POETIC BLOOMINGS READING ROOM # 70 – “THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT A BLACKBIRD”

This week, the tables have been turned. Instead of me introducing you to new works by a previously lesser known poet, I have been taken to school on Wallace Stevens. I thank Daniel Paicopulos for steering us in Mr. Stevens direction.

More than any other modern poet, Stevens was concerned with the transformative power of the imagination. Composing poems on his way to and from the office and in the evenings, Stevens continued to spend his days behind a desk at the office, and led a quiet, uneventful life.

Though now considered one of the major American poets of the century, he did not receive widespread recognition until the publication of his Collected Poems, just a year before his death.

Stevens died in Hartford, Connecticut, on August 2, 1955.

Wallace Stevens
Wallace Stevens – 1879-1955
THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT A BLACKBIRD



I

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

II

I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

III

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

IV

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

V

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

VI

Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

VII

O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

VIII

I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

IX

When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

X

At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

XI

He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

XII

The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

XIII

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

I chose this piece by Stevens for its study of a single simple subject. Keep this thought in mind as we near the next Sunday Seed! 😉 Walt.

POETIC BLOOMINGS READING ROOM #69 – “IN SCHOOL-DAYS”

Around these parts, today marks the first day of the new school year. And no more appropriate time to introduce a “School” poem and another obscure poet.

John Greenleaf Whittier (December 17, 1807 – September 7, 1892) was an American Quaker poet and advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States. Frequently listed as one of the fireside poets, he was influenced by the Scottish poet Robert Burns. Whittier is remembered particularly for his anti-slavery writings, as well as his 1866 book Snow-Bound.

John Greenleaf Whittier – 1807-1892
IN SCHOOL-DAYS
By John Greenleaf Whittier

Still sits the school-house by the road, 
A ragged beggar sleeping; 
Around it still the sumachs grow, 
And blackberry-vines are creeping. 

Within, the master's desk is seen, 
Deep-scarred by raps official; 
The warping floor, the battered seats, 
The jack-knife's carved initial; 

The charcoal frescoes on its wall; 
Its door's worn sill, betraying 
The feet that, creeping slow to school, 
Went storming out to playing! 

Long years ago, a winter sun 
Shone over it at setting; 
Lit up its western window-panes, 
And low eaves' icy fretting. 

It touched the tangled golden curls, 
And brown eyes full of grieving, 
Of one who still her steps delayed 
When all the school were leaving. 

For near it stood the little boy 
Her childish favor singled; 
His cap pulled low upon a face 
Where pride and shame were mingled. 

Pushing with restless feet the snow 
To right and left, he lingered; --- 
As restlessly her tiny hands 
The blue-checked apron fingered. 

He saw her lift her eyes; he felt 
The soft hand's light caressing, 
And heard the tremble of her voice, 
As if a fault confessing. 

"I'm sorry that I spelt the word: 
I hate to go above you, 
Because,"---the brown eyes lower fell, --- 
"Because, you see, I love you!" 

Still memory to a gray-haired man 
That sweet child-face is showing. 
Dear girl! the grasses on her grave 
Have forty years been growing! 

He lives to learn, in life's hard school, 
How few who pass above him 
Lament their triumph and his loss, 
Like her, because they love him.



POETIC BLOOMINGS READING ROOM #68 – “DAYDREAMS FOR GINSBERG”

Jack Kerouac, (1922-1969), was an American novelist, poet, and leader of the Beat movement. Born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac.  His most famous book, On the Road (1957), broadly influenced cultural perceptions before it was recognized for its literary merits. On the Road celebrated the spirit of its era.

While enrolled at Columbia University, Kerouac met two writers who would become lifelong friends: Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. Together with Kerouac, they linked to the literary movement known as Beat, inspired by Herbert Huncke, a Times Square drifter. (Read: junkie, petty thief, hustler, and writer). It expressed a feeling of being “down-and-out”. Also, there is a sense of being beat down and therefore signified the bottom of the barrel (from a financial and an emotional point of view), but as well the utmost spiritual high.

Jack Kerouac was severely beaten in a drunken brawl and later died from the internal injuries suffered in the altercation.

JACK KEROUAC 1922-1969
DAYDREAMS FOR GINSBERG

I lie on my back at midnight
hearing the marvelous strange chime
of the clocks, and know it's mid-
night and in that instant the whole
world swims into sight for me
in the form of beautiful swarm-
ing m u t t a worlds-
everything is happening, shining
Buhudda-lands, bhuti
blazing in faith, I know I'm
forever right & all's I got to
do (as I hear the ordinary
extant voices of ladies talking
in some kitchen at midnight
oilcloth cups of cocoa
cardore to mump the
rinnegain in his
darlin drain-) i will write
it, all the talk of the world
everywhere in this morning, leav-
ing open parentheses sections
for my own accompanying inner
thoughts-with roars of me
all brain-all world
roaring-vibrating-I put
it down, swiftly, 1,000 words
(of pages) compressed into one second
of time-I'll be long
robed & long gold haired in
the famous Greek afternoon
of some Greek City
Fame Immortal & they'll
have to find me where they find
the t h n u p f t of my
shroud bags flying
flag yagging Lucien
Midnight back in their
mouths-Gore Vidal'll
be amazed, annoyed—
my words'll be writ in gold
& preserved in libraries like
Finnegans Wake & Visions of Neal

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POETIC BLOOMINGS READING ROOM #67 – “HEY, THAT’S NO WAY TO SAY GOODBYE”

Leonard Cohen
1934 – 2016

Leonard Norman Cohen CC GOQ (September 21, 1934 – November 7, 2016) was a Canadian singer-songwriter, poet and novelist. His work explored religion, politics, isolation, sexuality, and personal relationships. Cohen was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was a Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian honour.

Cohen pursued a career as a poet and novelist during the 1950s and early 1960s; he did not launch a music career until 1967, at the age of 33.

Perhaps Cohen’s most famous song, “Hallelujah” was first released on his studio album Various Positions in 1984.

—***—

HEY THAT’S NO WAY TO SAY GOODBYE

I loved you in the morning, our kisses deep and warm,
your hair upon the pillow like a sleepy golden storm,
yes, many loved before us, I know that we are not new,
in city and in forest they smiled like me and you,
but now it’s come to distances and both of us must try,
your eyes are soft with sorrow,
Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye.

I’m not looking for another as I wander in my time,
walk me to the corner, our steps will always rhyme
you know my love goes with you as your love stays with me,
it’s just the way it changes, like the shoreline and the sea,

but let’s not talk of love or chains and things we can’t
untie,
your eyes are soft with sorrow,
Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye.

I loved you in the morning, our kisses deep and warm,
your hair upon the pillow like a sleepy golden storm,
yes many loved before us, I know that we are not new,
in city and in forest they smiled like me and you,
but let’s not talk of love or chains and things we can’t
untie,
your eyes are soft with sorrow,
Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye.

© by owner. provided at no charge for educational purposes

POETIC BLOOMINGS READING ROOM #63 – “I KNOW I AM BUT SUMMER TO YOUR HEART”

Edna St. Vincent Millay was an American lyrical poet and playwright. 

She was too rebellious to make a success of formal education, but she won poetry prizes from a young age, (Pulitzer Prize – 1923) She also wrote verse-dramas and operas, (The King's Henchman). She chose to write under the name Nancy Boyd, not wanting to publish her novels under her own name. 

Millay was noted for her uninhibited lifestyle, forming many passing relationships. She was also a social and political activist and those relationships included prominent anti-war activists including Floyd Dell, and perhaps John Reed. She became a prominent feminist of her time and inspired a generation of American women. 

Her career as a poet was meteoric. She became the first woman to win the Pulitzer prize in poetry. She became a performance artist super-star, reading her poetry to enthusiastic audiences across the country. 

A motor accident in middle-age left her a partial invalid and she became morphine-dependent for years. In spite of her suffering in later life, she wrote some of her greatest poetry. 
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

I KNOW I AM BUT SUMMER TO YOUR HEART

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I know I am but summer to your heart,
And not the full four seasons of the year;
And you must welcome from another part
Such noble moods as are not mine, my dear.
No gracious weight of golden fruits to sell
Have I, nor any wise and wintry thing;
And I have loved you all too long and well
To carry still the high sweet breast of Spring.
Wherefore I say: O love, as summer goes,
I must be gone, steal forth with silent drums,
That you may hail anew the bird and rose
When I come back to you, as summer comes.
Else will you seek, at some not distant time,
Even your summer in another clime.

POETIC BLOOMINGS READING ROOM #61 – “LISTEN TO THE WARM”

A few weeks back, our discussion in the POETIC BLOOMINGS READING ROOM had mentioned the poetry of Rod McKuen. Another man of many talents, McKuen has several poetry collections to his credit as well as record albums of his song stylings. Rod fancied himself a singer. You may have heard his gravelly voiced rendition of the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (Duet with Petula Clarke) at Christmas time. But his poetry did seem to reach a higher level.

There was a level of angst to his work, drawn from his life experiences and failed relationships. He always found a way to channel any bitterness into his worded works.

Rod McKuen 1933 – 2015
AN EXCERPT FROM "LISTEN TO THE WARM"
by Rod McKuen


It’s nice sometimes
to open up the heart a little
and let some hurt come in.
It proves you’re still alive. 
If nothing else
it says to you -
clear as a high hill air,
uncomfortable
as diving through cold water -
I’m here.
However wretchedly I feel, 
I feel.
I’m not sure
why we cannot shake
the old loves
from our minds.
It must be that
we build on memory
and make them more
then what they were.
And is the manufacture
just a safe device
for closing up the wall?
I do remember.
The only fuzzy circumstance 
is sometimes where and how.
Why, I know.
It happens
just because we need 
to want and to be 
wanted, too,
when love is here or gone
to lie down in the darkness 
and listen to the warm.

POETIC BLOOMINGS READING ROOM #59 – “MAKE ONE WOMAN”

A Poetic Find by Candy

Quite a challenge – choose a favorite poem and poet to share!

Billy Collins has been a favorite of mine for some time, although my first poetic love was Rod McKuen (yes, I freely admit it). So I went to my bookcases to find which of Billy Collins’ poems I would share. This took most of the afternoon, reading poems from his books (and from Rod’s too), which turned out to be the perfect way to spend a rainy day, along with a cup of tea.

I came across some slim volumes of poetry hiding there in the dark, waiting for someone to hold them, open them, read the words from a poet’s heart. One of these was a book titled, Grass Songs by Ann Turner. I’m sure I found this little gem at a used book sale. It is a collection of 17 poems about the women who were part of the westward wagon trains and their experiences. These poems are simple and real, and they pierce your heart.

According to the brief biography included, Ann Turner was doing research for a novel when she first read some of the journals of these pioneer women and was inspired to tell their stories in poetic form.

She is best known for her children’s books, but has written several volumes of poetry.

The book was published in 1993, so I don’t know if its still available. If you haunt used books sales, as I do, be on the lookout for it.

Here is the one I chose to share with you:

“Make One Woman”

by Ann Turner

Picture
Ann Turner
There is a better way
to make a woman.
Cut her from cloth, gabardine,
so strong and fine
it will not scratch or tear.
Sew eyes of black
that will not cry.
Paint one nose not over-
Particular about cattle
Smells and prairie ills.
Fashion two ears
that do not listen
for love,
that are content
with the wind and rain
and sleet.
Stitch her hair down tight
so the blizzard will not
tear it off.
Make those arms strong
enough for horse, harness,
and frozen wood.
Get two legs that will not
ache, that walk a prairie
like a city street.
And feet – do not forget
to make them long and large
for river fords and
winter boots.
Did I forget the heart?
Sew one red outline,
No shading in between.
It will not feel a child
gone, a husband cold,
a home left behind
like a favorite patchwork
quilt. 
I would have lasted,
had I been of thread,
cloth, and buttons.

POETIC BLOOMINGS READING ROOM #58 – “HATRED”

Today’s entry to the READING ROOM is presented by Debi Swim. Thanks to my heritage, I am somewhat familiar with Szymborska’s work. Here is Debi’s summation:

Wislawa Szymborska
1923 – 2012

 Wislawa Szymborska, from Krakow Poland, received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996.   

Three of my favorite poets are Wislawa Szymborska, Langston Hughes and Wendell Berry. You are probably familiar with the last two but maybe not the first. I was ‘introduced’ to her by Barbara Young (author of Heirloom Language) on her prompt blog Quickly.

“The voice in Szymborska’s poems is natural, conversational in places, but even the seemingly simpler poems cast shadows that vie for your attention.” (Quote from Arms, Legs, and Astounded Head: Wislawa Szymborska’s Here | Outside of a Cat (wordpress.com))

Hatred, by Wislawa Szymborska

See how efficient it still is,
how it keeps itself in shape—
our century’s hatred.
How easily it vaults the tallest obstacles.
How rapidly it pounces, tracks us down.

It’s not like other feelings.
At once both older and younger.
It gives birth itself to the reasons
that give it life.

When it sleeps, it’s never eternal rest.
And sleeplessness won’t sap its strength; it feeds it.

One religion or another –
whatever gets it ready, in position.
One fatherland or another –
whatever helps it get a running start.
Justice also works well at the outset
until hate gets its own momentum going.

Hatred. Hatred.
Its face twisted in a grimace
of erotic ecstasy…

Hatred is a master of contrast-
between explosions and dead quiet,
red blood and white snow.
Above all, it never tires
of its leitmotif – the impeccable executioner
towering over its soiled victim.

It’s always ready for new challenges.
If it has to wait awhile, it will.
They say it’s blind. Blind?
It has a sniper’s keen sight
and gazes unflinchingly at the future
as only it can.

POETIC BLOOMINGS READING ROOM – A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS

Clement Clarke Moore – 1779-1863

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ’kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”

Read some special messages from Santa as he delivered presents to children  around the world - Daily Record

THE POETIC BLOOMINGS READING ROOM #57 – A DREAM WITHIN A DREAM

Edgar Allan Poe

In a random twist of coincidence, this week’s featured poet is again Edgar Allan Poe. The poem chosen today is his “A Dream Within A Dream”. It speaks to the ‘reality’ of life as if lived within a dream. Sometimes our personal perceptions become our reality. A most tenuous grip. But through it all, hope is the guiding tenet by which we embrace this life.

A Dream Within a Dream

By Edgar Allan Poe

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow —
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone? 
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand —
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep — while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?