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Old 04-20-2017, 06:07 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Location: TX
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Bill: It looks like that's not in Szymborska's Poems New and Collected, translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh, which is pretty good.
Here is an online version:

"Bears are tapping their paws to the beat,
a lion jumps through a flaming hoop,
a monkey in a yellow tunic rides a bicycle,
the whip cracks and the music sounds,
the whip cracks and animals roll their eyes,
an elephant carries around a pitcher on his head,
dogs are dancing with carefully measured steps.

I'm very much ashamed, I --a human.

A horrible time was had that day:
boisterous applause was not lacking,
though an arm longer by the length of a whip
cast a sharp shadow on the sand."

-translated by Walter Whipple

Last edited by John Isbell; 04-20-2017 at 06:09 AM. Reason: reference
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Old 04-20-2017, 09:37 AM
Clive Watkins Clive Watkins is offline
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Location: Yorkshire, UK
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I love the elaborate extended syntax of this poem by E. J. (Joy) Scovell (1907 – 1999), mirroring the sense. Surely, not everything has to be in simple direct sentences.

E J Scovell: Bright Margins

I thought of decoration, such as once was done
To frame a manuscript – how the finished work is one,
Cornflowers and gold are one with the marmoreal
Script, with the firm and sounding Latin words as well
And the meaning of the words – no meaning but a bell

Whose overtones dissolve its note that would be clear;
And thought again – in the wide borders of the year
Walking by blue and golden flowers and like the moon
Self-shadowed white, short-lived in garden beds
That are bright margins too – how they seem the silk of thread,
Not woven in the cloth, embroideries, not the words
Nor the meaning of the words; and still the work is one.

A small puff... My discussion of E. J. Scovell's work, originally published in Able Muse in 2009, can now be found at her publisher's site, here:

Clive Watkins
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Old 04-20-2017, 09:51 AM
Aaron Novick's Avatar
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Bill, it appears in the Complete Poems she herself supervised, and which Penguin has re-published:
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Old 04-20-2017, 10:07 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Clive, thank you for that nice poem. I like this especially: "in the wide borders of the year". I too appreciate the syntax.
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Old 04-20-2017, 06:10 PM
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Michael Ferris Michael Ferris is offline
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Location: Kingston, NY and San Francisco, CA
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Very lovely, Clive. I enjoyed the poem and your careful, caring reading of it. It brought to mind the extensive collection of illuminated manuscripts at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. I spent an afternoon there admiring them and would gladly return to do so again; they are spectacular and exquisitely displayed. And then there’s the Getty’s gardens…

The poem that follows in your essay, “Old People”, reminded me of this poem by Mary Oliver that I have been wanting to post. I suppose Mary Oliver could be easy to make fun of or even to burlesque, but amidst the lulling pages of innocuous descriptions of nature, she suddenly douses you with the cold and clear water of wisdom, or even call it truth, such as at the close of this poem, “In Blackwater Woods”. It is a bracing contrast, and that is why I read her.

In Blackwater Woods

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

-- Mary Oliver

Last edited by Michael Ferris; 04-21-2017 at 06:12 AM. Reason: formatting
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Old 04-21-2017, 07:41 AM
Clive Watkins Clive Watkins is offline
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Location: Yorkshire, UK
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Thank you, Michael, for the link to those wonderful images. Mary Oliver is someone I am aware of, but I have not come across her poems.

Here is another poem by E. J. Scovell, a hidden gem, as in large measure she is herself.

E. J. Scovell: Visit to a Child at Night

Why so still, so wide awake, cold face
And bird-in-bramble eyes coloured with dark’s darkness?
The little light, that entering I let in
From distant turns of stair, draws whiteness from your skin
As even moonless nights from waterfalls
And tracts of flood and heart-shaped pools.

Then were you watching night, so quiet I took you
For long asleep, or did my tread on carpet wake you?
Or do your eyes, as black as new-born, blind
Gaze from another night and hemisphere of mind?
If this is sleep I fear to rouse you, speaking.
Speak to me first if this is waking.

Though we seem met by flood or heart-shaped pool,
By less than moonlight or the moon invisible,
Caught to a zone of mysteries and dangers,
It is not for the first time and we are not strangers.
I say your name. Who should it be but I?
Asleep or waking, you reply.

I love the delicate interplay of syntax, metre and rhyme in this touching poem. Its rhythms are most graceful. As often, Scovell makes of a common experience something subtly numinous.
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Old 04-22-2017, 12:48 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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Location: Lazio, Italy
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Lovely thread. I’m especially glad to be reminded of Edith Scovell, whose Selected I will get a copy of. Clive, I have only read parts of your essay so far but I look forward to the rest.

Here’s one by Ruth Pitter (1897-1992):

Stormcock in Elder

In my dark hermitage, aloof
From the world’s sight and the world’s sound,
By the small door where the old roof
Hangs but five feet above the ground,
I groped along the shelf for bread
But found celestial food instead:

For suddenly close at my ear,
Loud, loud and wild, with wintry glee,
The old unfailing chorister
Burst out in pride of poetry;
And through the broken roof I spied
Him by his singing glorified.

Scarcely an arm’s-length from the eye,
Myself unseen, I saw him there;
The throbbing throat that made the cry,
The breast dewed from the misty air,
The polished bill that opened wide
And showed the pointed tongue inside;

The large eye, ringed with many a ray
Of minion feathers, finely laid,
The feet that grasped the elder-spray;
How strongly used, how subtly made
The scale, the sinew, and the claw,
Plain through the broken roof I saw;

The flight-feathers in tail and wing,
The shorter coverts, and the white
Merged into russet, marrying
The bright breast to the pinions bright,
Gold sequins, spots of chestnut, shower
Of silver, like a brindled flower.

Soldier of fortune, northwest Jack,
Old hard-times’ braggart, there you blow
But tell me ere your bagpipes crack
How you can make so brave a show,
Full-fed in February, and dressed
Like a rich merchant at a feast.

One-half the world, or so they say,
Knows not how half the world may live;
So sing your song and go your way,
And still in February contrive
As bright as Gabriel to smile
On elder-spray by broken tile.

Last edited by Andrew Frisardi; 04-22-2017 at 01:08 AM.
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Old 04-22-2017, 09:16 AM
Clive Watkins Clive Watkins is offline
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Location: Yorkshire, UK
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Thanks for posting this, Andrew. It's a long time since I last read it. What an engaging poem it is!

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Old 04-22-2017, 06:59 PM
William A. Baurle William A. Baurle is offline
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Location: Arizona, USA
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Clive and Andrew F,

Thanks for the Pitter, whom I know of, but vaguely, and for the introduction to Edith Scovell. I'm embarrassed to say I never knew of Scovell until this thread. I will look into her work further. Amazing how many poets one can miss in one life-time!

Great link here. (and mentions you, Clive.)

Michael - great Mary Oliver poem! I said some disparaging things about her a long time ago on another board, but now that I'm considerably older, and hopefully a tiny bit wiser, her poems mean and matter a lot more to me now than they did before.


Though I've loved Muriel Rukeyser's poems for years, I've never had a collection of hers. Must get one soon. I was thinking of a particular poem, where she says something immortal, "The universe is made of stories." I will find it and post it, later.

But I just happened upon this poem, and it seems to fit not only the general direction this thread has taken, but also many of the threads going on at the Sphere: the theme of universal understanding, tolerance, and love.


St. Roach

For that I never knew you, I only learned to dread you,
for that I never touched you, they told me you are filth,
they showed me by every action to despise your kind;
for that I saw my people making war on you,
I could not tell you apart, one from another,
for that in childhood I lived in places clear of you,
for that all the people I knew met you by
crushing you, stamping you to death, they poured boiling
xxwater on you, they flushed you down,
for that I could not tell one from another
only that you were dark, fast on your feet, and slender.
xxNot like me.
For that I did not know your poems
And that I do not know any of your sayings
And that I cannot speak or read your language
And that I do not sing your songs
And that I do not teach our children
xxxxxto eat your food
xxxxxor know your poems
xxxxxor sing your songs
But that we say you are filthing our food
But that we know you not at all.

Yesterday I looked at one of you for the first time.
You were lighter that the others in color, that was
xxxneither good nor bad.

I was really looking for the first time.
You seemed troubled and witty.

Today I touched one of you for the first time.
You were startled, you ran, you fled away
Fast as a dancer, light, strange, and lovely to the touch.
I reach, I touch, I begin to know you.

— Muriel Rukeyser


Last edited by William A. Baurle; 04-25-2017 at 12:10 AM.
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Old 04-23-2017, 11:56 AM
Michael Ferris's Avatar
Michael Ferris Michael Ferris is offline
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Location: Kingston, NY and San Francisco, CA
Posts: 719

Ah, Bill. It’s my hope, too, that I’m growing a little wiser and not just older. How many poems have I scudded over and failed to get? A barking dog or an empty stomach can render me utterly stupid. But just this morning I re-read a poem and finally got it.


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