Poetry Corner

Here’s a more famous poem, one that I took from this website. Once I took a course in creative writing in university, and took a feeble stab at a similar theme. I wasn’t aware of Roethke at the time - the course instructor kindly pointed me to him and recommended I begin reading his work, among others. This may be his most well-known poem.

I KNEW A WOMAN
Theodore Roethke

I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:
The shapes a bright container can contain!
Of her choice virtues only gods should speak,
Or English poets who grew up on Greek
(I’d have them sing in a chorus, cheek to cheek).

How well her wishes went! She stroked my chin,
She taught me Turn, and Counter-turn, and Stand;
She taught me Touch, that undulant white skin;
I nibbled meekly from her proferred hand;
She was the sickle; I, poor I, the rake,
Coming behind her for her pretty sake
(But what prodigious mowing we did make).

Love likes a gander, and adores a goose:
Her full lips pursed, the errant notes to sieze;
She played it quick, she played it light and loose;
My eyes, they dazzled at her flowing knees;
Her several parts could keep a pure repose,
Or one hip quiver with a mobile nose
(She moved in circles, and those circles moved).

Let seed be grass, and grass turn into hay:
I’m martyr to a motion not my own;
What’s freedom for? To know eternity.
I swear she cast a shadow white as stone.
But who would count eternity in days?
These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:
(I measure time by how a body sways).

I know that this isn’t real highbrow stuff… but i have always liked this one written by Robert Hunter (and put to music by Jerry Garcia):

[quote]Look for awhile at the China Cat Sunflower
proud-walking jingle in the midnight sun
Copper-dome Bodhi drip a silver kimono
like a crazy-quilt stargown
through a dream night wind

Krazy Kat peeking through a lace bandana
like a one-eyed Cheshire
like a diamond-eye Jack
A leaf of all colors plays
a golden string fiddle
to a double-e waterfall over my back

Comic book colors on a violin river
crying Leonardo words
from out a silk trombone
I rang a silent bell
beneath a shower of pearls
in the eagle wing palace
of the Queen Chinee[/quote]

In his Box of Rain, Robert Hunter wrote:

“Nobody ever asked me the meaning of this song. People seem to know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s good that a few things in this world are clear to all of us.”

In an interview in Golden Road (Spring, 1991, p. 29) Hunter said:

" ‘China Cat’ took a long time to write. I wrote it in different settings and added this and that to it. It was originally inspired by Dame Edith Sitwell, who had a way with words–I like the idea of quick, clicky assonance and alliteration like ‘See me dance the polka, said Mr. Wag like a bear, with my top hat and my whiskers, that tra-la-la trapped affair.’ I just like the way she put things together. I’d have to admit that before you could trace it back that there was some influence."
(Sitwell’s influence on this song may also be found in the closing line.)

The Dame Edith Sitwell poem (entitled “Polka”) quoted by Hunter goes like this:

[quote=“sandman”][quote=“ax”]Do you guys write your own poetry? or song lyrics?
post it on?

ax[/quote]
I have more than a hundred in a Wellcome plastic bag, and that’s where they’re staying – they are terrible! :blush:[/quote]

I’ll show you you mine if you show me yours :stuck_out_tongue:

SEPTEMBER 1, 1939
W.H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism’s face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
‘I will be true to the wife,
I’ll concentrate more on my work,’
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

That’s beautiful, Alien. It’s not in my Everyman edition. In a different mood, here’s an old favourite that’s perhaps more enchanting than poetic.

The Late Passenger
C. S. Lewis

Another TS Eliot:

The Hippopotamus
Similiter et omnes revereantur Diaconos, ut
mandatum Jesu Christi; et Episcopum, ut Jesum
Christum, existentem filium Patris; Presbyteros
autem, ut concilium Dei et conjunctionem
Apostolorum. Sine his Ecclesia non vocatur; de
quibus suadeo vos sic habeo.

S. IGNATII AD TRALLIANOS.

And when this epistle is read among you, cause
that it be read also in the church of the
Laodiceans.

[b]The broad-backed hippopotamus
Rests on his belly in the mud;
Although he seems so firm to us
He is merely flesh and blood.

Flesh-and-blood is weak and frail,
Susceptible to nervous shock;
While the True Church can never fail
For it is based upon a rock.

The hippo’s feeble steps may err
In compassing material ends,
While the True Church need never stir
To gather in its dividends.

The 'potamus can never reach
The mango on the mango-tree;
But fruits of pomegranate and peach
Refresh the Church from over sea.

At mating time the hippo’s voice
Betrays inliexions hoarse and odd,
But every week we hear rejoice
The Church, at being one with God.

The hippopotamus’s day
Is passed in sleep; at night he hunts;
God works in a mysterious way-
The Church can sleep and feed at once.

I saw the 'potamus take wing
Ascending from the damp savannas,
And quiring angels round him sing
The praise of God, in loud hosannas.

Blood of the Lamb shall wash him clean
And him shall heavenly arms enfold,
Among the saints he shall be seen
Performing on a harp of gold.

He shall be washed as white as snow,
By all the martyr’d virgins kiss,
While the True Church remains below
Wrapt in the old miasmal mist.[/b]

gcww.org/the_laodiceans__way.htm

Holy shit, I’ve been looking for this poem since Alien put up this topic. I finally found it in the most obvious place, The New Yorker website.

Anyway, this poem was published on Sept. 16, 2002, at the one-year anniversary of 9/11, in The New Yorker magazine ( :blush: ). I’m going to post the .gif image of it because its structure is so elaborate. If you like, you can always read it here. Unfortunately, the image’s font is very small.

Perhaps my reaction to this poem is peculiar to my status as an American and thus a target of that day’s terrorist activities - I find it very moving. Originally it was formatted over a 2-page spread in that edition. I kept the edition around for weeks afterward but, as usual, I threw it away before I clipped out the poem.

WHEN THE TOWERS FELL
Galway Kinnell

Here’s a couple of my favorites by e.e. cummings.

anyone lived in a pretty how town

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did.

women and men (both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed (but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone’s any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then) they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes

Women and men (both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

l(a… (a leaf falls on loneliness)

l(a
le
af
fa
ll
s)
one
l
iness

This isn’t a poem but I suspect it might be poetic somehow. I wrote it. It is called “And Did We Know Where?”
And Did We Know Where?
The cancer had begun to affect my father’s brain some months before he died. During this time he would often come to my room as I was going to sleep. One night he came to my bedside and thrust his face into mine. “I’m dying” he said “and you don’t care.” He was right. And he was wrong.
Another time he came to my room while my son was visiting. We had just lain down when he came to the door to say goodnight and to tell us that he was going fishing. “And did we know where he was going fishing?” No. “Up here.” he said pointing at his head. “Yeah?” said my son “I bet you don’t catch any fish.”

Nice one Bob. I love poems like that. If you break up the lines you can call them ‘found poems’. To be a true ‘found poem’, though, you’re not meant to delete or add anything. The title can be anything you want.

Here’s an example.

[quote]Cat-sitter

When we returned, we were greeted
by missing items
(“Oh, yeah…I forgot…
I borrowed your motorcycle helmet
and someone stole it.
Sorry.”),
a large burn mark
on the wall
of the yangtai
(guess someone overloaded the dryer or something…but we’d never managed to actually set the place on fire with it)

and the comment,
“Oh, yeah…
I think your cat might be dead.”[/quote]

Too early for 20C here on the North American prairie, but here it is anyway. Sunny, beautiful, no wind.

Life ain’t bad.

A LIGHT EXISTS IN SPRING
Emily Dickinson

[i]A light exists in spring
Not present on the year
At any other period.
When March is scarcely here

A color stands abroad
On solitary hills
That science cannot overtake,
But human nature feels.

It waits upon the lawn;
It shows the furthest tree
Upon the furthest slope we know;
It almost speaks to me.

Then, as horizons step,
Or noons report away,
Without the formula of sound,
It passes, and we stay:

A quality of loss
Affecting our content,
As trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a sacrament. [/i]

Just dusting off this old (but good) thread.

The Invitations Overhead
– Stephen Dobyns

As the edge of a golf course, a man watches
geese land on a pond, the bottom of which
is spotted with white golf balls. It is October
and the geese pause in their long flight.

Honking and flapping at one another, they seem
to discuss their travels and the man thinks
how the world must look when viewed from above:
villages and cornfields, the autumn trees.

The man wonders how his own house must look
seen from the sky: the grass he has cut
a thousand times, the border of white flowers,
the house where he walks from room to room,

his children gone, his wife with her own life.
Although he knows the geese’s honkings are only
crude warnings and greetings, the man also
imagines they tell the histories of the people

they travel over, their loneliness, the lives
of those who can’t change their places, who
each year grow more isolated and desperate.
Is this what quickens his breathing when at night

the distant honking seems mixed with the light
of distant stars? Follow us, follow us, they call,
as if his life could be made better by departure,
of if he were still young enough to think so.

Two from Mark Strand

Keeping Things Whole

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.


Courtship

There is a girl you like so you tell her
your penis is big, but that you cannot get yourself
to use it. Its demands are ridiculous, you say,
even self-defeating, but to be honored, somehow,
briefly, inconspicuously in the dark.

When she closes her eyes in horror,
you take it all back. You tell her you’re almost
a girl yourself and can understand why she is shocked.
When she is about to walk away, you tell her
you have no penis, that you don’t

know what got into you. You get on your knees.
She suddenly bends down to kiss your shoulder and you know
you’re on the right track. You tell her you want
to bear children and that is why you seem confused.
You wrinkle your brow and curse the day you were born.

She tries to calm you, but you lose control.
You reach for her panties and beg forgiveness as you do.
She squirms and you howl like a wolf. Your craving
seems monumental. You know you will have her.
Taken by storm, she is the girl you will marry.

Five Ways to Kill a Man

There are many cumbersome ways to kill a man.
You can make him carry a plank of wood
To the top of a hill and nail him to it.
To do this
Properly you require a crowd of people
Wearing sandals, a cock that crows, a cloak
To dissect, a sponge, some vinegar and one
Man to hammer the nails home.

Or you can take a length of steel,
Shaped and chased in a traditional way,
And attempt to pierce the metal cage he wears.
But for this you need white horses,
English trees, men with bows and arrows,

At least two flags, a prince and a
Castle to hold your banquet in.

Dispensing with nobility, you may, if the wind
Allows, blow gas at him. But then you need
A mile of mud sliced through with ditches,
Not to mention black boots, bomb craters,
More mud, a plague of rats, a dozen songs
And some round hats made of steel.

In an age of aeroplanes, you may fly
Miles above your victim and dispose of him by
Pressing one small switch. All you then
Require is an ocean to separate you, two

Systems of government, a nation’s scientists,
Several factories, a psychopath and
Land that no one needs for several years.

These are, as I began, cumbersome ways
To kill a man. Simpler, direct, and much more neat
Is to see that he lives somewhere in the middle
Of the twentieth century, and leave him there.

-Edwin Brock

D. H. Lawrence
Snake

A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.
In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before
me.

He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of
the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,
Silently.

Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second comer, waiting.

He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.
The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.

And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.

But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?

Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him? Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him? Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.

And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!

And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid, But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.

He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.

And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.

I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.

I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in undignified haste.
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.

And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.

And I thought of the albatross
And I wished he would come back, my snake.

For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.

And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
Of life.
And I have something to expiate:
A pettiness.

[quote=“Fox”]D. H. Lawrence
Snake…[/quote]
Great one. It’s been a while since I read that.
Thanks.

One for you all:

The Emperor of Ice-Cream, by Wallace Stevens

Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month’s newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Here are my two favs.

 [b]We Real Cool
by Gwendolyn Brooks[/b]

    We real cool. 
    We Left school. 
    We Lurk late. We
    Strike straight. We

    Sing sin. We
    Thin gin. We

    Jazz June. We
    Die soon. 

A Dream Deferred
by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

[quote=“Namahottie”]Here are my two favs.

 [b]We Real Cool
by Gwendolyn Brooks[/b]

    We real cool. 
    We Left school. 
    We Lurk late. We
    Strike straight. We

    Sing sin. We
    Thin gin. We

    Jazz June. We
    Die soon. 

A Dream Deferred
by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?[/quote]

One of the greatest things my African-American History teacher did for me was to give me his copy of We, Too Sing, America. He was given a hard time by the knuckleheads who came to class, leaning back in their seats with their arms folded and snickering…thinking they knew more about black history, just because he was a white man and they were black. They also gave the white students in the course a hard time and any black student who showed respect to the teacher. Then when they inevitably failed the course, they blamed it on racism… Racism, by the man who had volunteered to teach African-American History and had been teaching it for years and knew more about the topic than even the head of the local NAACP president? Grrr…

[quote]Fox wrote:
D. H. Lawrence
Snake…

Great one. It’s been a while since I read that.
Thanks[/quote]

The thing I like about that poem is there is no way he’d have come up with it if he hadn’t thrown the log.

I liked
this poem
so much
I wrote two

One
for me
and one
for you

bob