Archives For: Poetry

A Poem For Monday

Jul 21 2014 @ 2:22pm


With all the heavy coverage from Gaza and Ukraine today, we could all use a poem selected by the wonderful Alice Quinn. Here’s “Happily Married” by Deborah Garrison:

Almost home
on the longest day of the year,
I saw two birds on a telephone wire:
two beaks, two sharp-peaked ruffs,
two tails that stuck down stiff
like two closed fans
all matched up neatly,
and against the faintly
yellow pre-dusk sky
the birds and wire
were all one color,
a fading black
or darkening gray.

Sometimes the smallest thing
brings harmony in
through the eye.
Or was it that I
on that particular day
had harmony to bring
to what I saw?
That I’d even looked up
seemed a piece of marital
good luck, and that they didn’t
move as I passed by—

I wondered how long in fact
they’d sit that way.

Two more poems from Garrison featured on the Dish here.

(From A Working Girl Can’t Win © 1998 by Deborah Garrison. Used by permission of Random House, an imprint and division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company. Photo by Armando Maynez)

A Poem For Sunday

Jul 20 2014 @ 10:31am


“Husband, Not at Home” by Deborah Garrison :

A soldier, a soldier,
gone to the litigation wars,

or down to Myrtle Beach
to play golf with Dad for the weekend.

Why does the picture of him
trampling the emerald grass in those

silly shoes or flinging his tie over his shoulder
to eat a take-out dinner at his desk—

the carton a squat pagoda in the forest
of legal pads on which he drafts,

in all block caps, every other line,
his motions and replies—fill her

with obscure delight?
Must be the strangeness: his life

strange to her, and hers to him,
as she prowls the apartment with a vacuum

in boxers (his) and bra, or flings
herself across the bed

with three novels to choose from
in the delicious, sports-free

silence. Her dinner a bowl
of cereal, taken cranelike, on one

leg, hip snug to the kitchen
counter. It makes her smile to think

he’d disapprove, to think she likes him
almost best this way: away.

She’ll let the cat jump up
to lap the extra milk, and no one’s

home to scold her.

(From A Working Girl Can’t Win © 1998 by Deborah Garrison. Used by permission of Random House, an imprint and division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company. Photo by Jonathan Lin)

A Poem For Saturday

Jul 19 2014 @ 10:41am


Dish poetry editor Alice Quinn writes:

In 1998, the poet and editor Deborah Garrison published her debut collection, A Working Girl Can’t Win. At the time, she and I were colleagues at The New Yorker. Now she is poetry editor at Alfred A. Knopf, where I once had the same wonderful job, as well as a senior editor at Pantheon Books.

Her book was highly praised, drawing compliments from A. Alvarez (“A triumph of wit and modesty.”), The New York Times Book Review (“An intense, intelligent and wonderfully sly book of poems.”), and John Updike, who wrote, “Many a working girl will recognize herself in the poems’ running heroine, and male readers will part with her company reluctantly.”

What struck me rereading the book last weekend were the poems about a young marriage. We’ll post three in the hope that many of you will find them as winsome and dear as we do.

“3:00 A.M. Comedy” by Deborah Garrison:

Sometimes it’s funny, this after-hour when
whatever hasn’t happened between us
hasn’t happened again, and I pretend

to be another kind of woman, who spends
the night on the couch in a rage,
on strike for affection—

How ridiculous.
I’m always in this bed,
if not having you, then forgiving you

exquisitely, consoling myself
with a lame joke: I’m a shrinking
being, tinier and tinier I grow,

there I go!
The last woman on earth
who even bothered about sex,

and now I’m nothing but a speck.
What a shame for all those lusty men;
their world without me is barren.

While you, my dear, get
larger: you’re a hulking, man-
shaped continent, a cool green

giant (I can hardly reach your leafy
parts), or a statuesque
philosopher-king, whose sleep soars

above mathematics, his loftiest argument.

(From A Working Girl Can’t Win © 1998 by Deborah Garrison. Used by permission of Random House, an imprint and division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company. Photo by Flickr user Sholeh)

A Poem For Sunday

Jul 13 2014 @ 5:28pm


“Summer Moods” by John Clare (1793-1864):

I love at eventide to walk alone
Down narrow lanes o’erhung with dewy thorn
Where, from the long grass underneath, the snail
Jet black creeps out and sprouts his timid horn.
I love to muse o’er meadows newly mown
Where withering grass perfumes the sultry air,
Where bees search round with sad and weary drone
In vain for flowers that bloomed but newly there,
While in the juicy corn the hidden quail
Cries “wet my foot” and hid as thoughts unborn
The fairylike and seldom-seen landrail
Utters “craik craik” like voices underground,
Right glad to meet the evening’s dewy veil
And see the light fade into glooms around.

(From “I Am”: The Selected Poetry of John Clare, edited by Jonathan Bate © 2003 by Jonathan Bate. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Photo by Tom Marsh)

A Poem For Saturday

Jul 12 2014 @ 10:13am

Dish poetry editor Alice Quinn writes:

Last Friday on July 4th, in an Ask Me Anything segment, Andrew responded to a reader’s question as to whether after 30 years here he identified more as American or English. I was struck by his saying, “The impact—when I look at it now—of the English countryside on my psyche was bigger than I ever really anticipated. I find myself drawn constantly to that sort of rural calm.”

We’ve recently posted poems by John Clare (1793-1864), and I can’t seem to stop reading and memorizing his work, particularly the sonnets which are so expressive of his tender devotion to the English countryside. So this week we’ll post a few more and dedicate them to Andrew, to England, and to readers of The Dish who may be moved to learn some poems by heart this summer. We’ll start with one with a dog to up the ante with Mr. Sullivan! In the poem, “nine-peg-morris” refers to a game played on squares cut in turf.

“The Shepherd Boy” by John Clare:

Pleased in his loneliness he often lies
Telling glad stories to his dog—and e’en
His very shadow that the loss supplies
Of living company. Full oft he’ll lean
By pebbled brooks and dream with happy eyes
Upon the fairy pictures spread below,
Thinking the shadowed prospects real skies
And happy heavens where his kindred go.
Oft we may track his haunts where he hath been
To spend the leisure which his toils bestow
By “nine-peg-morris” nicked upon the green
Or flower-stuck gardens never meant to grow
Or figures cut on trees his skill to show
Where he a prisoner from a shower hath been.

(From “I Am”: The Selected Poetry of John Clare, edited by Jonathan Bate © 2003 by Jonathan Bate. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux.)

A Poem For Friday

Jul 11 2014 @ 7:13pm


“In my country” by Jackie Kay:

walking by the waters
down where an honest river
shakes hands with the sea,
a woman passed round me
in a slow, watchful circle,
as if I were a superstition;

or the worst dregs of her imagination,
so when she finally spoke
her words spliced into bars
of an old wheel. A segment of air.
Where do you come from?
“Here,” I said. “Here. These parts.”

(From Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times, edited by Neil Astley, Reprinted by permission of Bloodaxe Books. Photo by Andrew Rollinger)

A Poem For Thursday

Jun 26 2014 @ 3:02pm


Dish poetry editor Alice Quinn writes:

Today’s poem, “Inversnaid” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, is included in Ted Hughes’ Poetry in the Making: An Anthology of Poems and Programmes from ‘Listening and Writing.’ In the chapter “Writing about Landscape” he writes, “We all respond to beauty spots … Usually these places are famous for one thing—they look wild. . . . These are the remains of what the world was once like all over.”

Hughes describes the Hopkins poem below as “a scene in sharp focus: all gloom and brilliance, the exhilaration and uneasy sunniness of a bleak, rather lonely place … so clean and right that whenever I see anything like it in actual scenery I think—’It’s almost as good as Inversnaid.’”

It may well be one of my favorite poems of all time, and GMH one of my most beloved poets. See what you think – here’s “Inversnaid”:

This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fawn-froth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, fell-frowning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

(Photo by Espen Klem)

A Poem For Sunday

Jun 22 2014 @ 5:59pm


Dish poetry editor Alice Quinn writes:

Today we post a poem chosen in light of the chapter “Capturing Animals” from Poetry in the Making: An Anthology of Poems and Programmes from ‘Listening and Writing,’ a series we introduced yesterday that was designed by the poet Ted Hughes for the BBC in the 1960s and addressed primarily to children and teachers.

Early on in the book, he struck the note of his approach, “Imagine what you are writing about. See it and live it . . . . Just look at it, touch it, smell it, listen to it, turn yourself into it. When you do this, the words look after themselves, like magic. . . . The minute you flinch, and take your mind off this thing, and begin to look at the words and worry about them . . . then your worry goes into them and they set about killing each other. So you keep going as long as you can, then look back and see what you have written.”

The nineteenth-century English poet John Clare, whose poem appears below, wrote with exceptional ease, naturalness, and intimacy about the creatures of our world.

The Sand Martin by John Clare (1795-1864):

Thou hermit haunter of the lonely glen
And common wild and heath—the desolate face
Of rude waste landscapes far away from men
Where frequent quarries give thee dwelling place,
With strangest taste and labour undeterred
Drilling small holes along the quarry’s side,
More like the haunts of vermin than a bird
And seldom by the nesting boy descried—
I’ve seen thee far away from all thy tribe
Flirting about the unfrequented sky
And felt a feeling that I can’t describe
Of lone seclusion and a hermit joy
To see thee circle round nor go beyond
That lone heath and its melancholy pond.

(Photo of two sand martins by Jo Garbutt)

A Poem For Saturday

Jun 21 2014 @ 9:37am


Dish poetry editor Alice Quinn writes:

The English poet Ted Hughes presented a series of BBC programs in the 1960s addressed primarily to children to help them feel at home with writing poetry. “In these talks,” he wrote, “I assume that the latent talent for self-expression in any child is immeasurable.” These were later anthologized in a book very much worth looking for titled Poetry in the Making: An Anthology of Poems and Programmes from ‘Listening and Writing’. In it, he outlines all sorts of valuable poetic exercises and comments on poems that illustrate his points. From the chapter, “Writing about People”:

From time to time I have read a good deal about Sir Francis Bacon, the great Elizabethan statesman and philosopher. . . . I read a lot about him while just searching for the clue that would tell me what he was really like. At last I found it. I read that he had peculiar eyes—eyes, we are told, like a viper…. At once I was able to feel I knew exactly what that man was like. I felt to be in his presence. And everything that I could remember about him became at once near and real. And this is what we want.

Elizabeth Bishop felt that her poem “Sandpiper” (1962) was an accurate self-portrait. Accuracy was one of the three qualities she admired, she said, “in the poetry I like best.” (The others were spontaneity and mystery.) Reading this poem I always feel her presence “at once near and real,” yielding a strong sense of what she was “really like.”

“Sandpiper” by Elizabeth Bishop:

The roaring alongside he takes for granted
and that every so often the world is bound to shake.
He runs, he runs to the south, finical, awkward,
in a state of controlled panic, a student of Blake.

The beach hisses like fat. On his left, a sheet
of interrupting water comes and goes
and glazes his dark and brittle feet.
He runs, he runs straight through it, watching his toes.

–Watching, rather, the spaces of sand between them,
where (no detail too small) the Atlantic drains
rapidly backwards and downwards. As he runs,
he stares at the dragging grains.

The world is a mist. And then the world is
minute and vast and clear. The tide
is higher or lower. He couldn’t tell you which.
His beak is focused; he is preoccupied,

looking for something, something, something.
Poor bird, he is obsessed!
The millions of grains are black, white, tan and gray,
mixed with quartz grains, rose and amethyst.

(From Poems by Elizabeth Bishop © 2011 by the Alice H. Methfessel Trust. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Photo by Ashley Harrigan)

A Poem For Friday

Jun 20 2014 @ 3:21pm


“Exegesis” by Kevin Simmonds:

There was nothing trivial about the
Thai masseuse who slid his vertical
along my vertical, the power
outage, or those extra minutes
without charge. I cannot say he
wasn’t God. What I felt then, what
I feel with a man’s body on mine, is
holy, holy the way I imagine it is
right & without damage, worth
thanks & remembrance &
justification for.

(From Bend to It © Kevin Simmonds, 2014. Reprinted with permission by Salmon Poetry. Photo by Daniel Spiess)