Friday, April 30, 2010

Hope - Philip Booth

Old spirit, in and beyond me,
keep and extend me. Amid strangers
friends, great trees and big seas breaking,
let love move me. Let me hear the whole music,
see clear, reach deep. Open me to find due words,
that I may shape them to ploughshares of my own making.
After such luck, however late, give me to give to
the oldest dance.... Then to good sleep,
and - if it happens - glad waking.

Philip Booth (1925-2007) wrote 10 collections of poetry. He was the recipient of Guggenheim, Rockefeller and NEA Fellowships.

Today marks the end of National Poetry Month and brings the Poem of the Day postings to a close for another year. Thank you all for sharing your bandwidth with me.

Keep an eye out on the blog for periodic poetry news, poems and other postings. See you next year.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

On Gifts for Grace - Bernadette Mayer

I saw a great teapot
I wanted to get you this stupendous
100% cotton royal blue and black checkered shirt,
There was a red and black striped one too
Then I saw these boots at a place called Chuckles
They laced up to about two inches above your ankles
All leather and in red, black or purple
It was hard to have no money today
I won't even speak about the possible flowers and kinds of lingerie
All linen and silk with not-yet-perfumed laces
Brillliant enough for any of the Graces
Full of luxury, grace notes, prosperousness and charm
But I can only praise you with this poem -
Its being is the same as the meaning of your name

Bernadette Mayer (b.1945) is a New York-based poet.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

from A Book of Nonsense - Edward Lear

There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, "It is just as I feared!--
Two Owls and a Hen,Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!"

There was an Old Man in a tree,
Who was horribly bored by a Bee;
When they said, "Does it buzz?"
He replied, "Yes it does!
It's a regular brute of a Bee!"

There was a young lady whose chin,
Resembled the point of a pin:
so she had it made sharp,
And purchased a harp,
And played several tunes with her chin.

Edward Lear (1812-1888) was a poet and artist of antic wit who could not resist the silly and the absurd.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

1990 special - Charles Bukowski

weary to the bone,
dancing in the dark with the
the Suicide Kid gone

ah, the swift summers
over and gone

is that death
stalking me

no, it's only my cat,

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) was a poet, novelist and short story writer. He is remembered primarily for his documentation of life on the seamy side of America.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Revolutionary Letter #1 - Diane di Prima

I have just realized that the stakes are myself
I have no other
ransom money, nothing to break or barter but my life
my spirit measured out, in bits, spread over
the roulette table, I recoup what I can
nothing else to shove under the nose of the maitre de jeu
nothing to thrust out the window, no white flag
this flesh all I have to offer, to make the play with
this immediate head, what it comes up with, my move
as we slither over this go board, stepping always
(we hope) between the lines

Diane Prima (b.1934) was born in Brooklyn, briefly attended Swarthmore before leaving to live and write in Manhattan. She associated herself with the Beat movement, founded Poets Press. After participating in Timothy Leary's LSD experiments at Millbrook she moved to California where she has lived ever since. She has written dozens of books that have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Matins & Lauds - Marie Ponsot

Excited as a sophisticated boy at his first
Passion of intellect, aware and fully free
Having lost title to full liberty; struck
Aware, for once, as I would always be;

It day and I still shaken, still sure, see
It is not ring-magic nor the faithing leap of sex
That makes me your woman; marks our free
And separate wills with one intent; sets
My each earlier option at dazzling apex
And at naught; cancels, paid, all debts.
Restless, incautious, I want to talk violence,
Speak wild poems, hush, be still, pray grace
Taken forever; and after, lie long in the dense
Dark of your embrace, asleep between earth and space.

Marie Ponsot (b.1921) is a Chancellor of the American Academy of Poets. She has won a National Book Critics Circle Award in 1998 for her book of poetry The Bird Catcher.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Today - Frank O'Hara

Oh! kangaroos, sequins, chocolate sodas!
You really are beautiful! Pearls,
harmonicas, jujubes, aspirins! all
the stuff they've always talked about
still makes a poem a surprise!
These things are with us every day
even on beachheads and biers. They
do have meaning. They're strong as rocks.


Frank O'Hara (1926-1966) was associated with the New York School, a group of poets, artists, dancers and musicians that created art during the 1950s and '60s. He was associated with the painters Jasper Johns and Jackson Pollock who he credited as inspirations for his writing. He attempted to capture their immediacy and movement in his poems.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Two Poems by Denise Duhamel

Hippie Barbie

Barbie couldn't grasp the concept
of free love. After all, she was born
into the world of capitalism
where nothing is free. And all she had
to choose from was a blond or dark-haired Ken
who looked exactly like Midges's boyfriend Alan.
Ken wouldn't even get bell-bottoms
or his first psychedelic pantsuit
until it was way too late, sometime in the mid-seventies.
And then, whenever Barbie tried to kiss him
his peel-off lamb-chop sideburns loosened
and stuck to her cheeks. There were no black male dolls yet
so she guessed a mixed-race love-child
was out of the question. Barbie walked her poodle
past the groovy chicks who showed their bellybuttons
and demonstrated against the war. She couldn't
make a peace sign with her stuck-together fingers.
She felt a little like Sandra Dee at a Janis Joplin concert.

Buddhist Barbie

- for Nick

In the 5th century B.C.
an Indian philospher Gautama
teaches "All is emptiness"
and "There is no self."
In the 20th century A.D.
Barbie agrees, but wonders how a man
with such a belly could pose,
smiling, and without a shirt.

Denise Duhamel (b.1961) has spent some time writing for stand-up comedians and she lists Rosanne Barr and Lucille Ball as inspirations. She is the winner of an NEA Fellowship.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

homage to my hips - Lucille Clifton

these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don't fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don't like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!

Lucille Clifton (1936-2010) was a National Book Award, and twice an Pulitzer Prize nominee. In 1999 she was elected Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She also served as the Poet Laureate of the State of Maryland.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Letter to Su Tung P'o - W.S Merwin

Almost a thousand years later
I am asking the same questions
you did the ones you kept finding
yourself returning to as though
nothing had changed except the tone
of their echo growing deeper
and what you knew of the coming
of age before you had grown old
I do not know any more now
than you did then about what you
were asking as I sit at night
above the hushed valley thinking
of you on your river that one
bright sheet of moonlight in the dream
of the water birds and I hear
the silence after your question
show old are the questions tonight

W.S. Merwin (b. 1927) writes of this poem, "It seems as though I have been sending a letter Su Tung P'o for most of my life. The great poests of the Chinese Tang and Song dynasties (in translation) wrote with an apparent intimacy that altered the whole sound of poetry in English for the past hundred years. (One of Su Tung P'o's poems) is a night piece, a river poem, the words speaking, or singing, from aboat moored on a long journey, before daybreak. It evokes a moment of great stillnes an distance, and of evanescence before departure. After reading the poem many times through the years, I read it again late one night in the house where I live, on the side of a wooded valley that is still blessed at night with its own deep silence, and I found myself beginning to answer the ancient poet."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Two Poems by Rumi

Drumsound rises on the air,
its throb, my heart.

A voice inside the beat says,
"I know you're tired,
but come. This is the way."

Are you jealous of the ocean's generosity?
Why would you refuse to give
this joy to anyone?

Fish don't hold the sacred liquid in cups!
They swin the huge fluid freedom.


Dance, when you're broken open.
Dance, if you've torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of the fighting.
Dance in your blood.
Dance, when you're perfectly free.

(translations by Coleman Barks)

Rumi (1207-1273) was a Persian poet, philosopher and Sufi mystic. His poems often focus on the spirtual nature of love. The second poem certainly is a reference to "the turning" or spinning of Sufi mystics.

Monday, April 19, 2010

from Leap - Jon Woodward

this is the second shower
I've taken today I didn't
need to take this one
all I did today was
wake up and watch TV

at one point I walked
to the grocery store and
bought a pound of strawberries
for 99 cents they weren't
too tart if my body

is found I want them
to pack it with strawberries
I want my casket lined
with strawberries I want them
to bulldoze strawberries over me


Jon Woodward (?) writes on his website "I was born in Wichita, Kansas. I grew up in Wichita and Denver, Colorado. I have published two books: Rain (Wave Books, 2006) and Mister Goodbye Easter Island (Alice James Books, 2003). I currently live in the Boston area and work at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology."

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Untitled - Bei Dao

pedestrians lighting their own
lightbulb minds
the street heads for october's wild ideas

in tribute to a dog
shadow leans toward its experience

spring water's laid bare
the sleep underlying landscapes
we take turns hiding beneath
windows of endless light weeping

Li Po beats a drum and sings
calm and unhurried

(translated from the Chinese by David Hinton)

Bei Dao (b.1949) is a psuedonym for the poet Zhao Zhenkai. His assumed name means, literally, "North Island," a name which alludes to the solitude the writer prefers. He is a member of The Misty Poets a group of artists who reacted against the restrictions of the Cultural Revolution. His poems were a source of inspiration to the Tiananmen Square protesters. He was allowed to travel but has chosen to live in exile since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Cats' Strike - Novica Tadić

The cat's cough wakes him at night.
He turns in bed, gets up.
Puts on his dressing-gown because it's cold.
Puts on his slippers because he's barefoot.
Slowly he approaches the window.
Drawing open the curtain, stares:
In the street,
As far as Republic Square
Thousands of phosphorescent flares
Thousands upon thousands of cats
Thousands upon thousands of raised tails.
He closes the curtain.
And returns to his warm bed.
He mutters:
- The cats' strike.

(translated from the Serbian by Michael March and Dusan Puvacic)

Novica Tadić (b.1949) is a Yugoslavian poet who was born in Montenegro and lived in Belgrade for most of his life.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Music Heard with You - Adam Zagajewski

Music I heard with you was more than music...

Music heard with you
will stay forever with us.

Grave Brahms and elegaic Schubert,
a few songs, Chopin's third sonata,

a couple of quartets with heart -
breaking chords (Beethoven, adagia),

the sadness of Shostakovich that
didn't want to die.

The great choruses of Bach's Passions,
as if someone had summoned us,

demanding joy,
pure and disinterested,

joy in which faith
is self-evident.

Some scraps of Lutoslawski
as fugitive as our thoughts.

A black woman singing blues
ran through us like shining steel,

even though it reached us on the street
of an ugly, dirty town.

Mahler's endless marches,
the trumpet's voice opening Symphony no. 5

and the first part of the Ninth
(you sometimes call him "malheur!")

Mozart's despair in the Requiem
his buoyant piano concertos -

you hummed them better than I did,
but we both know that.

Music heard with you
will grow still with us.

(translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh)

Adam Zagajewski (b.1945) is Polish-born but lives in both Poland and Chicago. He is currently a member of the University of Chicago faculty.He became widely know for his poem Try to Praise the Mutilated World, which was published by The New Yorker magazine shortly after September 11, 2001.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Growth - Shuntaro Tanikawa

age three
there was no past for me

age five
my past went back to yesterday

age seven
my past went back to topknotted samurai

age eleven
my past went back to dinosaurs

age fourteen
my past agreed with the texts at school

age sixteen
I look at the infinity of my past with fear

age eighteen
I know not a thing about time

(translated from the Japanese by Harold Wright)

Shuntaro Tanikawa (b.1931) is one of Japan's preeminent poets. He is the author of more than sixty books of poetry, the lyrics to the theme song for the movie Howls Moving Castle and he has translated Charles Schultz's Peanuts into Japanese.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Soft Money - Rae Armantrout

They're sexy
because they're needy,
which degrades them.

They're sexy because
they don't need you.

They're sexy because they pretend
not to need you,

but they're lying,
which degrades them.

They're beneath you
and it's hot.

They're across the border,
rhymes with dancer -

they don't need
to understand.

They're content to be
(not mean),

which degrades them
and is sweet.

They want to be
the thing-in-itself

and the thing-for-you-

Miss Thing - but can't.

They want to be you,
but can't,

which is so hot.

Rae Armantrout (b.1947) won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry yesterday for her book Versed. You can read about her and see some of her other work here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Poet-tree - Earle Birney

i fear that i shall never make
a poem slippier than a snake
or oozing with as fine a juice
as runs in girls or even spruce
on i wont make not now nor later
pnomes as luverlee as pertaters
trees is made by fauns or stayrs
but only taters make pertaters
& trees is grown by sun from sod
& so are the sods who need a god
but poettrees lack any clue
they just need me ......& maybe you
Earle Birney (1904-1995) was a Canadian poet who moved to America but was forced to leave during the '30s for participating in Trotskyist activities. He served in the Canadian Army during World War II.

This poem has some fun with Joyce Kilmer's "Trees" which begins "I think that I shall never see/a poem lovely as a tree" and ends "Poems are made by fools like me,/But only God can make a tree." You can read all six stanzas here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Catch - Langston Hughes

Big Boy came
Carrying a mermaid
On his shoulders
And the mermaid
Had her tail
CurvedBeneath his arm.

Being a fisher boy,
He'd found a fish
To carry -
Half fish,
Half girl
To marry.

Langston Hughes (1902-1967) wrote novels, short stories and plays but he is best known for his poems depicting both black life in America from the '20 through the '60s. He presented the full range of African-American life; the humor, the tragedy, the joy and the pain.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Desert Places - Robert Frost

Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

The woods around it have it - it is theirs.
All animals are smothered in their lairs.
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.

And lonely as it is that loneliness
Will be more lonely ere it will be less -
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
With no expression, nothing to express.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars - on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

Robert Frost (1874-1963) is traditionally thought of as a New England poet although he was born in San Francisco and lived there until he was eleven. We tend to think of Frost's poems for their traditional style and depictions of nature but his greatest works are profoundly modern explorations of universal hopes and fears.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Nude Descending a Staircase - X. J. Kennedy

Toe upon toe, a snowing flesh,
A gold of lemon, root and rind,
She sifts in sunlight down the stairs
With nothing on. Nor on her mind.

We spy beneath the banister
A constant thresh of thigh on thigh -
Her lips imprint the swinging air
That parts to let her parts go by.

One-woman waterfall, she wears
Her slow descent like a long cape
And pausing, on the final stair
Collects her motions into shape.

X.J. Kennedy (b.1929) won the 1961 Lamont Award for his first book of poetry, Nude Descending a Staircase. The title poem was roughly inspired by the Marcel Duchamp painting but does not attempt to describe the work. A picture of the painting can be found here.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Museum Piece - Richard Wilbur

The good grey guardians of art
Patrol the halls on spongy shoes,
Impartially protective, though
Perhaps suspicious of Toulouse.

Here dozes one against the wall,
Disposed upon a funeral chair.
A Degas dancer pirouettes
Upon the parting of his hair.

See how she spins! The grace is there,
But strain as well is plain to see.
Degas loved the two together:
Beauty joined to energy.

Edgar Degas purchased once
A fine El Greco, which he kept
Against the wall beside his bed
To hang his pants on while he slept.

Richard Wilbur (b.1921) was born in New York City and grew up in my home town of North Caldwell, New Jersey. He has twice received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, once in 1957 and again in 1989. It was a poem of his called Running which initially inspired this poem project. I did not post it until last year. You can read it here.

Wilbur explained that the anecdote at the end of the poem is true. By way of further explanation he continued, "What the poem conveys, I hope, is that artists are less gravely reverential about art than its custodians are."

Thursday, April 8, 2010

I Remember Clilfford - Philip Levine

Wakening in a small room,
the walls high and blue, one high window
through which the morning enters,
I turn to the table beside me painted a think white. There instead
of a clock is a tumbler of water,
clear and cold, that wasn't there
last night. Someone quietly entered, and now I see the white door
slightly ajar and around three sides
the light on fire. I remember once
twenty-seven years ago walking
the darkened streets
of my home town when up ahead
on Joy Road at the Bluebird of Happiness
I heard over the rumble of my own head
for the first time the high clear trumpet
of Clifford Brown calling us all
to the dance he shared with us
such a short time. My heart quickened
and in my long coat, breathless
and stumbling, I ran
through the swirling snow
to the familiar sequened door
knowing it would open on something new.
Philip Levine (b.1928) has written more than 18 books of poetry, two books of translations and a book of essays. He currently resides in Fresno, California. The poem was inspired by a Benny Golson tune of the same name. Clifford Brown was a masterful trumpeter and jazz master who died too young.

You can find video of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers with trumpeter Lee Morgan playing I Remember Clifford here.

As far as I know there is no film of Clifford Brown but you can hear him with Max Roach playing one of his compositions (and one of my favorite tunes of all time) here.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Ciao Bella Chocolate Sorbet - Elaine Equi

has a dense


as if a whole
devil's food cake

were dissolved
in each scoop.

Delivers Elvis-like

for only 120 calories.
By the last spoonful,

your whole nervous system
and aura

will be permeated
by the ancient Mayan God.

You will see
through the eyes of Chocolate.

Elaine Equi (b. 1953) is a Chicago-born poet currently living in New York and teaching creative writing at the City College of New York and the New School.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Two Poems by Alden Marin

The Refills Never Last- Alden Marin

At the coffee place
I ask for a refill
"more Viennese please..."
and the girl
looks at me like"haven't you had enough?
"that worldless pause of hers
sans smile;
just another
of the morning's imagined problems
like the newly painted garbage cans
in the tidy park
with clouds and peace symbols
on them - (why those?)
and a dog off leash (a Beagle)
that keeps begging
for scraps - and
of course, I give them
against the owner's wishes...
Such is lifein this town with its issues
and what you make of them
on a day when summer
cannot come fast enough
and the refills never last.

A Different Person Altogether- Alden Marin

One morning
there - at my feet
lay a half black
half orange leaf
that made me
think of you --
divided, untethered
apart from the whole
but available;
and beckoning
to be held...
I picked
the fallen one up
and put it gently
in my car
Now, two days later
the leaf has turned brown
and lies inexpressively
on the floor --a different person altogether.

Alden Marin is a poet, hiker, musician, surfer and painter who lives in Malibu and Pacific Pallisades, California. Much of his inspiration comes from surfing, hiking... and sitting around drinking coffee. is his art, poetry and chapbook website. There's a fun YouTube of Alden discussing his paintings live with TV kitchen gadget personality Ron Polpeil, of PocketFisherman fame.

I will add that Alden is a great supporter of the poem of the day. He contributes much appreciated original work and suggestions every year.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Comment - Dorothy Parker

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong.
And I am Marie of Roumania

Oh, that wide-eyed naif Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)! She wrote fiction, poetry and criticism with a scathing but intelligent wit. She was a member of the famous Algonquin Roundtable . A bit of not-so-trivial information. She bequeathed her entire literary estate to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to further the civil rights movement. When Dr. King was assassinated the estate became property of the NAACP.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Spring is like a perhaps hand - e.e. cummings

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


Edward Estling Cummings (1894-1962) used a break with traditional form, spelling, punctuation and syntax to create a new means of expression.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

All Things Pass - Lao-Tzu

All things pass
A sunrise does not last all morning
All things pass
A cloudburst does not last all day
All things pass
Nor a sunset all night
All things pass
What always changes?

These change
And if these do not last

Do man's visions last?
Do man's illusions?

Take things as they come

All things pass

(from translations adapted by Timothy Leary [1920-1996])===============================
Lao-Tzu (ca. 6th century BC) is traditionally considered the author of the Tao Te Ching and the founder of Taoism. Timothy Leary was a Harvard professor and advocate for the use of LSD to expand conciousness. He compiled this version of the poem from a collection of English translations. (And a big shout-out to George Harrison where ever you are.)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Come to the Edge - Christopher Logue

Come to the edge.
We might fall.
Come to the edge.
It's too high!
And they came,
And he pushed,
And they flew.

Christopher Logue (b.1926) is a poet, playwright and screen writer. He is an early pioneer of jazz poetry and political poetry. He has produced a series of poster poems for the British Labour Party among other causes. Come to the Edge is an example of a poster poem. It was written for an Institute of Contemporary Art exhibition of the work of Guillaume Apollinaire. Logue explains, "The poem was written in - I think - 1968. Michael Kustow curated and exhibition of Apollinaire's work at the ICA and asked for a poem to go on a poster to advertise the show. I cannot say that the poem was the result of my reading Apollinaire, more by the idea of the man, his life, as much as his poetry. A daring figure."

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Last Night, as I Was Sleeping - Antonio Machado

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt - marvelous error! -
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming for me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?
Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt - marvelous error! -
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.
Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt - marvelous error! -
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.
Last night, as I slept,
I dreamt - marvelous error! -
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.

(translated from the Spanish by Robert Bly)
Antonio Machado (1875-1939) was a member of the Spanish literary movement called the Generation of '98, a group that formed as an artistic response to the defeat of Spain in the Spanish-American war. They criticized Spain's conservative literary tradition which was prevalent at that time. His interest in French poetry, particularly the exploration of dreams, memory and consciousness is evident in this poem.