Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Large Red Man Reading

Large Red Man Reading - Wallace Stevens

There were ghosts that returned to earth to hear his phrases,
As he sat there reading, aloud, the great blue tabulae.
They were those from the wilderness of stars that had expected more.
There were those that returned to hear him read from the poem of life,
Of the pans above the stove, the pots on the table, the tulips among them.
They were those that would have wept to step barefoot into reality,
That would have wept and been happy, have shivered in the frost
And cried out to feel it again, have run fingers over leaves
And against the most coiled thorn, have seized on what was ugly
And laughed, as he sat there reading, from out of the purple tabulae,
The outlines of being and its expressings, the syllables of its law:
Poesis, poesis, the literal characters, the vatic lines,
Which in those ears and in those thin, those spended hearts,
Took on color, took on shape and the size of things as they are
And spoke the feeling for them, which was what they had lacked.
John Serio comments (At Knopf Doubleday) , "Stevens indicated in his letters that this was one of his favorites, and it is one of mine as well. The poem celebrates the preciousness of our physical reality—even the hurtful aspects of it—over the unreality of a wished-for heaven or afterlife. In elegant and rhythmically seductive long lines, he enlarges the little we have (pots and pans) over the nothing that might be (ghosts without substance or feeling). In that sense, it is a typical theme of Stevens: 'The greatest poverty is not to live in a physical world.' But he does more, too, which is also typical: he celebrates the power of poetry to create a reality imbued with feeling. There's an irony in the poem in that the ghosts never get to experience reality, only the reality-making power of the poet as a reader (or interpreter) of reality: 'They would have wept to step barefoot into reality.' Even this is a typical strategy of Stevens: evoking the antithesis by denying it. We feel the reality that the ghosts cannot experience and thus appreciate it all the more." 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ode To Chocolate

Ode to Chocolate - Barbara Crooker

I hate milk chocolate, don't want clouds
of cream diluting the dark night sky,
don't want pralines or raisins, rubble
in this smooth plateau. I like my coffee
black, my beer from Germany, wine
from Burgundy, the darker, the better.
I like my heroes complicated and brooding,
James Dean in oiled leather, leaning
on a motorcycle. You know the color.

Oh, chocolate! From the spice bazaars
of Africa, hulled in mills, beaten,
pressed in bars. The cold slab of a cave's
interior, when all the stars
have gone to sleep.

Chocolate strolls up to the microphone
and plays jazz at midnight, the low slow
notes of a bass clarinet. Chocolate saunters
down the runway, slouches in quaint
boutiques; its style is je ne sais quoi.
Chocolate stays up late and gambles,
likes roulette. Always bets
on the noir.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Day Lady Died

At Knopf Doubleday: The Day Lady Died by Frank O'Hara

Scroll in the link above for "Audio -- Listen to John Updike reading “The Day Lady Died”

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don’t know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly new world writing to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days
I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)
doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the golden griffin I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or
Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres
of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness

and for Mike I just stroll into the park lane
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a new york post with her face on it

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 spot
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing

************************

Lady was the nickname for the great Singer Billie Holiday

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Blessing

A Blessing by James Wright

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.
69 by Philip Schultz

This morning I'm tired of the same newspapers and arguments.
I'm tired of sticking the same legs into the same pants,
the same hands poking out of the same sleeves, going west
and then east, heating up the same tea, watching the same sun
rise over the same horizon, the same trees shedding the same leaves.
Tired of climbing the same stairs to look out the same window
at the same street, tired of shaking the same hands, opening and
closing the same doors, dreaming the same dreams, saying hello
good morning happy birthday I'm so sorry please forgive me.

"69" by Philip Schultz, from The God of Loneliness: Selected and New Poems. © Houghton Mifflin, 2010.

Friday, April 9, 2010

There are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves

There are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves

"There are men too gentle to live among wolves
Who prey upon them with IBM eyes
And sell their hearts and guts for martinis at noon.
There are men to gentle for a savage world
Who dream instead of snow and children and Halloween
And wonder if the leaves will change their color soon.

There are men to gentle to live among wolves
Who anoint them for burial with greedy claws
And murder them for a merchant's profit and gain.
There are men to gentle for a corporate world
Who dream instead of Easter eggs and fragrant grass
And pause to hear the distant whistle of a train.

There are men to gentle too live among wolves
Who devour them with appetite and search
For other men to prey upon and such their childhood dry.
There are men to gentle for an accountant's world
Who dream instead of Easter eggs and fragrant grass
And search for beauty in the mystery of the sky.There are men too gentle to live among wolves

There are men to gentle too live among wolves
Who toss them like a lost and wounded dove
Such gentle men are lonely in a merchant's world
Unless they have a gentle one to love."

James Kavanaugh

Vera Pavlova's "A Remedy for Insomnia"

Not sheep coming down the hills,
not cracks on the ceiling—
count the ones you loved,
the former tenants of dreams
who would keep you awake,
once meant the world to you,
rocked you in their arms,
those who loved you . . .
You will fall asleep, by dawn, in tears.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spring - Edna St Vincent Millay

Spring

To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death
But what does that signify?
Not only under the ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
April
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.