October 01, 2008

Windchime Poetry

Friend Jacqueline, architect, poetry lover, and mother of the enchanting Guinivere and the irrepressible Ophelia, the three of them living in the apartment downstairs, just sent me a most lovely poem. I hope you like it as much as I do:

by Tony Hoagland

She goes out to hang the windchime
in her nightie and her work boots.
It’s six-thirty in the morning
and she's standing on the plastic ice chest
tiptoe to reach the crossbeam of the porch,

windchime in her left hand,
hammer in her right, the nail
gripped tight between her teeth
but nothing happens next because
she’s trying to figure out
how to switch #1 with #3.

She must have been standing in the kitchen,
coffee in her hand, asleep,
when she heard it — the wind blowing
through the sound the windchime
wasn't making
because it wasn't there.

No one, including me, especially anymore believes
till death do us part,
but I can see what I would miss in leaving —
the way her ankles go into the work boots
as she stands upon the ice chest;
the problem scrunched into her forehead;
the little kissable mouth
with the nail in it.

It's magic, the way good poetry can show us the world in a single, small moment. A kind of awakening.

[Thanks, Jacqueline]

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June 02, 2006

Memorial Day Poetry  War and Peace

One more from Jay Leeming.

Let me set the scene. This past Monday morning, Memorial Day, on the lakeside terrace at the Hotel Cheguamegon in Ashland, Wisconsin, on the shore of Lake Superior. A glorious breakfast with my daughter Molly and a dozen or so dear friends, some old, some new, the capstone to a wonderful celebratory weekend together. Our friend Mary has already read aloud this hilarious Leeming poem, and everyone is in high spirits. Meanwhile, in the park next door, Memorial Day festivities are underway: on the stage in the bandshell, aging veterans in VFW hats, occasional volleys as the color guard fires its salutes.

Then Mary reads this:

Supermarket Historians

All historians should be supermarket cashiers.
Imagine what we'd learn;
"Your total comes to $10.66,
and that's the year the Normans invaded Britain."
Or, "That'll be $18.61, the year
the Civil War began."

Now all my receipts are beaches
where six-year-olds find bullets in the sand.
My tomatoes add up to Hiroshima,
and if I'd bought one more carton of milk
the cashier would be discussing the Battle of the Bulge
and not the Peloponnesian War.

But I'm tired of buying soup cans
full of burning villages,
tired of hearing the shouts of Marines
storming beaches in the bread aisles.
I want to live in a house
carved into a seed
inside a watermelon —
to look up at the red sky
as shopping carts roll through the aisles
like distant thunder.

The first stanza is greeted with delighted laughter, but the laughter soon fades as the awareness grows that pretty much any number one can think of — up through 2006, anyway — corresponds to some horrific battle in some unimaginably savage war.

What a strange species we are. Isn't it time we grow up?

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May 30, 2006

Man Writes Poem Humor & Fun  Poetry

Another gem from Jay Leeming:

Poem: "Man Writes Poem" by Jay Leeming, from Dynamite on a China Plate. © The Backwaters Press. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Man Writes Poem

This just in a man has begun writing a poem
in a small room in Brooklyn. His curtains
are apparently blowing in the breeze. We go now
to our man Harry on the scene, what's

the story down there Harry? "Well Chuck
he has begun the second stanza and seems
to be doing fine, he's using a blue pen, most
poets these days use blue or black ink so blue

is a fine choice. His curtains are indeed blowing
in a breeze of some kind and what's more his radiator
is 'whistling' somewhat. No metaphors have been written yet,
but I'm sure he's rummaging around down there

in the tin cans of his soul and will turn up something
for us soon. Hang on—just breaking news here Chuck,
there are 'birds singing' outside his window, and a car
with a bad muffler has just gone by. Yes ... definitely

a confirmation on the singing birds." Excuse me Harry
but the poem seems to be taking on a very auditory quality
at this point wouldn't you say? "Yes Chuck, you're right,
but after years of experience I would hesitate to predict

exactly where this poem is going to go. Why I remember
being on the scene with Frost in '47, and with Stevens in '53,
and if there's one thing about poems these days it's that
hang on, something's happening here, he's just compared the curtains

to his mother, and he's described the radiator as 'Roaring deep
with the red walrus of History.' Now that's a key line,
especially appearing here, somewhat late in the poem,
when all of the similes are about to go home. In fact he seems

a bit knocked out with the effort of writing that line,
and who wouldn't be? Looks like ... yes, he's put down his pen
and has gone to brush his teeth. Back to you Chuck." Well
thanks Harry. Wow, the life of the artist. That's it for now,

but we'll keep you informed of more details as they arise.

Meant to be read aloud, for example at breakfast with dear friends on the terrace at Hotel Cheguamegon overlooking Lake Superior. Expect laughter and delight.

[Thanks, Mary and Matt]

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May 29, 2006

Ego Humor & Fun  Poetry

This morning, at breakfast overlooking Lake Superior with my daughter Molly and a collection of my dearest friends, our friend Mary introduced us all to a wonderful young poet named Jay Leeming. A sample:

Getting rid of your ego
is like trying to throw away a garbage can.
No one believes you’re serious,
and the more you yell at the garbage men
the better the neighbors
remember your name.

Thanks, Mary.

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November 17, 2005

The Real Work Poetry

Wendell Berry:

The Real Work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

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January 23, 2005

On What Planet Poetry

Just wanted to share with you a poem I've long loved. It's by Kenneth Rexroth, one of my favorite poets...


Uniformly over the whole countryside
The warm air flows imperceptibly seaward;
The autumn haze drifts in deep bands
Over the pale water;
White egrets stand in the blue marshes;
Tamalpais, Diablo, St. Helena
Float in the air.
Climbing on the cliffs of Hunter's Hill
We look out over fifty miles of sinuous
Interpenetration of mountains and sea.

Leading up a twisted chimney,
Just as my eyes rise to the level
Of a small cave, two white owls
Fly out, silent, close to my face.
They hover, confused in the sunlight,
And disappear into the recesses of the cliff.

All day I have been watching a new climber,
A young girl with ash blond hair
And gentle confident eyes.
She climbs slowly, precisely,
With unwasted grace.
While I am coiling the ropes,
Watching the spectacular sunset,
She turns to me and says, quietly,
"It must be very beautiful, the sunset,
On Saturn, with the rings and all the moons."

Written nearly 70 years ago, though you'd never know it. All these decades later, the poet still evokes in us the exquisite beauty of that day, and that last moment, that last image, remains a moment of awakening for readers still. The miracle of art — and of the artist.

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September 26, 2004

They're Listening Poetry
As the crickets' soft autumn hum
is to us
so are we to the trees
as are they
to the rocks and the hills
— Gary Snyder

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July 17, 2004

Sheep Haiku Poetry

A short poem from the wonderful Martin Espada. If you ever get the opportunity to hear him read, don't miss it. He's a gentle, open-hearted, passionate bear of a man whose deep, rich baritone is quite unforgettable.

Sheep Haiku
      Achill Island, Ireland

A lone sheep cries out:
There are more of us than them!
The flock keeps grazing.

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