Archive for the 'Contemporary' Category

Robert Hayden

May 9, 2007

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(1913-1980)

Born in Detroit, was raised by a foster family next door to his mother
Struggled with severe nearsightedness
Greatly admired W.H. Auden
Taught until his death
Poet of elegance and restraint, wrote about such emotionally fraught subjects as lynching of African Americans during the civil rights movement, the transport of slaves from Africa to the New World and his own perplexity as a youth raised in a Detroit slum
Poetry condenses and evokes feelings and ideas in intricate sonic textures
Approaches highly charged subjects indirectly, even risking adoption of the voice of victimizer
One of the leading African American poets of the twentieth century
Became Baha’i in 1943, embracing a religion that teaches the unity of all faiths and peoples
Put to powerful use modernist aesthetic principles as concision, allusion, juxtaposition, collage, and symbolism

Quotations:

I
Jesus, Estrella, Esperanza, Mercy:
Sails flashing to the wind like weapons,/ sharks follwing the moans the fever and they dying;/ horror the corposant and compass rose.
Middle Passage:/ voyage through death/ to life upon these shores.

“10 April 1800-/ Blacks rebellious. Crew uneasy. Our linguist says/ their moaning is a prayer for death,/ ours and their own. Some try to starve themselves./ Lost three this morning leaped with crazy laughter/ to the waiting sharks, sang as they went under.”
Desire, Adventure, Tartar, Ann:
Standing to America, bringing home/ black gold, black ivory, black seed.
Deep in the festering hold thy father lies,/ of his bones New England pews are made,/ those are altar lights that were his eyes.
Jesus   Savior   Pilot   Me/ Over   Life’s   Tempestuous   Sea
We pray that Thou wilt grant, O Lord,/ safe passage to our vessels bringing/ heathen souls unto Thy chastening.
Jesus   Savior

II
Aye, lad, and I have seen those factories,/ Gambia, Rio Pongo, Calabar;/ have watched the artful mongos baiting traps/ of war wherein the victor and the vanquished
Were caught as prizes for our barracoons./ Have seen the nigger kings whose vanity/ and greed turned wild black hides of Fellatah,/ Mandingo, Ibo, Kru to gold for us.

III
Shuttles in the rocking loom of history,/ the dark ships move, the dark ships move,/ their bright ironical names/ like jests of kindness on a murderer’s mouth;/ plough through thrashing glister toward/ fata morgana’s lucent melting shore,/ weave toward New World littorals that are/ mirage and myth and actual shore.
Voyage through death,/ voyage whose chartings are unlove.

You cannot stare that hatred down/ or chain the fear that stalks the watches/ and breathes on you its fetid scorching breath;/ cannot kill the deep immortal human wish,/ the timeless will.

“It sickens me/ to think of what I saw, of how these apes/ threw overboard the butchered bodies of our men, true Christians all, like so much jetsaam./ Enough, enough. the rest is quickly told:/ Cinque was forced to spare the two of us/ you see to steer the ship to Africa,/ and we like phantoms doomed to rove the sea/ voyaged east by day and west by night,/ deceiving them, hoping for rescue,/ prisoners on our own vessel, till/ at length we drifted to the shores of this/ your land, America, where we were freed/ from our unspeakable misery. Now we/ demand, good sirs, the extradition of/ Cinquez and his accomplices to La/ Havana.

I tell you that we are determined to return to Cuba/ with our slaves and there see justice done./ Cinquez-/ or let us say ‘the Prince’- Cinquez shall die.”
The deep imortal human wish,/ the timeless will.
Cinquez its deathless primaveral image,/ life that transfigures many lives.
Voyage through death/ to life upon these shores.

-Middle Passage

Journey of slaves across the Atlantic from Africa to the Americas
Poetic voice changes in each part

Ted Hughes

May 9, 2007

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(1930-1998)

Born in Yorkshire, father was a survivor of WWI
Married Sylvia Plath in 1956 and had two children; Hughes had a notorious affair and they were separated at the time of Plath’s suicide
Hughes destroyed Plath’s later journals and was repeatedly defaced from her tombstone
Subject matter is often violence: was brone to depicting brutal acts, found predators and victims in nature and humanity
Wrote a new kind of children’s poem
Liked things that have a life outside of their own, and his
Darkenss usually overcomes light in a dualistic vision

Quotations:

Pike, three inches long, perrfect/ Pike in all parts, green tigering the gold./ Killers from the egg: the malevolent aged grin./ they dance on the surface among the flies.
Or move, stunned by their own grandeur/ Over a bed of emerald, silhouette/ Of submarine delicacy and horror./ A hundred feet long in their world.

One jammed past its gills down the other’s gullet:/ The outside eye stared: as a vice locks-/ The same iron in this eye/ Though its film shrank in death.
A pond I fished, fifty yards across,/ Whose lilies and muscular tench/ Had outlasted every visible stone/ Of the monastery that planted them-
Stilled legendary depth:/ It was as deep as England. It held/ Pike too immense to stir, so immense and old/ That past nightfall I dared not cast
But silently cast and fished/ With the hair frozen on my head/ For what might move, for what eye might move./ The still splashes on the dark pond,
Owls hushing the floating woods/ Frail on my ear against the dream/ Darkenss beneath night’s darkness had freed,/ That rose slowly towards me, watching.

-Pike

Gwendolyn Brooks

May 9, 2007

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(1917-2000)

Grew up in Chicago
Appointed poet laureate of Illinois
Became the first African American woman to be appointed poetry consultant to the Library of Congress
Married to Henry Blakely and had a son and daughter
Often presents the characters of local people
Poetry is direct but sly and ironic
Determined to represent everyday lives of African American city dwellers in her work

Quotations:

We real cool. We/ Left school. We
Lurk late. We/ Strike straight. We
Sing sin. We/ Thin gin. We
Jazz June. We/ Die soon.

-We Real Cool (in whole)

The Pool Players.
Seven at the Golden Shovel.

Without my having known./ Policeman said, next morning,/ “Apparently died Alone.”/ “You heard a shot?” Policeman said./ Shots I hear and Shots I hear./ I never see the dead.
The Shot that killed him yes I heard/ as I heard the Thousand shots before;/ careening tinnily down the nights/ across my years and arteries.
Policeman pounded on my door./ “Who is it?” “POLICE!” Policeman yelled./ “A Boy was dying in your alley./ A Boy is dead, and in your alley./ And have you known this Boy before?”
I have known this Boy before./ I have known this Boy b efore, who/ ornaments my alley./ I never saw his face at all./ I never saw his futurefall./ But I have known this Boy.
I have always heard him deal with death./ I have always heard the shout, the volley./ I have closed my heart-ears late and early./ And I have killed him ever.
I joined the Wild and killed him/ with knowledgeable unknowing./ I saw where he was gong./ I saw him Crossed. And seeing,/ I did not take him down.
he cried not only “Father!”/ but “Mother!/ Sister!/ Brother.”/ The cry climbed up the alley./ It went up to the wind./ It hung upon the heaven/ for a long/ stretch-strain of Moment.
The red floor of my alley/ is a special speech to me.

-The Boy Died in My Alley (in whole)

They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair./ Dinner is a casual affair./ Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,/ Tin flatware.
Two who are Mostly Good./ Two who have lived their day,/ But keep on putting on their clothes/ And putting things away.
And remembering…/ Remembering, with twinklings and twinges,/ As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths, tobacco crumbs, vaces and fringes.

-The Bean Eaters (in whole)

Whose broken window is a cry of art/ (success, that winks aware/ as elegance, as a treasonable faith)/ is raw: is sonic: is old-eyed premiere./ Our beautiful flaw and terrible ornament./ Our barbarous and metal little man.
“I shall create! If not a note, a hole./ If not an overture, a desecration.”
Full of pepper and light/ and Salt and night and cargoes.
“Don’t go down the plank/ if you see there’s no extension./ Each to his grief, each to/ his loneliness and fidgety revenge.
Nobody knew where I was and now I am no longer there.”
The only sanity is a cup of tea./ The music is in minors.
Each one other/ is having different weather.
“It was you, it was you who threw away my name!/ And this is everything I have for me.”
Who has not Congress, lobster, love, luau,/ the Regency Room, the Statue of Liberty,/ runs. A sloppy amalgamation./ A mistake./ A cliff./ A hymn, a snare, and an exceeding sun.

-Boy Breaking Glass (in whole)

To Marc Crawford from whom the commission

Adrienne Rich

May 9, 2007

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(1929-)

Born white and middle class
Married and had three sons before she was thirty
Separated from her husband and committed herself to radical feminism and lesbian vision
Leading feminist poet of the twentieth century
Populates her poems with emblematic female figures
Defies modernist injunctions and is in search of a common language to describe a shared historical experience
One of the most well-known contemporary love poets
Personal feeling can never be completely separated from politics

Quotations:

Living    in the earth-deposits   of our history
Today a blackhoe divulged   out of a crumbling flank of earth/ one bottle   amber   perfect   a hundred-year-old/ cure for fever   or melancholy   a tonic/ for living on this earth   in the winters of this climate
Today I was reading about Marie Cruie:/ she must have known she suffered   from radiation sickness/ her body bombarded for years   by the element/ she had purified/ It seems she denied to the end/ the source of the cataracts on her eyes/ the cracked and suppurating skin   of her finger-ends/ till she could no longer hold   a test-tube or a pencil
She died   a famous woman   denying/ her wounds/ denying/ her wounds   came   from the same source as her power

-Power (in whole)

First having read the book of myths,/ and loaded the camera,/ and checked the edge of the knife-blade,/ I put on/ the body-armor of black rubber/ the absure flippers/ the grave and awkward mask./ I am having to do this/ not like Cousteau with his/ assiduous team/ aboard the sun-flooded schooner/ but here alone.

I came to explore the wreck./ The words are purposes./ The words are maps./ I came to see the damage that was done/ and the treasure that prevail./ I stroke the beam of my lamp/ slowly along the flank/ of something more permanent/ than fist or weed
the thing I came for:/ the wreck and not the story of the wreck/ the thing itself and not the myth/ the drowned face always staring/ toward the sun/ the evidence of damage/ worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty/ the ribs of the disaster/ curing their assertion/ among the tentative haunters.
This is the place./ And I am here, the mermaid whose dark ahir/ streams black, the merman in his armored body./ We circle silently/ about the wreck/ we dive into the hold./ I am she: I am he
whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes/ whose breasts still bear the stress/ whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies/ obscurely inside barrels/ half-wedged and left to rot/ we are the half-destroyed instruments/ that once held to a course/ the water-eaten log/ the fouled compass
We are, I am, you are/ by cowardice or courage/ the one who find our way/ back to this scene/ carrying a knife, a camera/ a book of myths/ in which/ our names do not appear.

-Diving into the Wreck

I
Whenever in this city, screens flicker/ with pornography, with science-fiction vampires,/ victimized hirelings bending to the lash,/ we also have to walk… if simply as we walk/ through the rainsoaked garbage, the tabloid cruelties/ of our own neighborhoods./ We need to grasp our lives inseparable/ from those rancid dreams, that blurt of metal, those disgraces,/ and the red begonia perilously flashing/ from a tenement sill six stories high,/ or the ong-legged young girls playing ball/ in the junior highschool playground./ No one has imagined us. We want to live like trees,/ sycamores blazing through the sulfuric air,/ dappled with scars, still exuberantly budding,/ our animal passion rooted in the city.

X
Your dog, tranquil and innocent, dozes through/ our cries, our murmured dawn conspiracies/ our telephone calls. She knows- what can she know?/ If in my human arrogance I claim to read/ her eyes, I find there only my own animal thoughts: / that creatures must find each other for bodily comfort,/ that voices of the psyche drive through the flesh/ further than the dense brain could have foretold,/ that the planetary nights are growing cold for those/ on the same journey, who want to touch/ one creature-traveler clear to the end;/ that without tenderness, we are in hell.

XVII
No one’s fated or doomed to love anyone./ The accidents happen, we’re not heroines,/ they happen in our lives like car crashes,/ books taht change us, neighborhoods/ we move into and come to love./ Tristan und Isolde is scarcely the story,/ women at least should know the difference/ between love and death. No poison cup,/ no penance. Merely a notion that the tape-recorder/ should have caught some ghost of us: that tape-recorder/ not merely played but should have listened to us,/ and could instruct those after us:/ this we were, this is how we tried to love,/ and there are the forces they had ranged against us,/ and these are the forces we hand ranged within us,/ within us and against us, against us and within us.

XXI
The dark lintels, the blue and foreign stones/ of the great round rippled by ston implements/ the midsummer night light rising from beneath/ the horizon- when I said “a cleft of light”/ I meant this. And this is not Stonehenge/ simply nore any place but the mind/ casting back to where her solitude,/ shared, could be chosen without loneliness,/ not easily nor without pains to stake out/ the circle, the heavy shadows, the great light./ I choose to be a figure in that light,/ half-blotted by darkness, something moving/ across that space, the color of stone/ greeting the moon, yet more than stone:/ a woman. I choose to walk here. And to draw this circle.

-Twenty-One Love Poems

Seamus Heaney

May 9, 2007

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(1939-)

Writes masterfully in meter and rhyme and is reticent and indirect
Paradoxes of work can be understood in the context of his historical situation as an Irish Catholic who grew up in the predominantly Protestant North of Ireland under Brithis rule
Is a political poet, but refuses slogans, journalistic reportage and ploitical pieties
Voice of conscience and remorse
Wrote elegies for people who were killed in the violence of Northern Ireland

Quotations:

Between my finger and my thumb/ The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound/ When the spade winks into gravelly groud:/ My father, digging. I look down
Till his strainging rump among the flowerbeds/ Bends low, comes up twenty years away/ Stooping in rhythm through potato drills/ Where he was digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap/ Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge/ Through living roots awaken in my head./ But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb/ The squat pen rests./ I’ll dig with it.

-Digging

I can feel the tug/ of the halter at the nape/ of her neck, the wind/ on her naked front.
It blows her nipples/ to amber beads,/ it shakes the frail rigging/ of her ribs.
I can see her drowned/ body in the bog,/ the weighing stone,/ the floating rods and boughs.
Under which at first/ she was a barked sapling/ that is dug up/ oak-bone, brain-firkin:
her shaved head/ like a stubble of black corn,/ her blindfold a soiled bandage,/ her noose a ring
to store/ the memories of love./ Little adulteress,/ before the punished you
you were flaxen-haired,/ undernourished, and your tar-black face was beautiful./ My poor scapegoat,
I almost love you/ but would have cast, I know,/ the stones of silence./ I am the artful voyeur
of your brain’s exposed/ and darkened combs,/ your muscles webbing/ and all your numbered bones:
I who have stood dumb/ when your betraying sisters,/ cauled in tar,/ wept by the railings,
who would connive/ in civilized outrage/ yet understand the exact/ and tribal, intimate revenge.

-Punishment (in whole)

My father worked with a horse-plough,/ His shoulders globed like a full sail strung/ Between the shafts and the furrow./ The horses strained at his clicking tongue.
An expert. He would set the wing/ And fit the bright steel-pointed sock./ The sod rolled over without breaking./ At the headrig, with a single pluck
Of reins, the sweating team turned round/ And back into the land. His eye/ Narrowed and angled at the ground,/ Mapping the furrow exactly.
I stumbled in his hobnailed wake,/ Fell sometimes on the polished sod;/ Sometimes he rode me on his back/ Dipping and rising on his plod.
I wanted to grow up and plough,/ To close one eye, stiffen my arm./ All I ever did was follow/ In his broad shadow round the farm.
I was a nuisance, tripping, falling,/ Yapping always. But today/ It is my father who keeps stumbling/ Behind me, and will not go away.

-Follower (in whole)

Derek Walcott

May 9, 2007

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(1930-)

The preeminent Caribbean poet writing in English
Born on Saint Lucia, one of the four Windward Islands
Background is racially and culturally mixed
Tries to embrace all his cultural influences
Asks how the postcolonial poet can both grieve the agonizing harm of Brithis colonialism and appreciate the empire’s literary gift
Has adapted various literary archetypes and forms
Has a great passion for metaphor
Currently paints and writes on the Northwest coast of Saint Lucia

Quotations:

A wind is ruffling the tawny pelt/ Of Africa. Kikuyu, quick as flies,/ Batten upon the bloodstreams of the veldt./ Corpses are scattered through a paradise.

The violence of beast on beast is read/ As natural law, but upright man/ Seeks his divinity by inflicting pain.

I who am poisoned with the blood of both,/ Where shall I turn, divided to the vein?/ I who have cursed/ The drunken officer of British rule, how choose/ Between this Africa and the English tongue I love?/ Betray them both, or give back what they give?/ How can I face such slaughter and be cool?/ How can I turn from Africa and live?

-A Far Cry From Africa

Below bent breadfruit trees/ in the flat, coloured city, class
escalated into structures still,/ merchant, middleman, magistrate, knight. To go downhill/ from here was to ascend.
The middle passage never guessed its end./ This is the hight of poverty/ for the desperate and black;
climbing, we could look back/ with widening memory/ on the hot, corrugated-iron sea/ whose horrors we all
shared.

Afterwards,/ the ceremony, the careful photograph/ moved out of range before the patient tombs,
we dare a laugh,/ ritual, desperate words,/ born like these children from habitual wombs,
from lives fixed in the unalterable groove/ of grinding poverty. I stand out on a balcony/ and watch the sun pave its flat, golden path
across the roofs, the aerials, cranes, the tops/ of fruit trees crawling downard to the city./ Something inside is laid wide like a wound,
some open passage that has cleft the brain,/ some deep, amnesiac blow. We left/ somewhere a life we never found,
customs and gods that are not born again,/ some crib, some grille of light/ clanged shut on us in bondage, and withheld
us from that world below us and beyond,/ and in its swaddling cerements we’re still bound.

-Laventille

Laventille is a hillside slum outside Port of Spain

Where are your monuments, your battles, martyrs?/ Where is your tribal memory? Sirs,/ in that grey vault. The sea. The sea/ has locked them up. The sea is History.

Sir, it islocked in them sea-sands/ out there past the reef’s moiling shelf,/ where the men-o’-war floated down;
strop on these goggles, I’ll guide you there myself./ It’s all subtle and submarine,/ through colonnades of coral,
past the gothic windows of sea-fans/ to where the crusty grouper, onyx-eyes,/ blinks, weighted by its jewels, like a bald queen;
and these groined caves with barnacles/ pitted like stone/ are our cathedrals,
and the furnace before the hurricanes:/ Gomorrah. Bones ground by windmills/ into marl and cornmeanl,
and that was Lamentations-/ that was just Lamentations,/ it was not History;

Then came the white sisters clapping/ to the waves’ progress, / and that was Emancipation-
jubilation, O jubilation-/ vanishing swiftly/ as the sea’s lace dries in the sun,
but that was not History,/ that was only faith,/ and then each rock broke into its own nation;
then came the synod of flies,/ then came the secretarial heron,/ then came the bullfrog bellowing for a vote,
fireflies with bright ideas/ and bats like jetting ambassadors/ and the mantis, like khaki police,
and the furred caterpillars of judges/ examining each case closely,/ and then in the dark ears of ferns
and in the salt chuckle of rocks/ with their sea pools, there was the sound/ like a rumor without any echo
of Hisotry, really beginning.

-The Sea Is History

 

Michael S. Harper

May 9, 2007

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(1938-)

Born in Brooklyn, New York but went to the west coast for much of his education
Is a professor at Brown Univesity
Secretly listened to jazz recordings as an adolescent
Work takes the view that life is at best a melancholy business
Mourns the deaths of two infant sons in a series of tormented elegies
Pursued premedical studies before being deterred by racism
Forces scientific culture and black oral culture

Quotaitons:

I place these numbed wrists to the pane/ watching white uniforms whisk over/ him in the tube-kept/ prison/ fear what they will do in experiement/ watch my gloved stickshifting gasolined hands/ breathe boxcar-information-please infirmary tubes/ distrusting white-pink mending paperthin/ silkened end hairs, distrusting tubes/ shrunk in his trunk-skincapped/ shaven head, in thighs/ distrusting-white-hands-picking-baboon-light/ on his own son who will not make his second night/ of this wardstrewn intensive airpocket/ where his father’s asthmatic/ hymns of night-train, train done gone/ his mother can only know that he has flown/ up into essential calm unseen corridor/ going boxscarred home, mamaborn, sweetsonchild/ mama-son-don-gone/ me telling her ‘nother/ train tonight, no music, no breathstroked/ heartbeat in my infinite distrust of them:
and of my distrusting self/ white-doctor-who-breathed-for-him-all-night/ say it for two sons gone,/ say nightmare, say it loud/ panebreaking heartmadness:/ nightmare begins responsibility.

-Nightmare Begins Responsilibity (in whole)

Tony Harrison

May 9, 2007

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(1937-)

Born in Leeds, England to a working class family
Poems embody the tension of the classically educated son and his humble origins
His triumph has been to bring the sensual power, vigor, wit and immediacy of working-class Yorkshire speech into an exciting amalgam with literary English
Writes poetry, plays, and translated opera libretti

Quotations:

I
Baked the day she suddenly dropped dead/ we chew it slowly that last apple pie.
Shocked into sleeplessness you’re scared of bed./ We never could talk much, and now don’t try.
You’re like book ends, the pair of you, she’d say,/ Hog that grate, say nothing, sit, sleep, stare . . .
The ‘scholar’ me, you, worn out on poor pay,/ only our silence made us seem a pair.

II
The sone’s too full. The wording must be terse./ There’s scarcely room to carve the FLORENCE on it-
Come on, it’s not as if we’re wanting verse./ It’s not as if we’re wanting a whole sonnet!
After tumblers of neat Johnny Walker/ (I think that both of us we’re on our third)/ you said you’d always been a clumsy talker/ and couldn’t find another, shorter word/ for ‘beloved’ or for ‘wife’ in the inscription,/ but not too clumsy that you can’t still cut:
You’re supposed to be the bright boy at description/ and you can’t tell them what the fuck to put!
I’ve got to find the right words on my own.
I’ve got the envelope that he’d been scrawling,/ mis-spelt, mawkish, stylistically appalling/ but I can’t squeeze more love into their stone.

-Book Ends

When the chilled dough of his flesh went in an oven/ not unlike those he fuelled all his life,/ I thought of his cataracts ablaze with Heaven/ and radiant with the sight of his dead wife,/ light streaming from his mouth to shape her name,/ ‘not Florence and not Flo but always Florrie’./ I thought how his cold tongue burst into flame/ but only literally, which makes me sorry,/ sorry for his sake there’s no Heaven to reach./ I get it all from Earth my daily bread/ but he hungered for release from mortal speech/ that kept him down, the tongue that weighed like lead.
The baker’s man that no one will see rise/ and England made to feel like some dull oaf/ is smoke, enough to sting one person’s eyes/ and ash (not unlike flour) for one small loaf.

-Marked with D. (in whole)

Michael Palmer

May 9, 2007

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(1943-)

Born to a middle-class Italian American family in New York City
Spent most of his life in the San Francisco area
Writes poems that are fragmentary, self-reflective, and nonsequential
Questions the fiction of a unitary self that confesses its inner experience in a poem
Believes a poem is a verbal artifact that spotlights its own words: continually reminds us of the materiality of language

Quotations:

Write this. We have burned all their villages
Write this. We have burned all the villages and the people in them
Write this. We have adopted their customs and their manner of dress
Write this. A word may be shaped like a bed, a basket of tears or an X

Let go of me for I have died and am in a novel and was a lyric poet, certainly, who attracted crowds to mountaintops. For a nickel I will appear from this box. For a dollar I will have text with you and answer three questions.
First question. We entered the forest, followed its winding paths, and emerged blind
Second question. My townhouse, of the Jugendstil, lies by Darmstadt
Third question. He knows he will wake from this dream, conducted in the mother-tongue
Third question. He knows his breathing organs are manipulated by God, so that he is compelled to scream
Third question. I will converse with no one on those days of the week with end in y

silence, pinhole of light

A word is beside itself. Here the poem is called What Speaking Means to say/ though I have no memory of my name
Here the poem is called Theory of the Real, its name is Let’s Call This, and its name is called A Wooden Stick. It goes yes-yes, no-no. It goes one and one
I have been writing a book, not in my native language, about violins and smoke, lines and dots, free to speak and become the things we speak, pages which sit up, look around and row resolutely toward the setting sun
Pages torn from their spines and added to the pyre, so that they will resemble thought.

What last. Lapwing. Tesseract. X perhaps for X. The villages are known as These Letters- humid, sunless. The writing occurs on their walls.

-Sun

Resists the linear flow of narrative
Recalls phrases and musical cadences from Eliot’s Waste Land

Mark Doty

May 8, 2007

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(1953-)

Married early, but divorced and met his partner Wally Roberts, who died from AIDS in 1994
Work displays something of the drag queen’s pleasure in ravishing texture and spectacle, but also employs something of the mortician’s cold  grim inevitabilities of loss and death
Works in the tradition of Americanautobiographicalpoetry that extends from Whitman to Bishop and Lowell
Believes that a poem should be

“a verbal earthly paradise, a timeless world of pure play, which gives us delight precisely because of its contrast to our historical existence with all its insolvable problems and inescapable suffering.”

Quotations:

Downtown anywhere and between the roil/ of bathhouse steam- up there the linens of joy/ and shame must be laundered again and again,

where desire’s unpoliced, or nearly so)/ someone’s posted a xeroxedheadshot/ of Jesus: permed, blonde, blurred at the eges
as though photographedthrough a greasy lens,/ and inked beside him, in marker strokes:/ HOMO WILL NO INHERIT, Repent & be saved.
I’ll tell you what I’ll inherit: the margins/ which have always been mine, downtown after hours/ when there’s nothing left to buy,
the dreaming shops turnedin on themselves,/ seamless, intent on the perfection  of display,/ the bodegas and offices lined up, impenetrable:
edges no one wants, no one’s watching. Though/ the borders of this  shadow-zone  (mirror and dream/ of the shattered streets around it) are chartered
by the police, and they are required,/ some nights, to redefine them. But not now, at twilight,/ permission’s descending hour, early winter darkness
pillared by smoldering plumes. The public city’s/ ledgered and locked, but the secret city’s boundless;/ from which do these tumbling tours arise?
I’ll tell you what I’ll inherit: steam,/ and the blinding symmetry of some towering man,/ fifteen minutes of forgetfulness incarnate.

the flesh and the word. And I’ll tell you,/ you who can’t wait to abandon your body,/ what you want me to, maybe something
like you’ve imagined, a dirty story:/ Years ago, in the baths,/ a man walked into the steam,
the gorgeous deep indigo of him gleaming,/ solid tight flanks, the intricately ridged abdomen-/ and after he invited me to his room,
nudging his key toward me,/ as if perhaps I spoke another tongue/ and required the plainest  of gestures,
after we’d been, you understand,/ worshipping a while in his church,/ he said to me, I’m going to punish your mough.
I can’t tell you what that did to me./ My shame was redeemed then;/ I won’t need to burn in the afterlife.
It wasn’t that he hurt me,/ more than that: the spirit’s transactions/ are enacted now, here- no one needs
your eternity. This failing city’s/ radiant as any we’ll ever know,/ paved with oily rainbow, charred gates
jeweled with tags, swoops of letters/ over letters, indecipherable as anything/ written by desire. I’m not ashamed
to love Babylon’s scrawl. How could I be?/ It’s written on my face as much as on/ these walls. This city’s inescapable,
gorgeous, and on fire. I have my kingdom.

-Homo Will Not Inherit

Charged repudiation of homophobia, echoing Whitman

Cold April and the neighbor girl/ -our plumber’s daughter-/ comes up the west street
from the harbor carrying,/ in a nest she’s made/ of her pink parka,
a loon. It’s so sick,/ she says when I ask./ Foolish kid,
does she think she can keep/ this emissary of air?/ Is it trust or illness
that allows the head/ -sleek tulip- to bow/ on its bent stem
across her arm?/ Look at the steady,/ quiet eye. She is carrying
the bird back from indifference,/ from the coast/ of whatever rearrangement
the elements intend,/ and the loon allows her./ She is going to call
the Center for Coastal Studies,/ and will swaddle the bird/ in her petal-bright coat
until they come./ She cradles the wild form./ Stubborn girl.

-Coastal (in whole)