, who was campaigning for Pound’s release: “Thanks for sending the stats of Ezra’s rantings. He is obviously crazy. I think you might prove he was crazy as far back as the latter Cantos. He deserves punishment and disgrace but what he really deserves most is ridicule. He should not be hanged and he should not be made a martyr of. He has a long history of generosity and unselfish aid to other artists and he is one of the greatest living poets. It is impossible to believe that anyone in his right mind could utter the vile, absolutely idiotic drivel he has broadcast. His friends who knew him and who watched the warping and twisting and decay of his mind and his judgement should defend him and explain him on that basis. It will be a completely unpopular but an absolutely necessary thing to do.”

Writers and the media pressured the government to release Pound, and on April 14th, 1958, a motion was filed for dismissal of Pound’s indictment. Among the statements was one by Robert Frost, who wrote: “None of us can bear the disgrace of our letting Ezra Pound come to his end where he is. It would leave too woeful a story in American literature.” On this day in 1958, the government agreed to dismiss the indictment against Pound, and the 72-year-old poet was released. He returned to Italy, where he spent the rest of his life.