Category Archives: poets I’m reading

crossing the road

Today, I’m back at my desk pulling together threads of notes I’ve made and not had the time, of late, to develop. This small piece, grafted and no doubt in need of more work, is an imitation of the form and shape of a poem by William Carlos Williams which appears below. Whatever it takes to get words on the page. Whatever it takes.

Crossing the Road

The mobility scooter stops

at the crossing.

Its rider wears sunglasses,

sleeves billow.

A wide-brimmed hat covers

thinning hair.

In the front basket, stocks of

toilet paper glint white.

She grips a cigarette between

her lips and waits

for the signal to go.

 

Proletarian Portrait by William Carlos Williams

A big young bareheaded woman

in an apron

Her hair slicked back standing

on the street

One stockinged foot toeing

the sidewalk.

Her shoe in her hand. Looking

intently into it

She pulls out the paper insole

to find the nail

That has been hurting her


poets I’m reading: Mark Strand

 

Keeping Things Whole – Mark Strand

In a field

I am the absence

of field.

This is

always the case.

Wherever I am

I am what is missing.

 

When I walk

I part the air

and always

the air moves in

to fill the spaces

where my body’s been.

 

We all have reasons

for moving.

I move

to keep things whole.


poets I’m reading: Linda Pastan

 

Why are your poems so dark? – Linda Pastan

Isn’t the moon dark too,

most of the time?

 

And doesn’t the white page

seem unfinished

 

without the dark stain

of alphabets?

 

When God demanded light,

he didn’t banish darkness.

 

Instead he invented

ebony and crows

 

and that small mole

on your left cheekbone.

 

Or did you mean to ask

“Why are you sad so often?”

 

Ask the moon.

Ask what it has witnessed.

 

from: Queen of a Rainy Country by Linda Pastan, W W Norton & Company. 2006.


poets I’m listening to: Enda Wyley

Dedalus Press - Enda Wyley - Borrowed SpaceThis interview on Radio National’s Books and Arts program yesterday, in recognition of Bloomsday, has resulted in me placing another poetry book on my wishlist.

Have a listen for 11 or so minutes and hear Enda Wyley read two of her poems – Notebook Shop and Poems for Breakfast. Just lovely.

Image from Dedalus Press.

 

 


poets I’m reading: A D Hope

 

Card Game – A D Hope

Club, diamond, heart and spade,

Under these the game is played.

Warfare, wealth, love and death

Dominate our every breath.

 

Players are not free to choose

Suit assigned or hand refuse

Dealt them, careless of their skill

Shuffled blindly, well or ill.

 

Wealth I had no talent for;

Lacked all aptitude for war;

Death at most might set me free;

Hearts were always trumps to me.

 

From Orpheus. Angus and Robertson, 1991


poets I’m reading: Marianne Moore

words cluster like chromosomes

(This post appeared on my blog, Sentio, on 1 November 2013) 

In 1961, at the age of 74,  Marianne Moore was interviewed by The Paris Review for their “The Art of Poetry” series. Apart from being able to write poetry as well as Marianne Moore, I would also like to have been in a time and position, as Moore obviously was, to have been invited by Lillian Hellman to have seen one of her plays!

I am also jumping for joy at having discovered The Paris Review online with its decades of recorded interviews with writers. Some more chewy grist for the mill!  To say nothing of their essays. Not only but also Dorothy Parker, Hellman herself, W H Auden, Joan Didion and Margaret Drabble, with whom I once had the pleasure of engaging in a short conversation. As literary sites go, this is pretty special.

Here are two excerpts from Moore’s interview.

INTERVIEWER

Do you suppose that moving to New York, and the stimulation of the writers whom you found there, led you to write more poems than you would otherwise have written?

MOORE

I’m sure it did—seeing what others wrote, liking this or that. With me it’s always some fortuity that traps me. I certainly never intended to write poetry. That never came into my head. And now, too, I think each time I write that it may be the last time; then I’m charmed by something and seem to have to say something. Everything I have written is the result of reading or of interest in people, I’m sure of that. I had no ambition to be a writer.

and

Now, if I couldn’t write fiction, I’d like to write plays. To me the theater is the most pleasant, in fact my favorite, form of recreation.

INTERVIEWER

Do you go often?

MOORE

No. Never. Unless someone invites me. Lillian Hellman invited me to Toys in the Attic,and I am very happy that she did. I would have had no notion of the vitality of the thing, have lost sight of her skill as a writer if I hadn’t seen the play; would like to go again. The accuracy of the vernacular! That’s the kind of thing I am interested in, am always taking down little local expressions and accents. I think I should be in some philological operation or enterprise, am really much interested in dialect and intonations. I scarcely think of any that comes into my so-called poems at all.

As for the poetry, here’s one small gem which appeared in Moore’s 1959 collection, O To Be a Dragon, snapped from my copy of Penguin’s Complete Poems.

photo-67photo-66


poets I’m reading: Dorothy Parker

A selection of short and not necessarily sweet poems by the redoubtable Dorothy Parker.

Unfortunate Coincidence

By the time you swear you’re his,

Shivering and sighing,

And he vows his passion is

Infinite, undying –

Lady, make a note of this:

One of you is lying.

 

Sanctuary

My land is bare of chattering folk;

The clouds are low along the ridges,

And sweet’s the air with curly smoke

From all my burning bridges.

 

George Sand

What time the gifted lady took

Away from paper, pen, and book,

She spent in amorous dalliance

(They do those things so well in France).

 

Bohemia

Authors and actors and artists and such

Never know nothing, and never know much.

Sculptors and singers and those of their kidney

Tell their affairs from Seattle to Sydney.

Playwrights and poets and such horses’ necks

Start off from anywhere, end up at sex.

Diarists, critics, and similar roe

Never say nothing, and never say no.

People Who Do Things exceed my endurance;

God, for a man that solicits insurance!

 

From The Penguin Dorothy Parker: Penguin Books Ltd, 1973. (Revised and enlarged edition of The Portable Dorothy Parker published in 1944)


poets I’m reading: Nicolette Stasko

After I selected this poem by Nicolette Stasko, I came across a post from Southerly in which Nicolette Stasko interviews Nicolette Stasko featuring Reading in Bed. Enjoy.

Reading in Bed – Nicolette Stasko

I love old books

except when they were owned

by students

and other earnest types

scored in black lines

asking questions that

can never be answered

Wallace Stevens’ Collected

thick cream pages heavy wine

dark cover

filled with bright blue ink

screams

when you open it

 

Elizabeth Bishop just now

quietly Questions of Travel

each hard gained insight

marked carefully

pencilled comments

so obvious

the poem unable to speak

for itself it seems

whole sections ruled

block wisdom

swallowed like a dose

and delicacy

of line and phrase

ignored

I sit here

filling the bed

with eraser crumbs

From: Abundance. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1992


poets I’m reading: Not Waving but Drowning by Stevie Smith

Today’s offering is the best known of Stevie Smith’s poems.

A poem, she once told a friend, was a relatively light thing; it could be carried around “while you’re doing the housework”.

Rachel Cooke in The Guardian – 6 April 2015

 

Not Waving but Drowning – Stevie Smith 

Nobody heard him, the dead man,

But still he lay moaning:

I was much further out than you thought

And not waving but drowning.

 

Poor chap, he always loved larking

And now he’s dead

It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,

They said.

 

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always

(Still the dead one lay moaning)

I was much too far out all my life

And not waving but drowning.

 


poets I’m reading: Colours by Yevgeny Yevtushenko

The page marker in my copy of Yevtushenko’s Selected Poems is decades old. I reproduce the poem today in deference to that younger reader.

Colours – Yevgeny Yevtushenko

When your face

appeared over my crumpled life

at first I understood

only the poverty of what I have.

Then its particular light

on woods, on rivers, on the sea,

became my beginning in the coloured world

in which I had not yet had my beginning.

I am so frightened, I am so frightened,

of the unexpected sunrise finishing,

of revelations

and tears and the excitement finishing.

I don’t fight it, my love is this fear,

I nourish it who can nourish nothing,

love’s slipshod watchman.

Fear hems me in.

I am conscious that these minutes are short

and that the colours in my eyes will vanish

when your face sets.

 

From: Yevtushenko. Selected Poems. Penguin Books, 1962 – Translated by Robin Milner-Gulland and Peter Levi