Wednesday, October 28, 2009

830. Impressions - E. E. Cummings

From: An Anthology of Revolutionary Poetry, 1929
the hours rise up putting off stars and it is
dawn
into the street of the sky light walks scattering poems

on earth a candle is
extinguished the city
wakes
with a song upon her
mouth having death in her eyes

and it is dawn
the world
goes forth to murder dreams . . . .

i see in the street where strong
men are digging bread
and i see the brutal faces of
people contented hideous hopeless cruel happy

and it is day,

in the mirror
i see a frail
man
dreaming
dreams
dreams in the mirror

and it
is dusk on earth

a candle is lighted
and it is dark.
the people are in their houses
the frail man is in his bed
the city
sleeps with death upon her mouth having a song in her eyes
the hours descend
putting on stars . . . .

in the street of the sky night walks scattering poems.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

829. Some Like Poetry (Four translations) - Wislawa Szymborska

Wislawa Szymborska - Some Like Poetry
Translated from the Polish by Joanna Maria Trzeciak

Some––
not all, that is.
Not even the majority of all but the minority.
Not counting school, where one must,
or the poets themselves,
there'd be maybe two such people in a thousand.

Like––
but one also likes chicken-noodle soup,
one likes compliments and the color blue,
one likes an old scarf,
one likes to prove one's point,
one likes to pet a dog.

Poetry––
but what sort of thing is poetry?
Many a shaky answer
has been given to this question.
But I do not know and do not know and hold on to it,
as to a saving bannister.

Wislawa Szymborska - Some People Like Poetry (2)
Translated from the Polish by Walter Whipple

Some people--
that is not everybody
Not even the majority but the minority.
Not counting the schools where one must,
and the poets themselves,
there will be perhaps two in a thousand.

Like--
but we also like chicken noodle soup,
we like compliments and the color blue,
we like our old scarves,
we like to have our own way,
we like to pet dogs.

Poetry--
but what is poetry.
More than one flimsy answer
has been given to that question.
And I don't know, and don't know, and I
cling to it as to a life line.

Wislawa Szymborska - Some People Like Poetry (3)
Translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

Some people––
that means not everyone.
Not even most of them, only a few.
Not counting school, where you have to,
and poets themselves,
you might end up with something like two per thousand.

Like––
but then, you can like chicken noodle soup,
or compliments, or the color blue,
your old scarf,
your own way,
petting the dog.

Poetry––
but what is poetry anyway?
More than one rickety answer
has tumbled since that question first was raised.
But I just keep on not knowing, and I cling to that
like a redemptive handrail.

Wislawa Szymborska - Some Like Poetry (4)
Translated from the Polish by Regina Grol

Some -
thus not all. Not even the majority of all but the minority.
Not counting schools, where one has to,
and the poets themselves,
there might be two people per thousand.

Like -
but one also likes chicken soup with noodles,
one likes compliments and the color blue,
one likes an old scarf,
one likes having the upper hand,
one likes stroking a dog.

Poetry -
but what is poetry.
Many shaky answers
have been given to this question.
But I don't know and don't know and hold on to it
like to a sustaining railing.

Friday, October 23, 2009

828. Brueghel's Snow (Six poems about the same picture)




Rutger Kopland - Brueghel's Winter
Translated from the Dutch by James Brockway


Winter by Brueghel, the hill with hunters
and dogs, at their feet the valley with the village.
Almost home, but their dead-tired attitudes, their steps
in the snow––a return, but almost as
slow as arrest. At their feet the depths
grow and grow, become wider and further,
until the landscape vanishes into a landscape
that must be there, is there but only

as a longing is there.

Ahead of them a jet-black bird dives down. Is it mockery
of this labored attempt to return to the life
down there: the children skating on the pond,
the farms with women waiting and cattle?

An arrow underway, and it laughs at its target.

Anne Stevenson - Brueghel's Snow

Here in the snow:
three hunters with dogs and pikes
trekking over a hill,
into and out of those famous footprints -
famous and still.

What did they catch?
They have little to show
on their bowed backs.
Unlike the delicate skaters below,
these are grim, they look ill.

In the village, it's zero.
Bent shapes in black clouts,
raw faces aglow
in the firelight, burning the wind
for warmth, or their hunger's kill.

What happens next?
In the unpainted picture?
The hunters arrive, pull
off their caked boots, curse the weather
slump down over stoups. . .

Who's painting them now?
What has survived to unbandage
my eyes as I trudge through this snow,
with my dog and stick,
four hundred winters ago?

Joseph Langland - Hunters In The Snow: Brueghel

Quail and rabbit hunters with tawny hounds,
Shadowless, out of late afternoon
Trudge toward the neutral evening of indeterminate form.
Done with their blood-annunciated day
Public dogs and all the passionless mongrels
Through deep snow
Trail their deliberate masters
Descending from the upper village home in hovering light.
Sooty lamps
Glow in the stone-carved kitchens.

This is the fabulous hour of shape and form
When Flemish children are grey-black-olive
And green-dark-brown
Scattered and skating informal figures
On the mill ice pond.
Moving in stillness
A hunched dame struggles with her bundled sticks,
Letting her evening's comfort cudgel her
While she, like jug or wheel, like a wagon cart
Walked by lazy oxen along the old snowlanes,
Creeps and crunches down the dusky street.
High in the fire-red dooryard
Half unhitched the sign of the Inn
Hangs in the wind
Tipped to the pitch of the roof.
Near it anonymous parents and peasant girl,
Living like proverbs carved in the alehouse walls,
Gather the country evening into their arms
And lean to the glowing flames.

Now in the dimming distance fades
The other village; across the valley
Imperturbable Flemish cliffs and crags
Vaguely advance, close in, loom,
Lost in nearness. Now
The night-black raven perched in branching boughs
Opens its early wing and slipping out
Above the grey-green valley
Weaves a net of slumber over the snow-capped homes.
And now the church, and then the walls and roofs
Of all the little houses are become
Close kin to shadow with small lantern eyes.
And now the bird of evening
With shadows streaming down from its gliding wings
Circles the neighboring hills
Of Hertogenbosch, Brabant.

Darkness stalks the hunters,
Slowly sliding down.
Falling in beating rings and soft diagonals.
Lodged in the vague vast valley the village sleeps.

William Carlos Williams - The Hunters In The Snow

The over-all picture is winter
icy mountains
in the background the return

from the hunt it is toward evening
from the left
sturdy hinters lead in

their pack the inn-sign
hanging from a
broken hinge is a stag a crucifix

between his antlers the cold
inn yard is
deserted but for a huge bonfire

that flares wind-driven tended by
women who cluster
about it to the right beyond

the hill is a pattern of skaters
Brueghel the painter
concerned with it all has chosen

a winter-stuck bush for his
foreground to
complete the picture

Anne Stevenson - Brueghel's Snow

Here in the snow:
three hunters with dogs and pikes
trekking over a hill,
into and out of those famous footprints -
famous and still.

What did they catch?
They have little to show
on their bowed backs.
Unlike the delicate skaters below,
these are grim, they look ill.

In the village, it's zero.
Bent shapes in black clouts,
raw faces aglow
in the firelight, burning the wind
for warmth, or their hunger's kill.

What happens next?
In the unpainted picture?
The hunters arrive, pull
off their caked boots, curse the weather
slump down over stoups. . .

Who's painting them now?
What has survived to unbandage
my eyes as I trudge through this snow,
with my dog and stick,
four hundred winters ago?

Walter de la Mare - Brueghel's Winter

Jagg'd mountain peaks and skies ice-green
Wall in the wild, cold scene below.
Churches, farms, bare copse, the sea
In freezing quiet of winter show;
Where ink-black shapes on fields in flood
Curling, skating, and sliding go.
To left, a gabled tavern; a blaze;
Peasants; a watching child; and lo,
Muffled, mute--beneath naked trees
In sharp perspective set a-row--
Trudge huntsmen, sinister spears aslant,
Dogs snuffling behind them in the snow;
And arrowlike, lean, athwart the air
Swoops into space a crow.
But flame, nor ice, nor piercing rock,
Nor silence, as of a frozen sea,
Nor that slant inward infinite line
Of signboard, bird, and hill, and tree,
Give more than subtle hint of him
Who squandered here life's mystery.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

827. Reisebilder - Edoardo Sanguineti

.
To the mini-skirted customs official who with sibyl-dove eyes honed in on me
in the interminable line of travelers in transit, I told the entire truth,
confined within a plywood separé-confessional: I said I have a son who
studies Russian and German and that Bonjours les ami, a four-volume French
course, was for my wife; I was ready to concede more: that I knew it had
been Rosa Luxemburg to launch the slogan "socialism or barbarism," and that
I could make up an impressive madrigal on the same; but I was sweating
as I searched my pockets in vain for the bill from the Operncafé; and then
suddenly you were there, even dragging in the kids, marvelous and marveling;
(we ordered you out with the same harsh gestures, my uniformed Beatrice of
democracy and myself); but the irreparable had already been consummated for me
there at the border between the two Berlins: forty-one-year-old seduced
by a police officer.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

826. Invitation To Miss Marianne Moore - Elizabeth Bishop

(Suggested by a poem of Pablo Neruda)

From Brooklyn, over the Brooklyn Bridge, on this fine morning,
please come flying.
In a cloud of fiery pale chemicals,
please come flying,
to the rapid rolling of thousands of small blue drums
descending out of the mackerel sky
over the glittering grandstand of harbor-water,
please come flying.

Whistles, pennants and smoke are blowing. The ships
are signaling cordially with multitudes of flags
rising and falling like birds all over the harbor.
Enter: two rivers, gracefully bearing
countless little pellucid jellies
in cut-glass epergnes dragging with silver chains.
The flight is safe; the weather is all arranged.
The waves are running in verses this fine morning.
Please come flying.

Come with the pointed toe of each black shoe
trailing a sapphire high-light,
with a black cape-full of butterfly wings and bon-mots,
with heaven knows how many angels all riding
on the broad black brim of your hat,
please come flying.

Bearing a musical inaudible abacus,
a slight censorious frown, and blue ribbons,
please come flying.
Facts and skyscrapers glint in the tide; Manhattan
is all awash with morals this fine morning,
so please come flying.

Mounting the sky with natural heroism,
above the accidents, above the malignant movies,
the taxi-cabs and injustices at large,
while horns are resounding into your beautiful ears
that simultaneously listen to
a soft uninvented music fit for the musk deer,
please come flying.

For whom the grim museums will behave
Like courteous male bower-birds,
for whom the agreeable lions lie in wait
on the steps of the Public Library,
eager to rise and follow through the doors
up into the reading rooms,
please come flying.
We can sit down and weep; we can go shopping,
or play at the game of constantly being wrong
with a priceless set of vocabularies,
or we can bravely deplore, but please
please come flying.

With dynasties of negative constructions
darkening and dying around you,
with the grammar that suddenly turns and shines
like flocks of sandpipers flying,
please come flying.

Come like a light in the white mackerel sky,
come like a daytime comet
with a long unnebulous train of words,
from Brooklyn over the Brooklyn Bridge, on this fine morning,
please come flying.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

825. First Day of the Future - Galway Kinnell

They always seem to come up
on the future, these cold, earthly dawns;
the whiteness and the blackness
make the flesh shiver as though it's starting to break.
But always it is just another day they illuminate
of the permanent present. Except for today.
A motorboat sets out across the bay,
a transfiguring spirit, its little puffy gasps
of disintegration collected
and hymned out in a pure purr of dominion.
It disappears. In the stillness again
the shore lights remember the dimensions of the black water.
I don't know about this new life.
Even though I burned the ashes of its flag again and again
and set fire to the ticket that might have conscripted me into its
ranks forever,
and I squandered my talents composing my emigration papers,
I think I want to go back now and live again in the present time,
back there
where someone milks a cow and jets of intensest nourishment go
squawking into a pail,
where someone is hammering, a bit of steel at the end of a stick
hitting a bit of steel, in the archaic stillness of an afternoon,
or somebody else saws a board, back and forth, like hard labor
in the lungs of one who refused to come to the very end.
But I guess I'm here. So I must take care. For here
one has to keep facing the right way, or one sees one dies, and one
dies.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

824. Song of one of the girls - Dorothy Parker

Here in my heart I am Helen;
I'm Aspasia and Hero, at least.
I'm Judith, and Jael, and Madame de Stael;
I'm Salome, moon of the East.

Here in my soul I am Sappho;
Lady Hamilton am I, as well.
In me Recamier vies with Kitty O'Shea,
With Dido, and Eve, and poor Nell.

I'm of the glamorous ladies
At whose beckoning history shook.
But you are a man, and see only my pan,
So I stay at home with a book.

Monday, October 12, 2009

823. Work Around Your Abyss - Henry Nouwen

There is a deep hole in your being, like an abyss. You
will never succeed in filling that hole, because your
needs are inexhaustible. You have to work around it
so that gradually the abyss closes.
Since the hole is so enormous and your anguish
so deep, you will always be tempted to flee from it.
There are two extremes to avoid: being completely
absorbed in your pain and being distracted by so
many things that you stay far away from the wound
you want to heal.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

822. Descartes's Loneliness - Allen Grossman

.
Toward evening, the natural light becomes
intelligent and answers, without demur:
"Be assured! You are not alone. . . ."
But in fact, toward evening, I am not
convinced there is any other except myself
to whom existence necessarily pertains.
I also interrogate myself to discover
whether I myself possess any power
by which I can bring it about that I
who now am shall exist another moment.

Because I am mostly a thinking thing
and because this precise question can only
be from that thoughtful part of myself,
if such a power did reside within me
I should, I am sure, be conscious of it. . . .
But I am conscious of no such power.
And yet, if I myself cannot be
the cause of that assurance, surely
it is necessary to conclude that
I am not alone in the world. There is

some other who is the cause of that idea.
But if, at last, no such other can be
found toward evening, do I really have
sufficient assurance of the existence
of any other being at all? For,
after a most careful search, I have been
unable to discover the ground of that
conviction––unless it be imagined a lonely
workman on a dizzy scaffold unfolds
a sign at evening and puts his mark to it.

Monday, October 05, 2009

821. Apologies - Gwendolyn Mac Ewen

from The T.E. Lawrence Poems

I did not choose Arabia; it chose me. The shabby money
That the desert offered us bought lies, bought victory.
What was I, that soiled Outsider, doing
Among them? I was not becoming one of them, no matter
What you think. They found it easier to learn my kind
of Arabic, than to teach me theirs.
And they were all mad; they mounted their horses and camels
from the right.

But my mind's twin kingdoms waged an everlasting war;
The reckless Bedouin and the civilized Englishman
fought for control, so that I, whatever I was,
Fell into a dumb void that even a false god could not fill,
could not inhabit.

The arabs are children of the idea; dangle an idea
In front of them, and you can swing them wherever.
I was also a child of the idea; I wanted
no liberty for myself, but to bestow it
Upon them. I wanted to present them with a gift so fine
it would outshine all other gifts in their eyes;
it would be worthy. Then I at last could be
Empty.

You can't imagine how beautiful it is to be empty.
Out of this grand emptiness wonderful things must surely
come into being.
When we set out, it was morning. We hardly knew
That when we moved we would not be an army, but a world.

Friday, October 02, 2009

820. A Night At The Opera - Charles Tomlinson

When the old servant reveals she is the mother
Of the young count whose elder brother
Has betrayed him, the heroine, disguised
As the Duke's own equerry, sings Or'
Che sono, pale from the wound she has received
In the first act. The entire court
Realize what has in fact occurred and wordlessly
The waltz song is to be heard now
In the full orchestra. And we too,
Recall that meeting of Marietta with the count
Outside the cloister in Toledo. She faints:
Her doublet being undone, they find
She still has on the hair-shirt
Worn ever since she was a nun
In Spain. So her secret is plainly out
And Boccaleone (blind valet
To the Duke) confesses it is he (Or' son'io)
Who overheard the plot to kidnap the dead
Count Bellafonte, to burn by night
The high camp of the gipsy king
Alfiero, and by this stratagem quite prevent
The union of both pairs of lovers.
Now the whole cast packs the stage
Raging in chorus round the quartet- - led
By Alfiero (having shed his late disguise)
And Boccaleone (shock has restored his eyes):
Marietta, at the first note from the count
(Long thought dead, but finally revealed
As Alfiero), rouses herself, her life
Hanging by a thread of song, and the Duke,
Descending from his carriage to join in,
Dispenses pardon, punishment and marriage.
Exeunt to the Grand March, Marietta
(Though feebly) marching, too, for this
Is the 'Paris' version where we miss
The ultimate dènouement when at the command
Of the heroine (Pura non son') Bellafonte marries
The daughter of the gipsy king and . . .