Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A poem by Joyce Sutphen

Joyce Sutphen is an English professor and Minnesota Poet Laureate in 2011. Her poems deal with every day subjects juxtaposed against themes of deep everlasting value. This one is an icy stare at reality.

From Out the Cave

     by Joyce Sutphen

When you have been
at war with yourself
for so many years that
you have forgotten why,
when you have been driving
for hours and only
gradually begin to realize
that you have lost the way,
when you have cut
hastily into the fabric,
when you have signed
papers in distraction,
when it has been centuries
since you watched the sun set
or the rain fall, and the clouds,
drifting overhead, pass as flat
as anything on a postcard;
when, in the midst of these
everyday nightmares, you
understand that you could
wake up,
you could turn
and go back
to the last thing you
remember doing
with your whole heart:
that passionate kiss,
the brilliant drop of love
rolling along the tongue of a green leaf,
then you wake,
you stumble from your cave,
blinking in the sun,
naming every shadow
as it slips.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A poem by Lord Byron

This is an excerpt from a lengthy narrative poem that was written in four parts around the year 1812. It describes the reflections of a disillusioned young man as he travels trying to find his purpose. The character it centers on is specific, yet if we extract passages like what is below, the prolific lines and themes apply to all and remain vibrant and relavant regardless of individuality, situation, or time.

from "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage"

     by Lord Byron

There is a pleasure in the
pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the
lonely shore,
there is society, where none
By the deep Sea, and music in
its roar:
I love not Man the less, but
Nature more,
From these our interviews, in
which I steal
From all I may be, or have
been before,
To mingle with the Universe,
and feel
What I can ne'er express, yet
cannot all conceal.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

A poem by Herman Hesse

Herman Hesse is little known for poetry but wrote many great novels including 'Siddartha' and 'Damien'. In his classic novel 'Steppenwolf' his main character pined for a "kingdom of truth" and said "the music of Mozart belongs there and the poetry of your great poets.......we have to stumble through so much dirt and humbug before we reach home. And we have no one to guide us. Our only guide is our homesickness." I think this poem is about homesickness. But what is home? Hesse has no answer but I cherish that he knows how to ask the question.............

To a Chinese Girl Singing

     by Herman Hesse

We traveled down the still river in the evening,
The acacia stood in the color of rose, casting its light,
The clouds cast down the rose light. But I scarcely saw
All I saw were the plum blossoms in your hair.

You sat smiling in the bow of the garlanded boat,
Held the lute in your skillful hand,
Sang the song, that holy country of your own,
While your eyes promised fire, and you were so young.

Without saying anything, I stood at the mast, and what I
For myself, was to give in to those gleaming eyes, over and
To listen to the song forever in blessed pain,
To the song that could make me happy, tangled in your
     delicate hands.

A poem by Edgar Allen Poe

I am not sure why Edgar Allen Poe's poetry is not as famously read or widely regarded as his short stories. It is true that the gentleness of poetry lies in stark contrast to the dark themes and tone of his stories yet not many people realize what a masterful poet he truly was. 'Annabel Lee' is a great example of Poe's unusual poetic ability and it is one of the great classical poems of all time. The alliteration, the energy, the continuous pounding and driving forward of emotion are as powerful as it gets in the poetic genre. Can you read it and not be moved?

Annabel Lee

     by Edgar Allen Poe

It was many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee:
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes! - that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Monday, September 25, 2017

A poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay

"But I do not approve. And I am not resigned." Strong, raging feelings upon the vacated place of a loved one. There are no answers or consolations for sorrow and loss and this poet doesn't attempt to provide one. She asserts, there are only the sounds we make with our desperate voices...............

Dirge Without Music

     by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.                         

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A poem by Oscar Wilde

Loss, is a familiar theme in poetry. It is most surely a subject we all have experience with from time to time and in one way or another. If we are lucky it's effects don't last long. Yet it can linger. And sometimes, is so strong that it lasts for life. Here, poet Oscar Wilde is presumed to have written late in his life about his memory of the tragic passing of his younger sister at the age of 8. This poem takes us there with him. It tugs at the heart.......


     by Oscar Wilde

Tread lightly, she is near
Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear
The daisies grow.

All her bright golden hair
Tarnished with rust,
She that was young and fair
Fallen to dust.

Lily-like, white as snow,
She hardly knew
She was a woman so
Sweetly she grew.

Coffin-board, heavy stone,
Lie on her breast.
I vex my heart alone,
She is at rest.

Peace, Peace, she cannot hear
Lyre or sonnet,
All my life's buried here,
Heap earth upon it.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

A poem by Wislawa Szymborska

Beautiful poetry takes us to an intriguing realm just beyond the boundaries of speech. It takes us away, somewhere unexplainable and makes us hesitant to reenter reality. It makes us wonder where we were, and where we are going. This poem is one of those.

Any Case
     by Wislawa Szymborska

It could have happened.
It had to happen.
It happened earlier. Later.
Closer. Farther away.
It happened, but not to you.

You survived because you were first.
You survived because you were last.
Because alone. Because the others.
Because on the left. Because on the right.
Because it was raining. Because it was sunny.
Because a shadow fell.

Luckily there was a forest.
Luckily there were no trees.
Luckily a rail, a hook, a beam, a brake,
A frame, a turn, an inch, a second.
Luckily a straw was floating on the water.

Thanks to, thus, in spite of, and yet.
What would have happened if a hand, a leg,
One step, a hair away?

So you are here? Straight from that moment still suspended?
The net’s mesh was tight, but you? through the mesh?
I can’t stop wondering at it, can’t be silent enough.
How quickly your heart is beating in me.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A poem by Michael Ryan

In this poem, the poet interprets an ordinary scene in his own highly unique way. Few would see poetry in such an ordinary occurrence. But poetry is truly a personal and sometimes an ineffable experience.

Here I am

     by Michael Ryan

on a subway station bench
next to two teens, one pretty, one not:
the pretty one keeps saying how much
she’ll miss the unpretty one, kissing her cheeks,
while the unpretty one looks down at her lap
saying no you won’t no you won’t until the train comes
and on goes the pretty one still smiling,
twirling her red plastic clutch, singing goodbye
I’ll call you, and the unpretty one just sits here
like a stone, even after the train is gone,
even after I write this down.