Poem on Your Blog Day

It’s Poem On Your Blog Day, to mark the end of National Poetry Month. The original idea was to post about your favourite poem and link to a bio and/or other work by the same poet. I don’t have a favourite poem, and for the rest I’m pressed for time as always so I’ll just point to this post about AE Stallings, my favourite contemporary poet.
But I feel bad not posting any verse at all, so here’s one I’ve been meaning to put up:

The Love-Song of Vice-Chancellor Prufrock; or, Prufrock Among The Students

Not the least of T.S. Eliot’s
contributions to literature is
the opportunity for gratuitious
parody afforded by ‘Prufrock‘.
Senza tema d’infamia…

Let us go, then, you and I,
When the campus is spread out beneath the sky
Like a student stupefied by a timetable;
Let us pass by certain half-deserted rooms
Wherein, one just assumes,
Some course on T.S. Eliot drones on;
Pass by the roses, ornaments and ponds,
The fountains, gardens and the sculptured hedges
(Where, along the edges,
Poorer students have been known to make their homes)—
The grounds this time of year are just exquisite;
Let us go and make our visit.
Through the windows student faces peer,
Desperate for passing-grades and beer.
The greasy smog that drips from eaves
And eats away the drains…
The greasy smog that settles down and leaves
My Beemer stained…
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that oozes from the labs,
Etching black streaks down the sandstone walls,
For all the corpses on the med-school slabs
And all the corpses in the Admin. halls;
Time for Law, and Arts, and time
Especially for Engineering
(A million dollar grant this year,
From MIM and Hastings-Deering);
Time to put on gowns and meet the press,
Then let some junior Dean assume the mess—
(Pause here; observe the humble stance
Of department heads who overspent their grants)—
In a minute there is time
For conclusions and exclusions which my secretary signs.
Through the windows student faces peer,
Desperate for passing-grades and beer.
And indeed there will be time
To wonder whence the funds next year will come;
Time yet to rouse the dragon from its slumbers,
To further raise the numbers
Of full-fee-paying students from overseas—
(They will say: “He doesn’t care about our own!”)
It is impossible to please!
I’d like to do more, Heaven knows,
But how could I let the Staff Club close?
For I have known them all already, known them all,
Known every meeting and the people in it,
I have measured out my life with transcribed Minutes;
I know Departments dying with a quiet moan,
So how can I go on?
And how should I begin?
With wild demands and waving hands,
Like students sitting-in?
Or shall I make requests through all the proper channels?
Approach each Government Department mandarin
With humble mien and careful creases in my flannels?
Do I dare to make a speech?
I shall turn the voice-mail on, and take off for the beach!
I should have been four furry little paws,
Scuttling across the floors of silent refectories.
And would it have been worth it, after all,
After all the heads brought in on platters,
After graduations and initiations,
And the gossip, and the post-exam-week chatter?
Would it, after all, have been worth while
To have brought the Student Union to its knees,
Assured each valued colleague of their tenure,
To sit, proud puppet-king, among these
Trophies—and smile as janitors smile?
Is any thing worth while?
I grow old… I grow tired…
How long before the Trustees have me fired?
I have been feathering my own nest all along,
Without regard or pause for right or wrong.
I have heard the students laughing, singing songs;
I suspect what they were laughing at, was me.
We have lingered in our chambers, half-asleep
On pillows made of crumpled formal gowns;
What student’s voice would dare to wake us now?

weekly verse: AE Stallings

StallingsAE.jpg Another week went by without any verse on this blog, and April is National Poetry Month, and my favourite living poet AE Stallings has a new book out — so without further ado, enjoy:

Variations on an old standard
Come let us kiss. This cannot last—
Too late is on its way too soon—
And we are going nowhere fast.
Already it is after noon,
That momentary palindrome.
The mid-day hours start to swoon—
Around the corner lurks the gloam.
The sun flies at half-mast, and flags.
The color guard of bees heads home,
Whizzing by in zigs and zags,
Weighed down by the dusty gold
They’ve hoarded in their saddlebags,
All the summer they can hold.
It is too late to be too shy:
The Present tenses, starts to scold—
Tomorrow has no alibi,
And hides its far side like the moon.
The bats inebriate the sky,
And now mosquitoes start to tune
Their tiny violins. I see,
Rising like a grey balloon,
The head that does not look at me,
And in its face, the shadow cast,
The Sea they call Tranquility—
Dry and desolate and vast,
Where all passions flow at last.
Come let us kiss. It’s after noon,
And we are going nowhere fast.

Late at night,
One of us sometimes has said,
Watching a movie in black and white,
Of the vivid figures quick upon the screen,
“Surely by now all of them are dead”—
The yapping, wire-haired terrier, of course—
And the patient horse
Soaked in an illusion of London rain,
The Scotland Yard inspector at the scene,
The extras—faces in the crowd, the sailors;
The bungling blackmailers,
The kidnapped girl’s parents, reunited again
With their one and only joy, lisping in tones antique
As that style of pouting Cupid’s bow
Or those plucked eyebrows, arched to the height of chic.
Ignorant of so many things we know,
How they seem innocent, and yet they too
Possess a knowledge that they cannot give,
The grainy screen a kind of sieve
That holds some things, but lets some things slip through
With the current’s rush and swirl.
We wonder briefly only about the girl—
How old—seven, twelve—it isn’t clear—
Perhaps she’s still alive
Watching this somewhere at eighty-five,
The only one who knows, though we might guess,
What the kidnapper whispers in her ear,
Or the color of her dress.

What butterfly—
Brain, soul, or both—
Unfurls here, pallid
As a moth?
(Listen, here’s
Another ticker,
Counting under
Mine, and quicker.)
In this cave
What flickers fall,
On the wall?
Spine like beads
Strung on a wire,
Of our desire,
Moon-face where
Two shadows rhyme,
Two moving hands
That tell the time.
I am the room
The future owns,
The darkness where
It grows its bones.

Those are all available online via the poet’s own site, and all are from her new book, Hapax, as is the author photograph.

Friday Poetry Blogging

I can’t seem to stick to Fridays, but here’s a poem for last week anyway. The author was, in his day, one of the most feared critics, influential poets and respected classical scholars in the world; who was he? I’ll put the answer in a comment for those who don’t know, can’t guess and don’t like waiting.

Purple William; or, The Liar’s Doom
The hideous hue which William is
Was not originally his;
So long as William told the truth,
He was a usual-coloured youth.
He now is purple. One fine day
His tender father chanced to say,
“What colour is a whelp, and why?”
“Purple,” was William’s false reply.
“Pooh,” said his Pa, “You silly elf,
“It’s no more purple than yourself.”
“Dismiss the notion from your head.”
“I, too, am purple,” William said.
—And he was purple. With a yell
His mother off the sofa fell,
Exclaiming, “William’s purple! Oh!”
William replied, “I told you so.”
His parents, who could not support
The pungency of this retort,
Died with a simultaneous groan.
The purple orphan was alone.

Friday Poetry Blogging (late edition): Kutti Revathi

I keep forgetting FPB, but today’s Poem of the Week email both reminded me and provided me with material.
Kutti Revathi is a Tamil poet who says of her work, “People always ask me why I do not write poems about societal concerns and issues, as though attempts to bring about inner renewal and inner transformation were not acts of social concern. I use my language only to loosen the fetters that have bound and shrunk a woman’s body.”
The link goes to a brief introduction and links to four poems; my favourite of the four (trans. N. Kalyan Raman) is below, but do read them all.

Breasts are bubbles, rising
In wet marshlands
I watched in awe — and guarded —
Their gradual swell and blooming
At the edges of my youth’s season
Saying nothing to anyone else,
They sing along
With me alone, always:
Of Love,
To the nurseries of my turning seasons,
They never once forgot or failed
To bring arousal
During penance, they swell, as if straining
To break free; and in the fierce tug of lust,
They soar, recalling the ecstasy of music
From the crush of embrace, they distill
The essence of love; and in the shock
Of childbirth, milk from coursing blood
Like two teardrops from an unfulfilled love
That cannot ever be wiped away,
They well up, as if in grief, and spill over

Friday Poetry: John Betjeman

Rob joins jo(e) and friends (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and no doubt many that I missed) in a new1 meme-y thing, Friday Poetry Blogging, that I like the look of.
Since his Collected is sitting on the desk in front of me, here’s Sir John:
The Cottage Hospital
At the end of a long-walled garden
   in a red provincial town,
A brick path led to a mulberry—
   scanty grass at its feet.
I lay under blackening branches
   where the mulberry leaves hung down
Sheltering ruby fruit globes
   from a Sunday-tea-time heat.
Apple and plum espaliers
   basked upon bricks of brown;
The air was swimming with insects,
   and children played in the street.
Out of this bright intentness
   into the mulberry shade
Musca domestica (housefly)
   swung from the August light
Slap into slithery rigging
   by the waiting spider made
Which spun the lithe elastic
   till the fly was shrouded tight.
Down came the hairy talons
   and horrible poison blade
And none of the garden noticed
   that fizzing, hopeless fight.
Say in what Cottage Hospital
   whose pale green walls resound
With the tap upon polished parquet
   of inflexible nurses’ feet
Shall I myself be lying
   when they range the screens around?
And say shall I groan in dying,
   as I twist the sweaty sheet?
Or gasp for breath uncrying,
   as I feel my senses drown’d
While the air is swimming with insects
   and children play in the street?

In a Bath Teashop

poetry break: Gieve Patel

A while back, I signed up for a poem a week by email from Poetry International Web; it’s “Poem of the Week” in my Bloglines account. This week’s poem was by Gieve Patel, and was interesting enough that I went and read a few more. I was really taken with this one:

It makes sense not
to have the body
hermetically sealed, a
box of incorruptibles.
Better shot through and through!


Hein.JPG It was worth adding delicious/poetry to my rss feeds just to be reminded of Piet Hein‘s Grooks. Picture swiped from here, where you can read a good brief biography.
There is
one art,
no more,
no less:
to do
all things
with art-
A definition
One who, consuming midnight oil
in studies diligent and slow,
teaches himself, with painful toil,
the things that other people know.
The road to wisdom? — Well, it’s plain
and simple to express:
           and err
           and err again
           but less
           and less
           and less.
Admonitory grook addressed to youth.
The human spirit sublimates
the impulses it thwarts;
a healthy sex life mitigates
the lust for other sports.
Nature, it seems, is the popular name
for milliards and milliards and milliards
of particles playing their infinite game
of billiards and billiards and billiards.

When I am old, I shall wear purple canvas trousers.

Pericat has been dreaming, and quite possibly drinking, and writing. Right now, or as soon as you can, whatever you’re doing, take a break; sit yourself down all comfy, with cookies and milk or a hot toddy or whatever you feel like, and go read her daydream. You can thank me later. (It made me feel all warm and fuzzy, especially the bit about getting mud all over the man from the gummint and poking at him with a fishing pole.)

Mona Van Duyn

poet Mona Van Duyn, 1921-2004Mona Van Duyn is dead at 83. There is some information at Modern American Poets, and the Academy of American Poets has a brief bio and three of her poems, including one of my favourites, which I’ve pasted below. I nicked the image from the St Louis Walk of Fame. (Via Dumbfoundry, of course.)

Letters from a Father
Ulcerated tooth keeps me awake, there is
such pain, would have to go to the hospital to have
it pulled or would bleed to death from the blood thinners,
but can’t leave Mother, she falls and forgets her salve
and her tranquilizers, her ankles swell so and her bowels
are so bad, she almost had a stoppage and sometimes
what she passes is green as grass. There are big holes
in my thigh where my leg brace buckles the size of dimes.
My head pounds from the high pressure. It is awful
not to be able to get out, and I fell in the bathroom
and the girl could hardly get me up at all.
Sure thought my back was broken, it will be next time.
Prostate is bad and heart has given out,
feel bloated after supper. Have made my peace
because am just plain done for and have no doubt
that the Lord will come any day with my release.
You say you enjoy your feeder, I don’t see why
you want to spend good money on grain for birds
and you say you have a hundred sparrows, I’d buy
poison and get rid of their diseases and turds.
We enjoyed your visit, it was nice of you to bring
the feeder but a terrible waste of your money
for that big bag of feed since we won’t be living
more than a few weeks long. We can see
them good from where we sit, big ones and little ones
but you know when I farmed I used to like to hunt
and we had many a good meal from pigeons
and quail and pheasant but these birds won’t
be good for nothing and are dirty to have so near
the house. Mother likes the redbirds though.
My bad knee is so sore and I can’t hardly hear
and Mother says she is hoarse from yelling but I know
it’s too late for a hearing aid. I belch up all the time
and have a sour mouth and of course with my heart
it’s no use to go to a doctor. Mother is the same.
Has a scab she thinks is going to turn to a wart.
The birds are eating and fighting, Ha! Ha! All shapes
and colors and sizes coming out of our woods
but we don’t know what they are. Your Mother hopes
you can send us a kind of book that tells about birds.
There is one the folks called snowbirds, they eat on the ground,
we had the girl sprinkle extra there, but say,
they eat something awful. I sent the girl to town
to buy some more feed, she had to go anyway.
Almost called you on the telephone
but it costs so much to call thought better write.
Say, the funniest thing is happening, one
day we had so many birds and they fight
and get excited at their feed you know
and it’s really something to watch and two or three
flew right at us and crashed into our window
and bang, poor little things knocked themselves silly.
They come to after while on the ground and flew away.
And they been doing that. We felt awful
and didn’t know what to do but the other day
a lady from our Church drove out to call
and a little bird knocked itself out while she sat
and she brought it in her hands right into the house,
it looked like dead. It had a kind of hat
of feathers sticking up on its head, kind of rose
or pinky color, don’t know what it was,
and I petted it and it come to life right there
in her hands and she took it out and it flew. She says
they think the window is the sky on a fair
day, she feeds birds too but hasn’t got
so many. She says to hang strips of aluminum foil
in the window so we’ll do that. She raved about
our birds. P.S. The book just come in the mail.
Say, that book is sure good, I study
in it every day and enjoy our birds.
Some of them I can’t identify
for sure, I guess they’re females, the Latin words
I just skip over. Bet you’d never guess
the sparrow I’ve got here, House Sparrow you wrote,
but I have Fox Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Vesper Sparrows,
Pine Woods and Tree and Chipping and White Throat
and White Crowned Sparrows. I have six Cardinals,
three pairs, they come at early morning and night,
the males at the feeder and on the ground the females.
Juncos, maybe 25, they fight
for the ground, that’s what they used to call snowbirds. I miss
the Bluebirds since the weather warmed. Their breast
is the color of a good ripe muskmelon. Tufted Titmouse
is sort of blue with a little tiny crest.
And I have Flicker and Red-Bellied and Red-
Headed Woodpeckers, you would die laughing
to see Red-Bellied, he hangs on with his head
flat on the board, his tail braced up under,
wing out. And Dickcissel and Ruby Crowned Kinglet
and Nuthatch stands on his head and Veery on top
the color of a bird dog and Hermit Thrush with spot
on breast, Blue Jay so funny, he will hop
right on the backs of the other birds to get the grain.
We bought some sunflower seeds just for him.
And Purple Finch I bet you never seen,
color of a watermelon, sits on the rim
of the feeder with his streaky wife, and the squirrels,
you know, they are cute too, they sit tall
and eat with their little hands, they eat bucketfuls.
I pulled my own tooth, it didn’t bleed at all.
It’s sure a surprise how well Mother is doing,
she forgets her laxative but bowels move fine.
Now that windows are open she says our birds sing
all day. The girl took a Book of Knowledge on loan
from the library and I am reading up
on the habits of birds, did you know some males have three
wives, some migrate some don’t. I am going to keep
feeding all spring, maybe summer, you can see
they expect it. Will need thistle seed for Goldfinch and Pine
Siskin next winter. Some folks are going to come see us
from Church, some bird watchers, pretty soon.
They have birds in town but nothing to equal this.
So the world woos its children back for an evening kiss.