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Old 04-02-2017, 02:03 PM
William A. Baurle William A. Baurle is offline
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Arizona, USA
Posts: 1,844

This isn't exactly "hidden", as it's a prize winner, but I'll wager many of us here don't know of it, as this is a BB mainly for formalists. The following poem blew me away when I first read it in her book, Men in the Off Hours:


My Father's Blue Cardigan

Now it hangs on the back of the kitchen chair
where I always sit, as it did
on the back of the kitchen chair where he always sat.

I put it on whenever I come in,
as he did, stamping
the snow from his boots.

I put it on and sit in the dark.
He would not have done this.
Coldness comes paring down from the moonbone in the sky.

His laws were a secret.
But I remember the moment at which I knew
he was going mad inside his laws.

He was standing at the turn of the driveway when I arrived.
He had on the blue cardigan with the buttons done up all the way to the top.
Not only because it was a hot July afternoon

but the look on his face —
as a small child who has been dressed by some aunt early in the morning
for a long trip

on cold trains and windy platforms
will sit very straight at the edge of his seat
while the shadows like long fingers

over the haystacks that sweep past
keep shocking him
because he is riding backwards.

- Anne Carson


Another great poem by another great poet follows. I think the last line is one of the greatest ever written, despite being wholly abstract. I have cited this poem, and that amazing line, a few times on other boards, but have been met with zero response. Is it just me?? (< Requires 2 question marks.)


Celestial Music

I have a friend who still believes in heaven.
Not a stupid person, yet with all she knows, she literally talks to God.
She thinks someone listens in heaven.
On earth she's unusually competent.
Brave too, able to face unpleasantness.

We found a caterpillar dying in the dirt, greedy ants crawling over it.
I'm always moved by disaster, always eager to oppose vitality
But timid also, quick to shut my eyes.
Whereas my friend was able to watch, to let events play out
According to nature. For my sake she intervened
Brushing a few ants off the torn thing, and set it down
Across the road.

My friend says I shut my eyes to God, that nothing else explains
My aversion to reality. She says I'm like the child who
Buries her head in the pillow
So as not to see, the child who tells herself
That light causes sadness-
My friend is like the mother. Patient, urging me
To wake up an adult like herself, a courageous person-

In my dreams, my friend reproaches me. We're walking
On the same road, except it's winter now;
She's telling me that when you love the world you hear celestial music:
Look up, she says. When I look up, nothing.
Only clouds, snow, a white business in the trees
Like brides leaping to a great height-
Then I'm afraid for her; I see her
Caught in a net deliberately cast over the earth-

In reality, we sit by the side of the road, watching the sun set;
From time to time, the silence pierced by a birdcall.
It's this moment we're trying to explain, the fact
That we're at ease with death, with solitude.
My friend draws a circle in the dirt; inside, the caterpillar doesn't move.
She's always trying to make something whole, something beautiful, an image
Capable of life apart from her.
We're very quiet. It's peaceful sitting here, not speaking, The composition
Fixed, the road turning suddenly dark, the air
Going cool, here and there the rocks shining and glittering-
It's this stillness we both love.
The love of form is a love of endings.

- Louise Gluck

Last edited by William A. Baurle; 04-24-2017 at 11:59 PM.
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Old 04-02-2017, 02:36 PM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: New York
Posts: 14,194

Not one of Hardy's "great" poems, but I've been struck by this one (presented here without the line indents):

The Sigh

Little head against my shoulder,
Shy at first, then somewhat bolder,
And up-eyed;
Till she, with a timid quaver,
Yielded to the kiss I gave her;
But, she sighed.

That there mingled with her feeling
Some sad thought she was concealing
It implied.
- Not that she had ceased to love me,
None on earth she set above me;
But she sighed.

She could not disguise a passion,
Dread, or doubt, in weakest fashion
If she tried:
Nothing seemed to hold us sundered,
Hearts were victors; so I wondered
Why she sighed.

Afterwards I knew her throughly,
And she loved me staunchly, truly,
Till she died;
But she never made confession
Why, at that first sweet concession,
She had sighed.

It was in our May, remember;
And though now I near November,
And abide
Till my appointed change, unfretting,
Sometimes I sit half regretting
That she sighed.
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Old 04-02-2017, 03:26 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 3,237

Hi Ian,

We all seem to be trading poems that speak to us. Bill, I am glad to discover the Carson and to see the Gluck again (I'd forgotten it), thank you. Roger, I agree that your Hardy lingers after its formal work is done. Why would she sigh at their first kiss?
The Gluck ending reminds me for some reason of the first side of Van Morrison's "Moondance", where he sings "Too late to stop now", and the record ends. This is of course lost on the CD, as on any mp3, etc. He liked it himself, since it's the title of a live album.

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Old 04-02-2017, 04:07 PM
William A. Baurle William A. Baurle is offline
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Arizona, USA
Posts: 1,844


Anne Carson is a genius who never fails to astonish me, when I read her, which is not very often, I regret.

This line:

He had on the blue cardigan with the buttons done up all the way to the top.

is amazing because at first glance the reader might be thinking - what the hell, this line is awfully long. But it's a perfect fit and match for the content of the line, where N is talking about dad making sure that his sweater is buttoned up all the way to the top. It would have been contrary to the emotion, and utility, of the line to break it, or to make it shorter.

Gluck's The love of form is a love of endings to me, refers not only to art and poetry, but to the reconciliation with death at the heart of the poem. God or no god, afterlife or oblivion, the human enterprise is fraught with the need to discover, or invent, if necessary, meaning and purpose to life.

I was once comfortable with nihilism, and it gave me tons of freedom; but I much prefer my limited freedom, with respect to my faith, and my approach to the craft of writing poems. I'm a far happier person in the self-inflicted constraints I put on myself. If I give in to my sense of absolute freedom - particularly when I'm manic, like now - I'm bound for disaster, usually winding up in self-harm, and thoughts of suicide. The best thing is to have lived long enough to know it, and to have good friends who offer help and advice.

I have one Van Morrison CD, and that's one of the songs I love. In case you missed it, he sang as a guest with Roger Waters on stage during a performance of The Wall, I think some time in the 90's? He does Dave Gilmour's part, and makes it his own. Waters and the rest are clearly overjoyed.

Sinead O'Connor did the same thing with "Mother". You have to hear her sing, "Mother do you think they'll try to break my balls?" She steals the show, and Roger loves it.

Last edited by William A. Baurle; 04-25-2017 at 12:01 AM.
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Old 04-02-2017, 04:52 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 3,237

It may have been Aretha Franklin who was asked for her favorite contemporary female singers, around 1990, and said "The bald ones." I do like Sinead O'Connor, and can only imagine her singing "Mother." And Van Morrison I think is tremendous.

returning to neglected gems, how about R.D. Laing's "Life Before Death"? Out of print now, and impossible to find. He declaims the sonnet sequence over a pretty simple orchestration.

"To write a sonnet in this day and age
May seem to some an almost wanton waste
Of ink upon a page."

Or, after a breakup:
"She's gone, all gone. I should have kissed her more."

Some of the sonnets are in his "Sonnets", but I prefer the vinyl.

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Old 04-02-2017, 05:23 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 3,237

Since I'm on the topic, and though he's hardly unknown in Russia (!), let me say that I find Pushkin amazing. I'm still learning Russian - it's slow going - so I read "Onegin" in the Babette Deutsch version:

"Blessed is he who leaves the glory
Of life's gay feast ere time is up,
Who does not drain the brimming cup,
Nor read the ending of the story,
But drops it without more ado,
As, my Onegin, I drop you."

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Old 04-03-2017, 11:33 AM
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Michael F Michael F is offline
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Location: a foothill of the Catskills
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For my birthday last year, my mother gave me a leather-bound volume called American Lyrics, published in 1912 by Doubleday Page, that she fished out of a flea market. I’ve just started snooping around in it and have found some lovely poems by e.g., Jones Very, William Vaughn Moody, Robert Underwood Johnson, and other poets whom I’ve read very little.

This one is not I suppose a truly ‘hidden’ gem, but it struck me with great force – particularly as, when I think of Emerson, I think of his superb essays, which I have several times re-read, but not so much of his verse, which I confess I have found labored. And we rarely mention Emerson in these parts it seems, despite his formal work. But this poem is really quite wonderful; it accords with my experience, which is to say, to me it is true. Could be that at heart I’m just a powder-puff, I own.

Give All to Love

Give all to love;
Obey thy heart;
Friends, kindred, days,
Estate, good-fame,
Plans, credit and the Muse,—
Nothing refuse.

’T is a brave master;
Let it have scope:
Follow it utterly,
Hope beyond hope:
High and more high
It dives into noon,
With wing unspent,
Untold intent:
But it is a god,
Knows its own path
And the outlets of the sky.

It was never for the mean;
It requireth courage stout.
Souls above doubt,
Valor unbending,
It will reward,—
They shall return
More than they were,
And ever ascending.

Leave all for love;
Yet, hear me, yet,
One word more thy heart behoved,
One pulse more of firm endeavor,—
Keep thee to-day,
To-morrow, forever,
Free as an Arab
Of thy beloved.

Cling with life to the maid;
But when the surprise,
First vague shadow of surmise
Flits across her bosom young,
Of a joy apart from thee,
Free be she, fancy-free;
Nor thou detain her vesture’s hem,
Nor the palest rose she flung
From her summer diadem.

Though thou loved her as thyself,
As a self of purer clay,
Though her parting dims the day,
Stealing grace from all alive;
Heartily know,
When half-gods go,
The gods arrive.

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Last edited by Michael F; 04-03-2017 at 11:55 AM. Reason: hideous pleonasm
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Old 04-04-2017, 10:29 AM
Aaron Novick's Avatar
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia
Posts: 1,409

Of all of Nabokov's critical judgments, I still find his solitary comment on Emerson the strangest:
Who are the great American writers you most admire?

When I was young I liked Poe, and I still love Melville, whom I did not read as a boy. My feelings towards James are rather complicated. I really dislike him intensely but now and then the figure in the phrase, the turn of the epithet, the screw of an absurd adverb, cause me a kind of electric tingle, as if some current of his was also passing through my own blood. Hawthorne is a splendid writer. Emerson's poetry is delightful.
I still half-think this was more a dig at Emerson's essays than genuine praise of his poetry.

I had a poem to post here, but I'm now entirely blanking on what it was. With any luck, I'll remember later and be back.
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Old 04-04-2017, 12:18 PM
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Michael F Michael F is offline
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Thanks for that Nabokov quote, Aaron.

ITA on Melville’s novels -- works of immense genius. He also wrote a fair amount of poetry that Jarrell admired, IIRC. I’ll have to give that a go again, sometime. I remember him being kinda lumpy as a poet, as I remember Emerson… I agree on Henry James, who often uses so much of the page to convey so small a thought. I’ll admit he is a smooth writer and does often find le mot juste. I prefer Hardy as a novelist to Hardy as a poet. His novels always delight me. I found his range limited as a poet, as I recall, usually gloomy and morose. But then, he wrote SO MUCH. Maybe I missed the patches of Sun.
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Old 04-04-2017, 01:25 PM
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Orwn Acra Orwn Acra is offline
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Location: NYC
Posts: 1,889

Melville wrote a few great poems. I like

The Maldive Shark

About the Shark, phlegmatical one,
Pale sot of the Maldive sea,
The sleek little pilot-fish, azure and slim,
How alert in attendance be.
From his saw-pit of mouth, from his charnel of maw
They have nothing of harm to dread,
But liquidly glide on his ghastly flank
Or before his Gorgonian head;
Or lurk in the port of serrated teeth
In white triple tiers of glittering gates,
And there find a haven when peril’s abroad,
An asylum in jaws of the Fates!
They are friends; and friendly they guide him to prey,
Yet never partake of the treat—
Eyes and brains to the dotard lethargic and dull,
Pale ravener of horrible meat.

and Greek Architecture, which for an incomprehensible reason has always unsettled me:

Not magnitude, not lavishness,
But Form—the Site;
Not innovating wilfulness,
But reverence for the Archetype

And surely Nabokov was jesting re: Emerson. His is the sort of literature Nabokov disliked.
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