Category Archives: Poetry

Hesitation, doubt, and ambiguity

Bill Keller proposes that the current occupants of the Capitol would benefit from a little poetry:

Poetry is no substitute for courage or competence, but properly applied, it is a challenge to self-certainty, which we currently have in excess. Poetry serves as a spur to creative thinking, a rebuke to dogma and habit, an antidote to the current fashion for pledge signing.

He quotes from William Carlos Williams (somehow I had remembered these lines as coming from Whitman): “It is difficult/to get the news from poems/yet men die miserably every day/for lack/of what is found there.”

His colleague David Orr suggests some works that might serve as antidotes to the paralysis. I think Kay Ryan’s “All You Did” is especially pertinent.

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Don Share’s a Jethro Tull fan: “The Crew Change” at Poetry Daily is a keeper. Jumpy rhythm and simple metaphor.

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Primary virtues

“Hem Stitch Hemi Stichs,” a masterful poem by Judith Baumel. Lovely alliteration and springy rhythms.

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Reading list

‘Tis Poetry Month once again, and Patrick Cooper points to Jay Parini’s list of ten American poems then “have left the deepest mark on US literature – and me.” Robert Lowell is more or less unknown to me, and Parini’s selection, “Memories of West Street and Lepke,” reminds me pleasantly of Marianne Moore. I haven’t read much Whitman for a long while—time to rectify that.

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in the dark among the L-pipes

“The Sink,” by Catherine Bowman, in this week’s New Yorker, witty wordlists jumbled together.

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To be annotated

Via languagehat, 2,187 words in 243 end-stopped lines from Anne Tardos in the Ashberyesque “Nine,” with a whiff of Larry Shue’s Charlie Baker:

Yentsia bakoondy eeleck, ta-dee-doo-dah, bentsey la cozy fen-fen.

Bit baloon timi zin zah, timi zin zah, zimbudah.

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It shouldn’t be so easy

A recent run of fine poems at Poetry Daily, inculding “The Welcome Chamber,” by G.C. Waldrep.

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Radiator renovator

Julie Sheehan’s “Big Crazy Victorian” is at Poetry Daily.

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The Love Poem Project

Via this sounds like a dumb idea, like a lot of the McSweeney’s and Onion items that aren’t funny once you get past the headline. But it kinda works: George Herbert’s been remixed.

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Wash Day

A grim little poem from Allen Grossman:

Water. Well-water
is real cold.
No stove, pigs or not,
is hot enough to bring
well-water to blood heat.
For that you need a heart.

…with an allusion to the first verses of Amos 8:

Thus hath the Lord GOD shewed unto me: and behold a basket of summer fruit. And he said, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A basket of summer fruit. Then said the LORD unto me, The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not again pass by them any more. And the songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day, saith the Lord GOD: there shall be many dead bodies in every place; they shall cast them forth with silence.

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On the verge

Joanna Goodman listens to a yellowthroat.

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Mr. Brightside

there is always
something to be thankful
for you would not
think that a cockroach
had much ground
for optimism
but as the fishing season
opens up i grow
more and more
cheerful at the thought
that nobody ever got
the notion of using
cockroaches for bait

—Don Marquis, the Archy and Mehitabel poems, 19 April 1922
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Abecedarian acrostic

“Ode on Dictionaries,” by Barbara Hamby.

you are the megaphone by which I bewitch the world
      or not, as the case may be. O chittering squirrel,
Ziploc sandwich bag, sound off, shut up, gather your words
      into bouquets, folios, flocks of black and flaming birds.

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Robert Hass reflects on abstract paintings by Gerhard Richter in the poem “Time and Materials.”

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Granite kissed

in progress WhitmanStone masons are scribing a quotation from Walt Whitman’s “The Wound Dresser” into the Q Street N.W. entrance of the Dupont Circle Metro station. The complete stanza reads:

Thus in silence, in dream’s projections,
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hos-
The hurt and the wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all the dark night—some are so
Some suffer so much—I recall the experience sweet
   and sad;
(Many a soldier’s loving arms about this neck have
   cross’d and rested,
Many a soldier’s kiss dwells on these bearded lips.)

Update: Via a DCist comment thread, WMATA’s press release on the project.

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