Lunchtime Poll: 5/4

Spring always makes me think of poetry. I am particularly fond of ee cummings poems, and he has some great ones that evoke feelings of spring.

So for today’s LTP: What is your favorite poem? (It doesn’t have to be spring-related).

Here is one of mine, in the theme of spring:

Spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere)arranging
a window,into which people look(while
people stare
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here)and

changing everything carefully

spring is like a perhaps
Hand in a window
(carefully to
and fro moving New and
Old things,while
people stare carefully
moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
an inch of air there)and

without breaking anything
– ee cummings

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Luci Furious

There are no bad times, only good stories.

30 thoughts on “Lunchtime Poll: 5/4”

  1. I’ve loved this poem since i was a young child and found an ancient copy of Palgrave’s Golden Treasury. I adore the simplicity of it.

    Leisure – W. H. Davies

    WHAT is this life if, full of care,
    We have no time to stand and stare?—

    No time to stand beneath the boughs,
    And stare as long as sheep and cows:

    No time to see, when woods we pass,
    Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

    No time to see, in broad daylight,
    Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

    No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
    And watch her feet, how they can dance:

    No time to wait till her mouth can
    Enrich that smile her eyes began?

    A poor life this if, full of care,
    We have no time to stand and stare.

    Auden’s “Stop all the clocks” is a close second, for sure.

  2. I thrust Olga Broumas’s collection of poems ‘Beginning with O’ onto people all the time. Seriously, I bought a whole bunch of them for a buck on Amazon once just so I had copies to hand out. This particular collection is very mythology and fair tale inspired. I particularly like this one:

    Little Red Riding Hood

    I grow old, old
    without you, Mother, landscape
    of my heart. No child, no daughter between my bones
    has moved, and passed
    out screaming, dressed in her mantle of blood

    as I did
    once through your pelvic scaffold, stretching it
    like a wishbone, your tenderest skin
    strung on its bow and tightened
    against the pain. I slipped out like an arrow, but not before

    the midwife
    plunged to her wrist and guided
    my baffled head to its first mark. High forceps
    might, in that one instant, have accomplished
    what you and that good woman failed
    in all these years to do: cramp
    me between the temples, hobble
    my baby feet. Dressed in my red hood, howling, I went –

    evading
    the white clad doctor and his fancy claims: microscope,
    stethoscope, scalpel, all
    the better to see with, to hear,
    and to eat – straight from your hollowed basket
    into the midwife’s skirts. I grew up

    good at evading, and when you said,
    “Stick to the road and forget the flowers, there’s
    wolves in those bushes, mind
    where you got to go, mind
    you get there”. I

    minded. I kept

    to the road, kept
    the hood secret, kept what it sheathed more
    secret still. I opened
    it only at night, and with other women
    who might be walking the same road to their own
    grandma’s house, each with their basket of gifts, her small hood
    safe in the same part. I minded well. I have no daughter

    to trace that road, back to your lap with my laden
    basket of love. I’m growing
    old, old
    without you. Mother, landscape
    of my heart, architect of my body, what other gesture
    can I conceive

    to make with it
    that would reach you, alone
    in your house
    and waiting, across this improbable forest
    peopled with wolves and our lost, flower-gathering
    sisters they feed on.

  3. My favorite is “East Coker” from Eliot’s Quartets.

    Here’s part of it:
    “That was a way of putting it—not very satisfactory:
    A periphrastic study in a worn-out poetical fashion,
    Leaving one still with the intolerable wrestle
    With words and meanings. The poetry does not matter.”

    “So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years—
    Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l’entre deux guerres
    Trying to use words, and every attempt
    Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
    Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
    For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
    One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
    Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
    With shabby equipment always deteriorating
    In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
    Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
    By strength and submission, has already been discovered
    Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
    To emulate—but there is no competition—
    There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
    And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
    That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
    For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.”

    My other favorite poets include Frost, Sherman Alexie, William Carlos Williams, Dickinson, and some of the British Romantics. I’ve also been doing some work lately with Hazel Hall, who’s under-known and under-read, and my absolute favorite overall total is this guy.

  4. I have always liked The Love Song of Alfred J Prufrock by T S Elliot and Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night by Dylan Thomas. I also really like Michael Myers’ beat poetry in “So I Married an Ax Murderer”, though I’m a little embarrassed to admit it.
    Woman…
    woe-man…
    whoooa-man.
    She was a thief,
    you gotta believe,
    she stole my heart and my cat.
    Betty,
    Judy,
    Josie and those hot Pussycats…
    they make me horny,
    Saturday morny…
    girls of cartoo-ins
    will leave me in ruins…
    I want to to be Betty’s Barney.
    Hey Jane…
    get me off this crazy thing…
    called love.

    1. I walked into an empty classroom in high school where someone had scrawled a bit of ‘Love Song’ on the chalk board. I remember being so struck by that handful of lines — and since it was pre-internet, unable to discover where the lines had come from. I painted them on my bookcase (I used to collect sayings on it) and stared at it for years.

      We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
      By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
      Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

  5. I know it’s cliché, but I always come back to the imagery in God’s Grandeur, by Gerard Manly Hopkins:

    THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
    Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
    Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
    Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

    And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
    And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
    Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

  6. Variations on the Word “Sleep” — Margaret Atwood

    I would like to watch you sleeping,
    which may not happen.
    I would like to watch you,
    sleeping. I would like to sleep
    with you, to enter
    your sleep as its smooth dark wave
    slides over my head

    and walk with you through that lucent
    wavering forest of bluegreen leaves
    with its watery sun & three moons
    towards the cave where you must descend,
    towards your worst fear

    I would like to give you the silver
    branch, the small white flower, the one
    word that will protect you
    from the grief at the center
    of your dream, from the grief
    at the center. I would like to follow
    you up the long stairway
    again & become
    the boat that would row you back
    carefully, a flame
    in two cupped hands
    to where your body lies
    beside me, and you enter
    it as easily as breathing in

    I would like to be the air
    that inhabits you for a moment
    only. I would like to be that unnoticed
    & that necessary.

    1. Oooh! (I know. I am kind of a poetry nerd.) But Atwood’s Spelling is also one of my favorites:

      My daughter plays on the floor
      with plastic letters,
      red, blue & hard yellow,
      learning how to spell,
      spelling,
      how to make spells.

      I wonder how many women
      denied themselves daughters,
      closed themselves in rooms,
      drew the curtains
      so they could mainline words.

      A child is not a poem,
      a poem is not a child.
      there is no either/or.
      However.

      I return to the story
      of the woman caught in the war
      & in labour, her thighs tied
      together by the enemy
      so she could not give birth.

      Ancestress: the burning witch,
      her mouth covered by leather
      to strangle words.

      A word after a word
      after a word is power.

      At the point where language falls away
      from the hot bones, at the point
      where the rock breaks open and darkness
      flows out of it like blood, at
      the melting point of granite
      when the bones know
      they are hollow & the word
      splits & doubles & speaks
      the truth & the body
      itself becomes a mouth.

      This is a metaphor.

      How do you learn to spell?
      Blood, sky & the sun,
      your own name first,
      your first naming, your first name,
      your first word.

    2. Also, even though it’s from a Children’s Book — the fantastic Alligator Pie by Dennis Lee — this is one of my very favourite poems:

      Tricking — Dennis Lee

      When they bring me a plate
      Full of stuff that I hate
      Like spinach and turnips and guck,
      I sit very straight
      And I look at the plate,
      And I quietly say to it: Yuck!

      Little kids bawl
      Cause I used to be small,
      And I threw it all over the tray.
      But now I am three
      And I’m much more like me –
      I yuck till they take it away.

      But sometimes my dad
      Gets terriffickly mad,
      And he says, “Don’t you drink from that cup!”
      But he can’t say it right
      Cause he’s not very bright –
      So I trick him and drink it all up!

      Then he gets up and roars;
      He stomps on the floor
      And he hollers, “I warn you, don’t eat!!”
      He counts up to ten
      And I trick him again:
      I practically finish the meat.

      Then I start on the guck
      And my daddy goes “Yuck!”
      And he scrunches his eyes till they hurt.
      So I shovel it in
      And he grins a big grin
      And then we have dessert.

  7. Josephine Jacobsen’s Lines to a Poet has always been an injunction I take seriously, even without being a poet myself. I also can’t read it without thinking of A Room With a View.

    Be careful what you say to us now.
    The street-lamp is smashed, the window is jagged,
    There is a man dead in his blood by the base of the fountain.
    If you speak
    You cannot be delicate or sad or clever.
    Some other hour, in a moist April,
    We will consider similes for the budding larches.
    You can teach our wits and our fancy then;
    By a green-lit midnight in your study
    We will delve in your sparkling rock.
    But now at dreadful high noon
    You may speak only to our heart,
    Our honor and our need:
    Saying such things as, “See, she is alive…”
    Or “Here is water,” or “Look behind you!”

  8. Sorry, one more…also most things by Mary Oliver, though I like “Beaver Moon – The Suicide of a Friend” very much.

    When somewhere life
    breaks like a pane of glass,
    and from every direction casual voices are bringing you the news,
    you say: I should have known.
    You say: I should have been aware.
    That last Friday he looked
    so ill, like an old mountain-climber
    lost on the white trails, listening
    to the ice breaking upward, under
    his worn out shoes. You say:
    I heard rumors of trouble, but after all
    we all have that. You say:
    what could I have done? and you go
    with the rest, to bury him.
    That night, you turn in your bed
    to watch the moon rise, and once more
    see what a small coin it is
    against the darkness, and how everything else
    is a mystery, and you know
    nothing at all except
    the moonlight is beautiful–
    white rivers running together
    along the bare boughs of the trees-
    and somewhere, for someone, life
    is becoming moment by moment
    unbearable.

    1. Wild Geese is my favorite Oliver:

      You do not have to be good.
      You do not have to walk on your knees
      for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
      You only have to let the soft animal of your body
      love what it loves.
      Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
      Meanwhile the world goes on.
      Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
      are moving across the landscapes,
      over the prairies and the deep trees,
      the mountains and the rivers.
      Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
      are heading home again.
      Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
      the world offers itself to your imagination,
      calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
      over and over announcing your place

  9. Side note: also love William Carlos Williams’ This Is Just To Say. My best friend from college and I frequently leave notes to one another in that format.

    I have eaten
    the plums
    that were in
    the icebox

    and which
    you were probably
    saving
    for breakfast

    Forgive me
    they were delicious
    so sweet
    and so cold.

  10. I’m another Billy Collins fan, and in addition to the selections listed below, I love Marginalia. I actually got the last lines engraved on my new iPad, after much deliberation over quotes, and I can’t decide if that makes me Super Pretentious or just interesting…

    Sometimes the notes are ferocious,
    skirmishes against the author
    raging along the borders of every page
    in tiny black script.
    If I could just get my hands on you,
    Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O’Brien,
    they seem to say,
    I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.

    Other comments are more offhand, dismissive –
    “Nonsense.” “Please!” “HA!!” –
    that kind of thing.
    I remember once looking up from my reading,
    my thumb as a bookmark,
    trying to imagine what the person must look like
    why wrote “Don’t be a ninny”
    alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.

    Students are more modest
    needing to leave only their splayed footprints
    along the shore of the page.
    One scrawls “Metaphor” next to a stanza of Eliot’s.
    Another notes the presence of “Irony”
    fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal.

    Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers,
    Hands cupped around their mouths.
    “Absolutely,” they shout
    to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin.
    “Yes.” “Bull’s-eye.” “My man!”
    Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation points
    rain down along the sidelines.

    And if you have managed to graduate from college
    without ever having written “Man vs. Nature”
    in a margin, perhaps now
    is the time to take one step forward.

    We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
    and reached for a pen if only to show
    we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
    we pressed a thought into the wayside,
    planted an impression along the verge.

    Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria
    jotted along the borders of the Gospels
    brief asides about the pains of copying,
    a bird signing near their window,
    or the sunlight that illuminated their page-
    anonymous men catching a ride into the future
    on a vessel more lasting than themselves.

    And you have not read Joshua Reynolds,
    they say, until you have read him
    enwreathed with Blake’s furious scribbling.

    Yet the one I think of most often,
    the one that dangles from me like a locket,
    was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye
    I borrowed from the local library
    one slow, hot summer.
    I was just beginning high school then,
    reading books on a davenport in my parents’ living room,
    and I cannot tell you
    how vastly my loneliness was deepened,
    how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,
    when I found on one page

    A few greasy looking smears
    and next to them, written in soft pencil-
    by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
    whom I would never meet-
    “Pardon the egg salad stains, but I’m in love.”

    – Billy Collins

  11. I love Emily Dickinson.

    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 Fields
    That Science cannot overtake
    But Human Nature feels.

    It waits upon the Lawn,
    It shows the furthest Tree
    Upon the furthest Slope you know
    It almost speaks to you.

    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.

  12. One of my majors in undergrad was English with a focus in writing poetry, so I let out a nerdish squeal of delight when I saw this post. :) I can’t pick an All-Time Favorite Ever, but EE Cummings is one of my favorite poets as well, and this is one of my favorites by him:

    in time of daffodils(who know
    the goal of living is to grow)
    forgetting why,remember how

    in time of lilacs who proclaim
    the aim of waking is to dream,
    remember so(forgetting seem)

    in time of roses(who amaze
    our now and here with paradise)
    forgetting if,remember yes

    in time of all sweet things beyond
    whatever mind may comprehend,
    remember seek(forgetting find)

    and in a mystery to be
    (when time from time shall set us free)
    forgetting me,remember me

    1. I used an e.e. cummings poem for my weddin’.

      i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
      my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
      i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
      by only me is your doing,my darling)
      i fear
      no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
      no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
      and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
      and whatever a sun will always sing is you

      here is the deepest secret nobody knows
      (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
      and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
      higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
      and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

      i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

      1. I read a different cummings poem at my brother’s wedding. A few months later our aunt passed from a really aggressive bout of cancer. One of the only requests she made for her funeral was for me to read the poem in place of a eulogy:

        somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
        any experience,your eyes have their silence:
        in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
        or which i cannot touch because they are too near

        your slightest look easily will unclose me
        though i have closed myself as fingers,
        you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
        (touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

        or if your wish be to close me, i and
        my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
        as when the heart of this flower imagines
        the snow carefully everywhere descending;

        nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
        the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
        compels me with the color of its countries,
        rendering death and forever with each breathing

        (i do not know what it is about you that closes
        and opens;only something in me understands
        the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
        nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

  13. Anything by Billy Collins, but I’ll put in this one! If you enjoy tongue-in-cheek ones, look at “introduction to poetry” or “another reason why I don’t keep a gun in the house.” If on the other hand you enjoy making yourself cry, check out “on turning ten.”

    Litany

    You are the bread and the knife,
    The crystal goblet and the wine…
    -Jacques Crickillon

    You are the bread and the knife,
    the crystal goblet and the wine.
    You are the dew on the morning grass
    and the burning wheel of the sun.
    You are the white apron of the baker,
    and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

    However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
    the plums on the counter,
    or the house of cards.
    And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
    There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

    It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
    maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head,
    but you are not even close
    to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

    And a quick look in the mirror will show
    that you are neither the boots in the corner
    nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

    It might interest you to know,
    speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
    that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

    I also happen to be the shooting star,
    the evening paper blowing down an alley
    and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

    I am also the moon in the trees
    and the blind woman’s tea cup.
    But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.
    You are still the bread and the knife.
    You will always be the bread and the knife,
    not to mention the crystal goblet and–somehow–the wine.

  14. Oh, I love poetry! April was National Poetry Month in the US, and I tried to remember to post some on my tumblr.

    I really like slam poetry a lot, and one of my favorite poets is Rives. This is pretty much my favorite love poem of all time. “But I’m not insisting you’re some kind of goddess. I know you’re suspicious of unspecific love poems. You’re more like a, like a sunflower growing in the courtyard of an old folks’ home. You mean things to people on a daily basis. And this petty poem won’t explain just how my favorite your face is. But it is. You’re so pretty. You’re like a… You are like a… You are like some kind of… *harmonica solo* You’re like that.”

    I also really like this poem that I discovered accidentally the one day in a used book shop. I mean, I am generally the one who’s too prosy, but the Mister is certainly poetry, and I just love it. It reminds me a lot of Sonnet 130 or Let’s Hear it for the Boy (which I still insist is just a modern version of Sonnet 130).

    She’s Too Prosy For Me
    by: James Kavanaugh

    I met a girl more beautiful than you,
    Who’s probably brighter – even more elegant,
    But she’s too prosy for me, and
    Moves in pages and paragraphs,
    Speaks in sentences,
    Lives in chapters
    With the commas all in place,
    Predictable and shorn of wonder.
    Line flows coherently from line
    With logic and reason,
    With judgement and taste,
    With index and footnotes,
    With rules and rituals,
    The mystery’s edited out.

    You are poetry to me
    Without rhyme or reason,
    Without systems or schedules,
    Without requirements and obligations,
    Or disappointments and expectations,
    God knows – without a watch!
    Your sudden lines surprise me,
    Shy and startling,
    Bold and unafraid
    Of silence
    Or challenge – or change,
    Or repetition – or repetition!

    You are poetry to me
    Like chili on a cold night with lots of crackers,
    Or eating Hershey bars in duckblinds,
    Or wandering through a market in Mexico.
    I met a girl more beautiful than you,
    But she could never look like someone I know
    Coming out of the rain
    In a canvas coat,
    A droopy hat,
    And in sneakers – of all things!

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