Friday, May 1, 2009

Behind the Seen


A famous knockout from 1966 ali vs williams


این جا حالا پشتِ صحنه ی رندان


دلآرا دآرابی اعدام شد

Harry Martinson


One half of the 1974 Nobel Literature Prize went to Swedish poet, playwright and novelist Harry Martinson (May 6, 1904 - 1978) “for writings that catch the dewdrop and reflect the cosmos…”

Martinson shared the prize with another Swedish writer, and both of them were members of the very Academy that awards the Prize - pretty controversial!

Martinson is very likely the only sience fiction poet to win a Nobel, but his main opus Aniara is just that - a cantos sequence with an s-f setting:

“We listen daily to the sonic coins
provided every one of us and played
through the Finger-singer worn on the left hand.
We trade coins of diverse denominations:
and all of them play all that they contain
and though a dyma 1 scarcely weighs one grain
it plays out like a cricket on each hand
blanching here in this distraction-land.”



رابین‌درانات تاگور

Rabindranath Tagore (May 7, 1861 - 1941) was the first Asian Nobel Laureate in Literature, receiving the Prize in 1913 “because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West.”

Tagore was a mystic and a nationalist, continuing and elevating a centuries old tradition of Bengali literature and philosophy. His early European champions included Yeats and Pound, but in latter decade he has fallen out of the canon, for the same reasons that he was palatable to European literati in the first place. Being an anglophone writer, fitting well into a formal tradition of high culture, he is not post-colonial enough for the 21st C.

The Nobel Organization has a very comprehensive article on Tagore that will tell you all you need to know about his cultural and religious orientation:

“Given the vast range of his creative achievements, perhaps the most astonishing aspect of the image of Tagore in the West is its narrowness; he is recurrently viewed as “the great mystic from the East,” an image with a putative message for the West, which some would welcome, others dislike, and still others find deeply boring. To a great extent this Tagore was the West’s own creation, part of its tradition of message-seeking from the East, particularly from India, which—as Hegel put it—had “existed for millennia in the imagination of the Europeans.” Friedrich Schlegel, Schelling, Herder, and Schopenhauer were only a few of the thinkers who followed the same pattern. They theorized, at first, that India was the source of superior wisdom. Schopenhauer at one stage even argued that the New Testament “must somehow be of Indian origin: this is attested by its completely Indian ethics, which transforms morals into asceticism, its pessimism, and its avatar,” in “the person of Christ.” But then they rejected their own theories with great vehemence, sometimes blaming India for not living up to their unfounded expectations.” - Amartya Sen, 1998 Laureate in Economics

A sample of Tagore’s poetry:

UNENDING LOVE - Rabindranath Tagore

I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times…
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs,
That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,
In life after life, in age after age, forever.

Whenever I hear old chronicles of love, it’s age old pain,
It’s ancient tale of being apart or together.
As I stare on and on into the past, in the end you emerge,
Clad in the light of a pole-star, piercing the darkness of time.
You become an image of what is remembered forever.

You and I have floated here on the stream that brings from the fount.
At the heart of time, love of one for another.
We have played along side millions of lovers,
Shared in the same shy sweetness of meeting,
the distressful tears of farewell,
Old love but in shapes that renew and renew forever.

رابین درانات تـاگور

فارسی: یاشار احد صارمی

شعرهای واپسین ۱۰

گم شده‌ام وسط روزِ تولدم.ه
من دوستامو می‌خوام،ه
با آخرین عشقِ این دنیا.ه

دل می‌دم به پیشنهادِ نهایی زندگی‌،
به آخرین دعای خیر آدمی.ه

امروز سبدم خالیه.
هر چی رو که باید می‌دادم از چنته و دار و ندار، داده‌ام وُ
در عوض اگه چیزی بهم بِده‌ن
یه‌ ذره عشق، یه ذره بخشش
اون وقت با خودم اونارو می‌برم
وقتی که پامو می‌ذارم تو قایقی که می‌خواد بره به جشنِ بی حرفِ پایان.ه

صبحِ ۶ میِ ۱۹۴۱


Robert Browning (May 7, 1812 - 1889)

Robert Browning (May 7, 1812 - 1889), the great English Victorian poet who revitalised the specific genre of the dramatic monologue, creating a use of poetic voice that allowed the poet to ‘impersonate’ aberrant psychologies - unlike the version in Romantic poetry which usually offered a hyper-sincere poetic speaker (one has to look to the Gothic to find similar deviant narrators - Poe in particular is great at this)…

Browning is nowadays remembered for his great literary love affair with Elizabeth Barrett (Browning - it ended well) - see here: 1

A dramatic monologue by Browning that always startles my students:

Porphyria’s Lover
The rain set early in tonight,
The sullen wind was soon awake,
It tore the elm-tops down for spite,
And did its worst to vex the lake:
I listened with heart fit to break.
When glided in Porphyria; straight
She shut the cold out and the storm,
And kneeled and made the cheerless grate
Blaze up, and all the cottage warm;
Which done, she rose, and from her form
Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl,
And laid her soiled gloves by, untied
Her hat and let the damp hair fall,
And, last, she sat down by my side
And called me. When no voice replied,
She put my arm about her waist,
And made her smooth white shoulder bare,
And all her yellow hair displaced,
And, stooping, made my cheek lie there,
And spread, o’er all, her yellow hair,
Murmuring how she loved me — she
Too weak, for all her heart’s endeavor,
To set its struggling passion free
From pride, and vainer ties dissever,
And give herself to me forever.
But passion sometimes would prevail,
Nor could tonight’s gay feast restrain
A sudden thought of one so pale
For love of her, and all in vain:
So, she was come through wind and rain.
Be sure I looked up at her eyes
Happy and proud; at last I knew
Porphyria worshiped me: surprise
Made my heart swell, and still it grew
While I debated what to do.
That moment she was mine, mine, fair,
Perfectly pure and good: I found
A thing to do, and all her hair
In one long yellow string I wound
Three times her little throat around,
And strangled her. No pain felt she;
I am quite sure she felt no pain.
As a shut bud that holds a bee,
I warily oped her lids: again
Laughed the blue eyes without a stain.
And I untightened next the tress
About her neck; her cheek once more
Blushed bright beneath my burning kiss:
I propped her head up as before,
Only, this time my shoulder bore
Her head, which droops upon it still:
The smiling rosy little head,
So glad it has its utmost will,
That all it scorned at once is fled,
And I, its love, am gained instead!
Porphyria’s love: she guessed not how
Her darling one wish would be heard.
And thus we sit together now,
And all night long we have not stirred,
And yet God has not said a word!


لیلا فرجامی

Born on the 7th of May, 1972 - Leila Farjami, Iranian poet


Lucian Blaga (May 9, 1895 - 1961)

May 9 is the birthday of the great Romanian poet of light, Lucian Blaga (May 9, 1895 - 1961). From his 1919 debut volume of poetry Poemele luminii - the ‘title’ poem:

The Light


The light I feel

streaming in my breast when I see you,

is that not a drop of the light

created on the first day,

that light which thirsts for life?


Nothingness lay dying,

as the impenetrable one, hovering alone in the dark,

gave a sign:

Let there be light!


An ocean

and a raging storm of light

arose in an instant:

a thirst for sins, desires, longings, passions

a thirst for light and sun.


But where did it go, that blinding

first light – who knows?

The light I feel

streaming in my breast when I see you – wondrous one,

may be the last drop

of the light made on that first day.

(my translation - original here…)(Visit Lumpy Pudding for another Blaga poem, Quietude)


Mona Van Duyn

One of the previous Poet Laureates of the US, who sank virtually without a trace (not least because President Clinton preferred to use Maya Angelou at his inauguration…) is Mona Van Duyn (May 9, 1921 - 2004)…

It is worth reading Andrea Carter Brown’s remembrance and appraisal of Van Duyn’s quiet poetical practice from Poetry Quarterly:

“Coming on the heels of her 1991 Pulitzer Prize for Near Changes, though, and having won every other major poetry prize, including the National Book Award, the Bollingen Prize, and the Ruth Lilly Award, the appointment was warranted and, some would argue, overdue. Yet it was not to be a happy match, as anyone familiar with her Midwestern shyness and the complex, sometimes brutal, honesty of her poetry might have anticipated. Unlike most of the more recent Poet Laureates, who seem to take easily to their position as “the nation’s official lightening rod for the poetic impulse of Americans” (taken from the official job description on the Library’s website), Van Duyn was extremely uncomfortable in this, as in any public role. In fact, it is difficult to find any mention of Van Duyn’s activities as Poet Laureate.”

A poem:

Earth Tremors Felt in Missouri by Mona Van Duyn

The quake last night was nothing personal,
you told me this morning. I think one always wonders,
unless, of course, something is visible: tremors
that take us, private and willy-nilly, are usual.

But the earth said last night that what I feel,
you feel; what secretly moves you, moves me.
One small, sensuous catastrophe
makes inklings letters, spelled in a worldly tremble.

The earth, with others on it, turns in its course
as we turn toward each other, less than ourselves, gross,
mindless, more than we were. Pebbles, we swell
to planets, nearing the universal roll,
in our conceit even comprehending the sun,
whose bright ordeal leaves cool men woebegone.


Charles Simic

In 1954 Charles Simic (b. May 9, 1938) came to the United States, using the passport depicted above. He taught himself English, mainly by hanging out in public libraries, working odd jobs to survive…

In 1990 he won the Pulitzer for his prose poems The World Doesn’t End and in 2007 he was appointed the Poet Laureate of the US…

A poem from Hotel Insomnia, 1991:

Country Fair by Charles Simic

If you didn’t see the six-legged dog,
It doesn’t matter.
We did, and he mostly lay in the corner.
As for the extra legs,

One got used to them quickly
And thought of other things.
Like, what a cold, dark night
To be out at the fair.

Then the keeper threw a stick
And the dog went after it
On four legs, the other two flapping behind,
Which made one girl shriek with laughter.

She was drunk and so was the man
Who kept kissing her neck.
The dog got the stick and looked back at us.
And that was the whole show.

Hop on over to Lumpy Pudding to read another Simic poem


Edward Lear, master of the limerick, nonsense verse and other doggerel, born May 12, 1812 (d. 1888)…

Here is lovely pair:

There was a young lady in white,
Who looked out at the depths of the night;
But the birds of the air,
Filled her heart with despair,
And oppressed that young lady in white.

There was an old man in a tree,
Whose whiskers were lovely to see;
But the birds of the air,
Pluck’d them perfectly bare,
To make themselves nests on that tree.


From Robert Duncan’s Letters to Denise Levertov: An A Muse Ment


Friedrich Rückert (May 16, 1788 – 1866) was a German poet, translator, and professor of Oriental languages. Rückert’s fame has been prolonged beyond his real capacity as a poet by the multiple composers who have set his songs to music:

“Rückert’s poetry was a powerful inspiration to composers and there are about 121 settings of his work — behind only Goethe, Heine and Rilke in this respect. Among the composers who set his poetry to music are Schubert, Robert and Clara Schumann, Brahms, Mahler, Richard Strauss, Zemlinsky, Hindemith, Bartók, Berg, Hugo Wolf and Heinrich Kaspar Schmid.” (Wiki)

Mahler’s Rückert Lieder are perhaps the best of all these settings…

I am lost to the world
with which I used to waste so much time,
It has heard nothing from me for so long
that it may very well believe that I am dead!

It is of no consequence to me
Whether it thinks me dead;
I cannot deny it,
for I really am dead to the world.

I am dead to the world’s tumult,
And I rest in a quiet realm!
I live alone in my heaven,
In my love and in my song!


Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich was born on May 16, 1929 in Baltimore, Maryland. She attended Radcliffe College, graduating in 1951, and was selected by W.H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize for A Change of World that same year.

In 1953, she married Harvard University economist Alfred H. Conrad. Two years later, she published her second volume of poetry, The Diamond Cutters, of which Randall Jarrell wrote: "The poet [behind these poems] cannot help seeming to us a sort of princess in a fairy tale."

But the image of the fairytale princess would not be long-lived. After having three sons before the age of thirty, Rich gradually changed both her life and her poetry. Throughout the 1960s she wrote several collections, including Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law (1963) and Leaflets (1969). The content of her work became increasingly confrontational—exploring such themes as women’s role in society, racism, and the Vietnam war. The style of these poems also revealed a shift from careful metric patterns to free verse. In 1970, Rich left her husband, who committed suicide later that year.

It was in 1973, in the midst of the feminist and civil rights movements, the Vietnam War, and her own personal distress that Rich wrote Diving into the Wreck, a collection of exploratory and often angry poems, which garnered her the National Book Award in 1974. Rich accepted the award on behalf of all women and shared it with her fellow nominees, Alice Walker and Audre Lorde.

Since then, Rich has published numerous collections, including The School Among the Ruins: Poems 2000-2004 (W.W. Norton & Co., 2004), which won the Book Critics Circle Award; Fox: Poems 1998-2000 (2001), Midnight Salvage: Poems 1995-1998 (1999); Dark Fields of the Republic: Poems 1991-1995 (1995); Collected Early Poems: 1950-1970 (1993); An Atlas of the Difficult World: Poems 1988-1991 (1991), a finalist for the National Book Award; Time's Power: Poems 1985-1988 (1989); The Fact of a Doorframe: Poems Selected and New 1950-1984 (1984); and The Dream of a Common Language (1978).

Rich is also the author of several books of nonfiction prose, including Arts of the Possible: Essays and Conversations (W. W. Norton, 2001), What is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics (1993) and Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution (1986).

About Rich's work, the poet W.S. Merwin has said, "All her life she has been in love with the hope of telling utter truth, and her command of language from the first has been startlingly powerful."

Rich has received the Bollingen Prize, the Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award, the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, the National Book Award, and a MacArthur Fellowship; she is also a former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

In 1997, she refused the National Medal of Arts, stating that "I could not accept such an award from President Clinton or this White House because the very meaning of art, as I understand it, is incompatible with the cynical politics of this administration." She went on to say: "[Art] means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of the power which holds it hostage."

The same year, Rich was awarded the Academy's Wallace Stevens Award for outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry. She lives in northern California.


The Burning of Paper Instead of Children by Adrienne Rich

I was in danger of verbalizing my moral impulses out of existence. —Daniel Berrigan, on trial in Baltimore

1. My neighbor, a scientist and art-collector, telephones me in a state of violent emotion. He tells me that my son and his, aged eleven and twelve, have on the last day of school burned a mathematics textbook in the backyard. He has forbidden my son to come to his house for a week, and has forbidden his own son to leave the house during that time. “The burning of a book,” he says, “arouses terrible sensations in me, memories of Hitler; there are few things that upset me so much as the idea of burning a book.”

Back there: the library, walled
with green Britannicas
Looking again
in Durer’s Complete Works
for MELANCOLIA, the baffled woman

the crocodiles in Herodotus
the Book of the Dead
the Trial of Jeanne d’Arc, so blue
I think, It is her color

and they take the book away
because I dream of her too often
love and fear in a house
knowledge of the oppressor
I know it hurts to burn

2. To imagine a time of silence
or few words
a time of chemistry and music

the hollows above your buttocks
traced by my hand
or, hair is like flesh, you said

an age of long silence


from this tongue this slab of limestone
or reinforced concrete
fanatics and traders
dumped on this coast wildgreen clayred
that breathed once
in signals of smoke
sweep of the wind

knowledge of the oppressor
this is the oppressor’s language

yet I need it to talk to you

3. People suffer highly in poverty and it takes dignity and intelligence to overcome this suffering. Some of the suffering are: a child did not had dinner last night: a child steal because he did not have money to buy it: to hear a mother say she do not have money to buy food for her children and to see a child without cloth it will make tears in your eyes.

(the fracture of order
the repair of speech
to overcome this suffering)

4. We lie under the sheet
after making love, speaking
of loneliness
relieved in a book
relived in a book
so on that page
the clot and fissure
of it appears
words of a man
in pain
a naked word
entering the clot
a hand grasping
through bars:


What happens between us
has happened for centuries
we know it from literature

still it happens

sexual jealousy
outflung hand
beating bed

dryness of mouth
after panting

there are books that describe all this
and they are useless

You walk into the woods behind a house
there in that country
you find a temple
built eighteen hundred years ago
you enter without knowing
what it is you enter

so it is with us

no one knows what may happen
though the books tell everything

burn the texts said Artaud

5. I am composing on the typewriter late at night, thinking of today. How well we all spoke. A language is a map of our failures. Frederick Douglass wrote an English purer than Milton’s. People suffer highly in poverty. There are methods but we do not use them. Joan, who could not read, spoke some peasant form of French. Some of the suffering are: it is hard to tell the truth; this is America; I cannot touch you now. In America we have only the present tense. I am in danger. You are in danger. The burning of a book arouses no sensation in me. I know it hurts to burn. There are flames of napalm in Catonsville, Maryland. I know it hurts to burn. The typewriter is overheated, my mouth is burning. I cannot touch you and this is the oppressor’s language.



Strangers are an endangered species

In Emily Dickinson’s house in Amherst
cocktails are served the scholars
gather in celebration
their pious or clinical legends
festoon the walls like imitations
of period patterns

(…and, as I feared, my “life” was made a “victim”)
The remnants pawed the relics
the cult assembled in the bedroom
and you whose teeth were set on edge by churches
resist your shrine
are found
unless in words
(your own)

All we are strangers—dear—The world is not
acquainted with us, because we are not acquainted
with her. And Pilgrims!—Do you hesitate? and
Soldiers oft—some of us victors, but those I do
not see tonight owing to the smoke.—We are hungry,
and thirsty, sometimes—We are barefoot—and cold—

This place is large enough for both of us
the river-fog will do for privacy
this is my third and last address to you

with the hands of a daughter I would cover you
from all intrusion even my own
saying rest to your ghost

with the hands of a sister I would leave your hands
open or closed as they prefer to lie
and ask no more of who or why or wherefore

with the hands of a mother I would close the door
on the rooms you’ve left behind
and silently pick up my fallen work


عمر خیام


Omar Khayyam, (b. May 18, 1048 AD — 1123), was a Persian polymath: mathematician, philosopher, astronomer and above all poet. Known in the English-speaking world through Edward FitzGerald’s translation of his Rubáiyát, which ran through 5 editions from 1859 to 1889… Many other, more faithful translations have followed, but it is still FitzGerald’s Victorian version of the Persian sage’s carpe diem message that is most widely read:

One Moment in Annihilation’s Waste,
One moment, of the Well of Life to taste—
The Stars are setting, and the Caravan
Starts for the dawn of Nothing—Oh, make haste!

(Illustration of Khayyam from FitzGerald’s book)


Bob Creeley, Buffalo

Bob Creeley, Buffalo


With one of Elsa Dorfman’s vivid Polaroids we celebrate Robert Creeley, a great American poet: May 21, 1926 - 2005

رابرت کریلی

مردی را که می شناسم

همان طور که به رفیقم گفتم، ه
خب من همیشه حرف می زنم
جان ـ من
گفتم ، بی چاره اصلا اسمش این نیست
تاریکی دل و روده مان را هم گرفت
و کاری از دستمان ساخته نیست
شاید هم
می توانیم و چرا که نه ، یک ماشین لعنتی گُنده بگیریم
آقا رانندگی کن ،او گفت، به خاطر مسیح ! دور و برت را بپا



As I sd to my
friend, because I am
always talking, — John, I

sd, which was not his
name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what

can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big car,

drive, he sd, for
christ’s sake, look
out where yr going.


Jean-Baptiste van Loo, Portrait of Alexander Pope (1742)

Alexander Pope, English wit and poet of the old-fashioned kind, was born May 21, 1688 (d. 1744). His lines are so frequently quoted that they have lapsed into dead metaphor and cliché status: “A little learning is a dangerous thing”, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread”, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast” -and more…

An unexpected upshot in coolness occurred when Pope’s line “Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind” was used as the title of a Charlie Kaufman scripted film, with an off-beat love story… That line is from a good poem (too long of course for the 21st C.), written in Pope’s trademark heroic couplets:

Eloisa to Abelard

How oft, when press’d to marriage, have I said,
Curse on all laws but those which love has made!
Love, free as air, at sight of human ties,
Spreads his light wings, and in a moment flies,
Let wealth, let honour, wait the wedded dame,
August her deed, and sacred be her fame;
Before true passion all those views remove,
Fame, wealth, and honour! what are you to Love?


Carl Van Vechten1942 langston hughes
Langston Hughes
Img bay :Carl Van Vechten1942

We commemorate the death of Langston Hughes on May 22, 1967. Hughes was perhaps the most lasting voice to come out of the groundswell of Black American literature known as the Harlem Renaissance.
Play de Blues / Misery — Image by Aaron Douglas, poem by Langston Hughes, from Six Poems, [1926].


Pär Lagerkvist (May 23, 1891 - 1974) was a Swedish author who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1951.

Lagerkvist wrote poems, plays, novels, stories, and essays of considerable expressive power and influence from his early 20s to his late 70s. Among his central themes was the fundamental question of good and evil, which he examined through such figures as the man who was freed instead of Jesus, Barabbas, and the wandering Jew Ahasuerus.

Lagerkvist was yet another one of those writers who himself was part of the Nobel committee (The Swedish Academy), and who perhaps would not otherwise have been considered for the highest international literary award… Still, the Committee declared in its motivation:

“On each page of Pär Lagerkvist’s work are words and ideas which, in their profound and fearful tenderness, carry at the very heart of their purity a message of terror. Their origin is in a simple, rustic life, laborious and frugal of words. But these words, these thoughts, handled by a master, have been placed at the service of other designs and have been given a greater purpose, that of raising to the level of art an interpretation of the time, the world, and man’s eternal condition. That is why in the statement of the reasons for awarding the Nobel Prize to Pär Lagerkvist, it seems legitimate to us to affirm that this national literary production has risen to the European level.” (Source)

From Aftonland, a 1953 collection of poetry, translated by W.H. Auden & Leif Sjöberg as Evening Land:

I wanted to know
But was only allowed to ask,
I wanted light
But was only allowed to burn.
I demanded the ineffable
But was only allowed to live.

I complained,
But nobody understood what I meant.


Joseph Brodsky and his cat, photographed by Julia Schmalz
Joseph Brodsky and his cat, photographed by Julia Schmalz

Joseph Brodsky, Russian-born, naturalized American poet (May 24, 1940 - 1996, heart attack), recipient of the 1987 Nobel Prize in Literature “for an all-embracing authorship, imbued with clarity of thought and poetic intensity…”

Brodsky was kicked out of the Soviet Union in 1972 after years of being a dissident and resisting the system’s attempts at re-educating and censoring him…

In the US he quickly established himself as a poet in residence at various universities and began publishing in earnest.

From Brodsky’s Banquet speech at the Nobel ceremony in Stockholm:

“As long as I am on the subject of prudence, I should like to add that through recorded history, the audience for poetry seldom amounted to more than 1 % of the entire population. That’s why poets of antiquity or of the Renaissance gravitated to courts, the seats of power; that’s why nowadays they flock to universities, the seats of knowledge. Your academy seems to be a cross between the two; and if in the future - in that time free of ourselves - that 1 % ratio will be sustained, it will be, not to a small degree, due to your efforts. In case this strikes you as a dim vision of the future, I hope that the thought about the population explosion may lift your spirits somewhat. Even a quarter of that 1 % will make a lot of readers, even today.

So my gratitude to you, ladies and gentlemen, is not entirely egoistical. I am grateful to you for those whom your decisions make and will make read poetry, today and tomorrow. I am not so sure that man will prevail, as the great man and my fellow American once said standing, I believe, in this very room; but I am quite positive that a man who reads poetry is harder to prevail upon than upon one who doesn’t.

Of course, it’s one hell of a way to get from Petersburg to Stockholm; but then for a man of my occupation the notion of a straight line being the shortest distance between two points has lost its attraction long time ago. So it pleases me to find out that geography in its own turn is also capable of poetic justice.”


About a year has passed. I’ve returned to the place of the battle,
to its birds that have learned their unfolding of wings
from a subtle
lift of a surprised eyebrow, or perhaps from a razor blade
- wings, now the shade of early twilight, now of state
bad blood.

Now the place is abuzz with trading
in your ankles’s remnants, bronzes
of sunburnt breastplates, dying laughter, bruises,
rumors of fresh reserves, memories of high treason,
laundered banners with imprints of the many
who since have risen.

All’s overgrown with people. A ruin’s a rather stubborn
architectural style. And the hearts’s distinction
from a pitch-black cavern
isn’t that great; not great enough to fear
that we may collide again like blind eggs somewhere.

At sunrise, when nobody stares at one’s face, I often,
set out on foot to a monument cast in molten
lengthy bad dreams. And it says on the plinth “commander
in chief.” But it reads “in grief,” or “in brief,”
or “in going under.”

Joseph Brodsky


Courtesy of UW Special Collections Theodore Roethke at one of the poetry workshops he taught at the UW. Roethke was on the faculty from 1947 until his death in 1963.

Theodore Roethke
(May 25, 1908 - August 1, 1963)

Img:curtesy of UW Special Collections
Theodore Roethke at one of the poetry workshops he taught at the UW. Roethke was on the faculty from 1947 until his death in 1963.

The Far Field
Theodore Roethke


I dream of journeys repeatedly:
Of flying like a bat deep into a narrowing tunnel
Of driving alone, without luggage, out a long peninsula,
The road lined with snow-laden second growth,
A fine dry snow ticking the windshield,
Alternate snow and sleet, no on-coming traffic,
And no lights behind, in the blurred side-mirror,
The road changing from glazed tarface to a rubble of stone,
Ending at last in a hopeless sand-rut,
Where the car stalls,
Churning in a snowdrift
Until the headlights darken.



The lost self changes,
Turning toward the sea,
A sea-shape turning around, --
An old man with his feet before the fire,
In robes of green, in garments of adieu.
A man faced with his own immensity
Wakes all the waves, all their loose wandering fire.
The murmur of the absolute, the why
Of being born falls on his naked ears.
His spirit moves like monumental wind
That gentles on a sunny blue plateau.
He is the end of things, the final man.

All finite things reveal infinitude:
The mountain with its singular bright shade
Like the blue shine on freshly frozen snow,
The after-light upon ice-burdened pines;
Odor of basswood on a mountain-slope,
A scent beloved of bees;
Silence of water above a sunken tree :
The pure serene of memory in one man, --
A ripple widening from a single stone
Winding around the waters of the world.


Master short story writer Raymond Carver was born May 25, 1938 (d. 1988, cancer) and revitalised the understated style of literary expression first perfected by Hemingway, this time in a manner that at the time was labelled ‘dirty realism’…

Get Where I’m Calling From as a starter…

Carver always used the intensity of his gaze in photographs, see above…


Johann Ludwig Tieck (May 31, 1773 – 1853) was a German poet, translator, editor, novelist, and critic, who was part of the Romantic movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Tieck pioneered the translation of Shakespeare into German and functioned as editor and advisor for many of his friends and younger poets.

A sample of his own verse:

Translation: Stanley Applebaum


May 31 we celebrate the birthday of the greatest 19th C. American poet, Walt Whitman (May 31, 1819 - 1892).

As a young man Whitman worked as a printer’s apprentice, a journalist and a school teacher. None of these professions suited him, as is apparent from his journals, and he longed to set forth and satisfy his Wanderlust

In the late 1840s he slowly started conceiving of himself as a poet, and began to plan Leaves of Grass, his ever expanding book of poems, which would become his life’s work.


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