Archive for the 'Modern' Category

W.H. Auden

January 29, 2007


Wystand Hugh Auden
Poetry preserves a clinical coolness, diagnostic air, and hatred of the unexplained; many poems deal with disease and offer moral remedies
Attended Oxford University where he wrote many poems collected in the volume “Poems”
Traveled to Germany after obtaining a degree where he experienced a homosexual freedom impossible in England
Supported himself by teaching
Traveled to China before becoming a citizen of the U.S.; met his life long companion Chester Kallman
Influenced greatly by T.S. Eliot
Took a stand against writers like W.B. Yeats who, he thought, preened themselves too much on being poets and who touted poetry as revelation
Prophetic of social and political change, some poems took the form of prayers or invocations
Insisted on rigorous honesty and preferred sense over sound; art stripped away moral deceptions and contrasted Romanticism
Maintains a scientific view of the world while remaining an active member of the Church of England


Yesterday all the past. The language of size / Spreading to China along the trade-routes; the diffusion / Of the counting-frame and the cromlech; / Yesterday the shadow-reckoning in the sunny climates.
Yesterday the assessment of insurance by cards, / The divination of water; yesterday the invention / Of cartwheels and clocks, the taming of / Horses. Yesterday the bustling world of the navigators.
Yesterday the abolition of fairies and giants, / The fortress like a motionless eagle eyeing the valley, / The chapel built in the forest; / Yesterday the carving of angels and alarming gargoyles;
The trial of heretics among the columns of stone; / Yesterday the theological feuds in the taverns / And the miraculous cure at the fountain; / Yesterday the Sabbath of witches; but to-day the struggle.
Yesterday the installation of dynamos and turbines, / The construction of railways in the colonial desert; / Yesterday the classic lecture / On the origin of Mankind. But to-day the struggle.
Yesterday the belief in the absolute value of Greek, / The fall of the curtain upon the death of a hero; / Yesterday the prayer to the sunset / And the adoration of madmen. But to-day the struggle.
As the poet whispers, startled among the pines, / Or where the loose waterfall sings compact, or upright / On the crag by the leaning tower: / ‘O my vision. O send me the luck of the sailor.’
And the investigator peers through his instruments / At the inhuman provinces, the virile bacillus / Or enormous Jupiter finished: / ‘But the lives of my friends. I inquire. I inquire.’
And the poor in their fireless lodgings, dropping the sheets / Of the evening paper: ‘Our day is our loss, O show us / History the operator, the / Organiser, Time the refreshing river.’
And the nations combine each cry, invoking the life / That shapes the individual belly and orders / The private nocturnal terror: / ‘Did you not found the city state of the sponge,
‘Raise the vast military empires of the shark / And the tiger, establish the robin’s plucky canton? / Intervene. O descend as a dove or / A furious papa or a mild engineer, but descend.’
And the life, if it answers at all, replied from the heart / And the eyes and the lungs, from the shops and squares of the city / ‘O no, I am
not the mover; / Not to-day; not to you. To you, I’m the
‘Yes-man, the bar-companion, the easily-duped; / I am whatever you do. I am your vow to be / Good, your humorous story. / I am your business voice. I am your marriage.
‘What’s your proposal? To build the just city? I will. / I agree. Or is it the suicide pact, the romantic / Death? Very well, I accept, for / I am your choice, your decision. Yes, I am Spain.’
Many have heard it on remote peninsulas, / On sleepy plains, in the aberrant fishermen’s islands / Or the corrupt heart of the city, / Have heard and migrated like gulls or the seeds of a flower.
They clung like burrs to the long expresses that lurch / Through the unjust lands, through the night, through the alpine tunnel; / They floated over the oceans; / They walked the passes. All presented their lives.
On that arid square, that fragment nipped off from hot / Africa soldered so crudely to inventive Europe; / On that tableland scored by rivers, / Our thoughts have bodies; the menacing shapes of our fever
Are precise and alive. For the fears which made us respond / The the medicine ad. and the brochure of winter cruises / Have become invading battalions; / And our faces, the institute-face, the chain-store, the ruin
Are projecting their greed as the firing squad and the bomb. / Madrid is the heart. Our moments of tenderness blossom / As the ambulance and the sandbag; / Our hours of friendship into a people’s army.
To-morrow, perhaps the future. The research on fatigue / And the movements of packers; the gradual exploring of all the / Octaves of radiation; / To-morrow the enlarging of consciousness by diet and breathing.
To-morrow the rediscovery of romantic love, / The photographing of ravens; all the fun under / Liberty’s masterful shadow; / To-morrow the hour of the pageant-master and the musician,
The beautiful roar of the chorus under the dome; / To-morrow the exchanging of tips on the breeding of terriers, / The eager election of chairmen / By the sudden forest of hands. But to-day the struggle.
To-morrow for the young the poets exploding like bombs, / The walks by the lake, the weeks of perfect communion; / To-morrow the bicycle races / Through the suburbs on summer evenings. But to-day the struggle.
To-day the deliberate increase in the chances of death, / The conscious acceptance of guilt in the necessary murder; / To-day the expending of powers / On the flat ephemeral pamphlet of the boring meeting.
To-day the makeshift consolations: the shared cigarette, / The cards in the candlelit barn, and the scraping concert, / The masculine jokes; to-day the / Fumbled and unsatisfactory embrace before hurting.
The stars are dead. The animals will not look.  We are left alone with our day, and the time is short, and / History to the defeated / May say Alas but cannot help nor pardon.

-Spain (in whole)

About suffering they were never wrong, / The Old Masters: how well they understood / Its human position; how it takes place / While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along; / How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting / For the miraculous birth, there always must be / Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating / On a pond at the edge of the wood: / They never forgot / That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course / Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot / Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse / Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Brueghel’s Icarus, for instance: how everthing turns away / Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may / Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry, / But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone / As it had to on the white legs disapppearing into the green / Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen / Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky, / Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

-Musee des Beaux Arts (in whole)

“Museum of fine arts”

Now he is scattered among a hundred cities / And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections; / To find his happiness in another kind of wood / And be punished under a foreign code of conscience. / The words of a dead man / Are modified in the guts of the living.
But in the importance and noise of to-morrow / When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse, / And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed, / And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom; / A few thousand will think of this day / As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.
O all the instruments agree / The day of his death was a dark cold day.

You were silly like us: your gift survived it all; / The parish of rich women, physical decay, / Yourself; mad Ireland hurt you into poetry. / Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still, / For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives / In the valley of its saying where executives / Would never want to tamper; it flows south / From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs, / Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives, / A way of happening, a mouth.

In the nightmare of the dark / All the dogs of Europe bark, / And the living nations wait, / Each sequestered in its hate;
Intellectual disgrace / Stares from every human face, / And the seas of pity lie / Locked and frozen in each eye.
Follow, poet, follow right / To the bottom of the night, / With your unconstraining voice / Still persuade us to rejoice;
With the farming of a verse / Make a vineyard of the curse, / Sing of human unsuccess / In a rapture of distress;
In the deserts of the heart / Let the healing fountain start, / In the prison of his days / Teach the free man how to praise.

-In Memory of W.B. Yeats

All I have is a voice / To undo the folded lie, / The romantic lie in the brain / Of the sensual man-in-the-street / And the lie of Authority / Whose buildings grope the sky: / There is no such things as the State / And no one exists alone; / Hunder allows no choice / To the citizen or the police; / We must love one another or die.
Defenceless under the night / Our world in stupor lies; / Yet, dotted everywhere, / Ironice points of light / Flash out wherever the Just / Exchange their messages: / May I, composed like them / Of Eros and of dust, / Beleaguered by the same / Negation and despair, / Show an affirming flame.

-September 1, 1939

The date of Germany’s invasion of Poland and the outbreak of WWII

She looked over his shoulder / For vines and olive trees, / Marble well-governed cities, / And ships upon untamed seas, / But there on the shining metal / His hands had put instead / An artificial wilderness / And a sky like lead.
A plain without a feature, bare and brown, / No blade of grass, no sign of neighborhood, / Nothing to eat and nowhere to sit down, / Yet, congregated on its blankness, stood / An unintelligible multitude, / A million eyes, a million boots in line, / Without expression, waiting for a sign.

She looked over his shoulder / For ritual pieties, / White flower-garlanded heifers, / Libation and sacrifice, / But there on the shining metal / Where the altar should have been, / She saw by his flickering forge-light / Quite another scene.

The mass and majesty of this world, all / That carries weight and always weighs the same, / Lay in the hands of others; they were small / And could not hope for help and no help came: / What their foes liked to do was done, their shame / Was all the worst could wish; they lost their pride / And died as men before their bodies died.

A ragged urchin, aimless and alone, / Loitered about that vacancy; a bird / Flew up to safety from his well-aimed stone: / That girls are raped, that two boys knife a third, / Were axioms to him, who’d never heard / Of any world where promises were kept / Or one could weep because another wept.

-The Shield of Achilles

The shield of Achilles is described in Homer’s Iliad
Achilles has lost his armor when his great friend Patroclus is slain by Hector. While Achilles is mourning the death of his friend his mother goes to Mt. Olympus to entreat Hephaestos, god of fire, to make new armor for Achilles. On the new chield he depicts the earth, the heavens, the sea, and the planets; a city in peace and a city at ward, scenes from country life, animal life, and the joyful life of young men and women. The ocean flows around all these scenes.


Jeanette Winterson

December 7, 2006


Born in Manchester, adopted by a Pentecostal couple
Brought up in Accrington, Lancashire: her parents wanted her to be a Christian Missionary
Announced that she was having a lesbian affair at the age of 16, and left home
Studied English at St Catherine’s College, Oxford
After the move to London her first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, was published when she was twenty six years old: was adapted for television by Winterson in 1990
Novels explore the boundaries of physicality and the imagination, gender polarities, and sexual identities
Her stage adaptation of The Powerbook in 2002 opened at the Royal National Theatre, London
Opened a shop, Verde’s, in East London to sell organic food

Sexing the Cherry (1989)

The story of Jordan, an orphan found floating on the River Thames, and his keeper, The Dog Woman, a huge and monstrous creature
Winterson says in regards to the setting of the novel:

“I set this in the seventeenth century, around the beheading of Charles the First, because I had more to do exploring the past as energetic space. I wanted to build another word-dependent world, not restricted either by realism or contemporaneity. The past is strange. We have never been there and we can never go there. I have never recognised the past as a document, rather I understand it as a kind of lumber room, full of trunks of old clothes and odd mementoes. There are as many narratives as there are guesses.”

Ideas to expore:
Transcendence of boundaries, specifically space and time
Gender as a natural or unnatural distinction among people
Love, or the object of love, as secondary to the personal pursuit


“The Hopi, an Indian tribe, have a language as sophisticated as ours, but no tenses for past, present and future. The division does not exist. What does this say about time?
Matter, that thing the most solid and the well-known, which you are holding in your hands and which makes up your body, is now known to be mostly empty space. Empty space and points of light. What does this say about the reality of the world?”

“When Jordan was a baby he sat on top of me much as a fly rests on a hill of dung. And I nourished him as a hill of dung nourishes a fly, and when he had eaten his fill he left me.
Jordan . . .
I should have named him after a stagnant pond and then I could have kept him, but I named him after a river and in the flood-tide he slipped away.”

“Singing is my pleasure, but not in church, for the parson said the gargoyles must remain on the outside, not seek room in the choir stalls. So I sing inside the mountain of my flesh, and my voice is as slender as a reed and my voice has no lard in it. When I sing the dogs sit quiet and people who pass in the night stop their jabbering and discontent and think of other times, when they were happy. And I sing of other times, when I was happy, though I know that these are figments of my mind and nowhere I have been. But does it matter if the place cannot be mapped as long as I can still describe it?”

“What I remember is the shining water and the size of the world.”

“As we descended through the clean air we saw, passing us by from time to time, new flocks of words coming from the people in the streets who, not content with the weight of their lives, continually turned the heaviest of things into the lightest of properties.”

“It is well known that the ceiling of one room is the floor of another, but the household ignores this ever-downward necessity and continues ever upward, celebrating ceilings but denying floors, and so their house never ends and they must travel by winch or rope from room to room, calling to one another as they go.”

“Your greatest strength is that every man believes he knows the sum and possibility of every woman.”

“I am too huge for love. No one, male or female, has ever dared to approach me. They are afraid to scale mountains.
I wonder about love because the parson says that only God can truly love us and the rest is lust and selfishness.
In church, there are carvings of a man with his member swollen out like a marrow, rutting a woman whose teats swish the ground like a cow before milking. She has her eyes closed and he looks up to Heaven, and neither of them notice the grass is on fire.
The parson had these carvings done especially so that we could contemplate our sin and where it must lead.
There are women too, hot with lust, their mouths sucking at each other, and men grasping one another the way you would a cattle prod.
We file past every Sunday to humble ourselves and stay clean for another week, but I have noticed a bulge here and there where all should be quiet and God-like.”

“I hate to wash, for it exposes the skin to contamination.”

“‘The world is full of dancers,’ said one, blowing the smoke in circles round my head.”

“Then, it began night, and the twin stars of Castor and Pollux just visible in the sky, I spoke of that tragedy, of two brothers whose love we might find unnatural, so stricken in grief when one was killed that the other, begging for his life again, accepted instead that for half the year one might live, and for the rest of the year the other, but never the two together. So it is for us, who while on earth in these suits of lead sense the presence of one we love, not far away but too far to touch. 
The villagers were silent and one by one began to move away, each in their own thoughts. A woman brushed my hair back with her hand. I stayed where I was with my shoulders against the rough sea wall and asked myself what I hadn’t asked th others.
Was I searching for a dancer whose name I did not know or was I searching for the dancing part of myself?

“As for Jordan, he has not my common sense and will no doubt follow his dreams to the end of the world and then fall straight off.
I cannot school him in love, having no experience, but I can school him in its lack and perhaps persuade him that there are worse things than loneliness.”

“The whore from Spitalfields had told me that men like to be consumed in the mouth, but it still seems to me a reckless act, for the member must take some time to grow again. None the less their bodies are their own, and I who know nothing of them must take instruction humbly, and if a man asks me to do the same again I’m sure I shall, though for myself I felt nothing.”

“We were all nomads once, and crossed the deserts and the seas on tracks that could not be detected, but were clear to those who knew the way. Since settling down and rooting like trees, but without the ability to make use of the wind to scatter our seed, we have found only infection and discontent.”

“My husband married me so that his liaisons with other women, being forbidden, would be more exciting. Danger was an aphrodisiac to him: he wanted nothing easy or gentle. His way was to cause whirlwinds. I was warned, we always are, by well-wishers or malcontents, but I chose to take no interest in gossip. My husband was handsome and clever. What did it matter if he needed a certain kind of outlet, so long as he loved me? I wanted to love him; I was determined to be happy with him. I had not been happy before.
At first I hardly minded his weeks away. I did not realize that part of his sport was to make me mad. Only then, when he had hurt me, could he fully enjoy the other beds he visited.
I soon discovered that the women he preferred were the inmates of a lunatic asylum. With them he arranged mock marriages in deserted barns. They wore a shroud as their wedding dress and carried a bunch of carrots as a bouquet. He had them straight after on a pig-trough altar. Most were virgins. He liked to come home to me smelling of their blood.
Doe the body hate itself so much that it seeks release at any cost?
I didn’t kill him. I left him to walk the battlements of his ruined kingdom; his body was raddled with disease. The same winter he was found dead in the snow.
Why could he not turn his life towards me, as trees though troubled by the wind yet continue the path of the sun?”

“He called me Jess because that is the name of the hood which restrains the falcon.
I was his falcon. I hung on his arm and fed at his hand. He said my nose was sharp and cruel and that my eyes had madness in them. He said I would tear him to pieces if he dealt softly with me.
At night, if he was away, he had me chained to our bed. It was a long chain, long enough for me to use the chamber pot or to stand at the window and wait for the late owls. I love to hear the owls. I love to see the sudden glide of wings spread out for prey, and then the dip and the noise like a lover in pain.
He used the chain when we went riding together. I had a horse as strong as his, and he’d whip the horse from behind and send it charging through the trees, and he’d follow, half a head behind, pulling on the chain and asking me how I liked my ride.
His game was to have me sit astride him when we made love and hold me tightin the small of my back. He said he had to have me above him, in case I picked his eyes out in the faltering candlelight.
I was none of these things, but I became them.
At night, in June I think, I flew off his wrist and tore his liver from his body, and bit my chain in pieces and left him on the bed with his eyes open.
He looked surprised. I don’t know why. As your lover describes you, so you are.”

 “He admitted he was in love with her, but he said he loved me.
Translated, that means, I want everything. Translated, that means, I don’t want to hurt you yet. Translated, that means, I don’t know what to do, give me time.
Why, why should I give you time? What time are you giving me? I am in a cell waiting to be called for execution.
I loved him and I was in love with him. I didn’t use language to make a war-zone of my heart.
‘You’re so simple and good,’ he said, brushing the hair from my face.
He meant, Your emotions are not complex like mine. My dilemma is poetic.
But there was no dilemma. He no longer wanted me, but he wanted our life.”

“She was, of all of us, the best dancer, the one who made her body into shapes we could not follow. She did it for pleasure, but there was something more for her; she did it because any other life would have been a lie. She didn’t burn in secret with a passion she could not express; she shone.”

“When I have shaken off my passion, somewhat as a dog shakes off an unexpected plunge into the canal, I find myself without any understanding of what it was that ravaged me. The beloved is shallow, witless, heartless, mercenary, calculating, silly. Naturally these thoughts protect me, but they also render me entirely gullible or without discrimination.
And so I will explain as follows.
A man or woman sunk in dreams that cannot be spoken, about a life they do not possess, comes suddenly to a door in the wall. They open it. Beyond the door is that life and a man or a woman to whom it is already natural. It may not be possessions they want, it may very well be the lack of them, but the secret life is suddenly revealed. This is their true home and this is their beloved.
I may be cynical when I say that very rarely is the beloved more than a shaping spirit for the lover’s dreams. And perhaps such a thing is enough. To be a muse may be enough. The pain is when the dreams change, as they do, as they must. Suddenly the enchanted city fades and you are left alone again in the windy desert. As for your beloved, she didn’t understand you. The truth is, you never understood yourself.”

“My mother, when she saw me patiently trying to make a yield between a Polstead Black and a Morello, cried two things: ‘Thou mayest as well try to make a union between thyself and me by sewing us at the hip,’ and then, ‘Of what sex is that monster you are making?’
I tried to explain to her that the tree would still be female although it had not been born from seed, but she said such things had no gender and were a confusion to themselves.
‘Let the world mate of its own accord,’ she said, ‘or not at all.’
But the cherry grew, and we have sexed it and it is female.
What I would like is to have some of Tradescant grafted on to me so that I could be a hero like him. He will flourish in any climate, pack his ships with precious things and be welcomed with full honours when the King is restored.
England is a land of heroes, every boy knows that.”

“Islands are metaphors for the heart, no matter what poet says otherwise.
My own heart, like this wild place, has never been visited, and I do not know whether it could sustain life.
In an effort to find out I am searching for a dancer who may or may not exist, though I was never conscious of beginning this journey. Only in the course of it have I realized its true aim. When I left England I thought I was running away. Running away from uncertainty and confusion but most of all running away from myself. I thought I might become someone else in time, grafted on to something better and stronger. And then I saw that the running away was a running towards. And effort to catch up with my fleet-footed self, living another life in a different way.
I gave chase in a ship, but others make the journey without moving at all. Whenever someone’s eyes glaze over, you have lost them. They are as far from you as if their body were carried at the speed of light beyond the compass of the world.
Time has no meaning, space and place have no meaning, on this journey. All times can be inhabited, all places visited. In a single day the mind can make a millpond of the oceans. Some people who have never crossed the land they were born on have travelled all over the world. The journey is not linear, it is always back and forth, denying the calendar, the wrinkles and lines of the body. The self is not contained in any moment or any place, but it is only in the intersection of moment and place that the self might, for a moment, be seen vanishing through a door, which disappears at once.”

“The Flat Earth Theory
The earth is round and flat at the same time. This is obvious. That it is round appears indisputable; that it is flat is our common experience, also indisputable. The blobe does not supersede the map; the map does not distort the globe.

Maps are constantly being re-made as knowledge appears to increase. But is knowlede increasing or is detail accumulating?
A map can tell me how to find a place I have not seen but have often imagined. When I get there, following the map faithfully, the place is not the place of my imagination. Maps, growing ever more real, are much less true.
And now, swarming over the earth with our tiny insect bodies and putting up flags and building houses, it seems that all the journeys are done.
Not so. Fold up the maps and put away the globe. If someone else had charted it, let them. Start another drawing with whales at the bottom and cormorants at the top, and in between identity, if you can, the places you have not found yet on those other maps, the connections obvious only to you. Round and flat, only a very little has been discovered.”

“Lies 1: There is only the present and nothing to remember.
Lies 2: Time is a straight line.
Lies 3: The difference between the past and the future is not that one has happened while the other has not.
Lies 4: We can only be in one place at a time.
Lies 5: Any proposition that contains the word ‘finite’ (the world, the universe, experience, ourselves . . . )
Lies 6: Reality as something which can be agreed upon.
Lies 7: Reality as truth.”

“Now the future is wild and waits for us as a beast in a lair.”

“Thinking about time is to acknowledge two contradictory certainties: that our outward lives are governed by the seasons and the clock; that our inward lives are governed by something much less regular – an imaginative impulse cutting through the dictates of daily time, and leaving us free to ignore the boundaries of here and now and pass like lightning along the coil of pure time, that is, the circle of the universe and whatever it does or does not contain.
Outside of the rules of daily time, not to be is as exact as to be. We can’t talk about all that the universe contains because to do so would be to render it finite and we know in some way, that we cannot prove, that it is infinite. So what the universe doesn’t contain is as significant to us as what it does. There will be a moment (though of course it won’t be a moment) when we will know (though knowing will no longer be separate from being) that we are a part of all we have met and that all we have met was already a part of us.”

“But we do not move through time, time moves through us. I say this because our physical bodies have a natural decay span, they are one-use-only units that crumble around us. To everyone, this is a surprise. Although, we see it in parents and our friends we are always amazed to see it in ourselves. The most prosaic of us betray a belief in the inward life every time we talk about ‘my body’ rather than ‘I’. We feel it as absolutely part but not all part of who we are.”

“Empty space and light. For us, empty space is space empty of people. The sea blue-black at night, stretched on a curve under the curve of the sky, blue-black and pinned with silver stars that never need polish. The Arctic, where the white snow is the white of nothing and defies the focus of the eye. Forests and rain forests and waterfalls that roar down the hollows of rocks. Deserts like a burning fire. Paintings show us how light affects us, for to live in light is to live in time and not be conscious of it, except in the most obvious ways. Paintings are light caught and held like a genie in a jar. The energy is trapped for ever, concentrated, unable to disperse.
Still life is dancing life. The dancing life of light.”

“Time 4: Did my childhood happen? I must believe it did, but I don’t have any proof. My mother says it did, but she is a fantasist, a liar and a murderer, though none of that would stop me loving her. I remember things, but I too am a fantasist, a liar and a murderer, though none of that would stop me loving her. I remember things, but I too am a fantasist and a liar, though I have not killed anyone yet.
There are others whom I could ask, but I would not count their word in a court of law. Can I count it in a more serious matter? I will have to assume that I had a childhood, but I cannot assume to have had the one I remember.
Everyone remembers things which never happened. And it is common knowledge that people often forget things which did. Either we are all fantasists and liars or the past has nothing definite in it. I have heard people say we are shaped by our childhood. But which one?”

“The night before, our last night together as sisters, we slept as always in a long line of single beds beneath the white sheets and blankets like those who have fallen asleep in the snow. From this room, in the past, we had flown to a silver city and knew neither day nor night, and in that city we had danced for joy thinking nothing of the dawn where we lived.”

“After a few simple experiments it became certain that for the people who had abandoned gravity, gravity had abandoned them. There was a general rejoicing, and from that day forth no one concerned themselves with floors or with falling, thought it was still thought necessary to build a ceiling in your house in order to place the chandelier.”

“I thought she might want to travel but she tells me truths I already know, that she need not leave this island to see the world, she has seas and cities enough in her mind. If she does, if we all do, it may be that this world and the moon and stars are also a matter of the mind, though a mind of vaster scope than ours. If someone is thinking me, then I am still free to come and go. It will not be like chess, this thoughtful universe, it will be a theatre of changing sets, where we could walk through walls if we wanted, but do not, being faithful to our own sense of the dramatic.”

“The sense of loss was hard to talk about. What could I have lost when I never had anything to begin with?
I had myself to begin with, and that is what I lost. Lost it in my mother because she is bigger and stronger than me and that’s not how it’s supposed to be with sons. But lost it more importantly in the gap between my ideal of myself and my pounding heart.”

“When we get home, men and women will crowd round us and ask us what happened and every version we tell will be a little more fanciful. But it will be real, whereas if I begin to tell my story about where I’ve been and where I thin kI’ve been, who will believe me? In a boy it might be indulged, but I’m not a boy any more, I’m a man.”

“Are we all living like this? Two lives, the ideal outer life and the inner imaginative life where we keep our secrets?
Curiously, the further I have pursued my voyages the more distant they have become. For Tradescant, voyages can be completed. They occupy time comfortably. With some leeway, they are predictable. I have set off and found that there is no end to even the simplest journey of the mind. I begin, and straight away a hundred alternative routes present themselves. I choose one, no sooner begin, than a hundred more appear. Every time I try to narrow down my intent I expand it, and yet those straits and canals still lead me to the open sea, and then I realize how vast it all is, this matter of the mind. I am confounded by the shining water and the size of the world.
The Buddhists say there are 149 ways to God. I’m not looking for God, only myself, and that is far more complicated. God has had a great deal written about Him; nothing has been written about me. God is bigger, like my mother, easier to find, even in the dark. I could be anywhere, and since I can’t describe myself I can’t ask for help. We are alone in this quest, and Fortunata is right not to disguise it, though she may be wrong about love. I have met a great many pilgrims on their way towards God and I wonder why they have chosen to look for him rather than themselves. Perhaps I’m missing the point – perhaps whilst looking for someone else you might come across yourself unexpectedly, in a garden somewhere or on a mountain watching the rain. But they don’t seem to care about who they are. Some of them have told me that they very point of searching for God is to forget about oneself, to lose oneself for ever. But it is not difficult to lose oneself, or is it the ego they are talking about, the hollow, screaming cadaver that has no spirit within it?
I think that cadaver is only the ideal self run mad, and if the other life, the secret life, could be found and brought home, then a person might live in peace and have no need for God. After all, He has no need for us, being complete.”

“A gypsy with a crown of stars offered to tell fortunes, but when she looked at my hand she looked away. I was not discouraged; I am enough to make my own fortune in this pock-marked world.”

“When I was a girl I heard my mother and father copulating. I heard my father’s steady grunts and my mother’s silence. Later my mother told me that men take pleasure and women give it. She told me in a matter-of-fact way, in the same tone of voice she used to tell me how to feed the dogs or make bread.”

“I have forgotten my childhood, not just because of my father but because it was a bleak and unnecessary time, full of longing and lost hope. I can remember some incidents, but the sense of time passing escapes me. If I were to stretch out all that seemed to happen, and relive it, it might take a day or two. Where then are all the years in between?”

“I saw the painting and tried to imagine what it would be like to bring something home for the first time. I tried to look at a pineapple and pretend I’d never seen one before. I couldn’t do it. There’s so little wonder left in the world because we’ve seen everything one way or another. Where had that pineapple come from? Barbados was easy to find out, but who had brought it, and under what circumstances, and why?”

“I built my own model ship from the pictures. At first I had kits with balsa wood rigging and plastic seamen, but soon I learned to design my own with tools from my father’s workshop. I never bothered with a crew. The crew weren’t beautiful, they were just slaves of the ship.
At weekends my mother cooked and my father read the paper. I went to the pond and sailed my boats. I liked the uncertainty of the wind. Jack came with me, bringing his books on computer science and his father’s copies of GP, a magazine for doctors. The magazines were full of pictures of incurables, and that included anyone suffering from the common cold.
‘It has to go away of its own accord,’ said Jack. ‘All those little pills are just money-makers.’
‘Like love,’ I said, setting the rudder. ‘There’s no cure for love.’
‘Who are you in love with?’ said Jack.
‘No one. She doesn’t exist.’
‘It’s the most unhygienic thing you can do,’ said Jack.
‘It can’t be. What about people who work in sewers?’
‘They wear protective clothing. People in love hardly ever wear clothes – look at the magazines.’
He meant Playboy and Penthouse. His father took those too.”

“‘I’ve been everywhere, but I still have a feeling I’ve missed it. I feel like I’m being laughed at, I don’t know what by, who by, it sounds silly. I think I may have missed the world, that the one I’ve seen is a decoy to get me off the scent. I feel as though I’m always on the brink of making sense of it and then I lose it again.'”

“If you’re a hero you can be an idiot, behave badly, ruin your personal life, have any number of mistresses and talk about yourself all the time, and nobody minds.”

“A lot of small men would like to be heroes, they have to have their fantasy moment. Thing is, the small ones always get killed.”

“I’ve never wanted to be an astronaut because of the helmets. If I were up there on the moon, or by the Milky Way, I’d want to feel the stars round my head. I’d want them in my hair the way they are in paintings of the gods. I’d want my whole body to feel the space, the empty space and points of light. That’s how dancers must feel, dancers, and acrobats, just for a second, that freedom.”

“My father watches space films. They’re different: they’re the only area of undiminished hope. They’re happy and they have women in them who are sometimes scientists rather than singers or waitresses. Sometimes the women get to be heroes too, though this is still not as popular. When I watch space films I always want to cry because they leave you with so much to hope for, it feels like a beginning, not a tired old end.
But when we’ve been everywhere, and it’s only a matter of time, where will we go next, when there are no more wildernesses?
Will it take as long as that before we stard the journey inside, down our own time tunnels and deep into the realms of inner space?”

“So I learned to be alone and to take pleasure in the dark where no one could see me and where I could look at the stars and invent a world where there was no gravity, no holding force. I wasn’t fat because I was greedy; I hardly ate at all. I was fat because I wanted to be bigger than all the things that were bigger than me. All the things that had power over me. It was a battle I intended to win.
It seems obvious, doesn’t it, that someone who is ignored and overlooked with expand to the point where they have to be noticed, even if the noticing is fear and disgust.”

“How do you persuade someone not to feel? And so my strongest instinct is to abandon the common-sense approach and accept what is actually happening to me; that time has slowed down.
Why not? Under certain conditions our pulses slow or race, our breathing alters, the whole body will change its habit if necessary.
There are so many fairy stories about someone who falls asleep for a little while and wakes up to find himself in a different time. Outwardly nothing is changing for me, but inwardly I am not always here, sitting by a rotting river. I can still escape.”

“Poisoned or not, the mercury has made me think like this. Drop it and it shivers in clones of itself all over the floor, but you can scoop it up gain and there won’t be any seams or shatter marks. It’s one life or countless lives depending on what you want.
What do I want?
When I’m dreaming I want a home and a lover and some children, but it won’t work. Who’d want to live with a monster? I may not look like a monster any more but I couldn’t hide it for long. I’d break out, splitting my dress, throwing the dishes at the milkman if he leered at me and said, ‘Hello, darling.’ The truth is I’
ve lost patience with this hypocritical stinking world. I can’t take it any more. i can’t flatter, lie, cajole or even smile very much. What is there to smile about?
‘You don’t try,’ my mother said. ‘It’s not so bad.’
It is so bad.
‘You’re pretty,’ said my father, ‘any man would want to marry you.’
Not if he pulled back my eyelids, not if he peeped into my ears, not if he looked down my throat with a torch, not if he listened to my heartbeat with a stethoscope. He’d run out of the room holding his head. He’d see her, the other one, lurking inside. She fits, even though she’s so big.”

“The future is intact, still unredeemed, but the past is irredeemable. She is not who she thought she was. Every action and decision has led her here. The moment has been waiting the way the top step of the stairs waits for the sleepwalker. She has fallen and now she is awake.”

“It’s almost light. She wants to lie awake watching the night fade and the stars fade until the first grey-blue slates the sky. She wants to see the sun slash the water, but she can’t stay awake for everything; some things have to pass her by. So what she doesn’t see are the lizards coming out for food, or Orion’s eyes turned glassy overnight.”

“I asked if their language had some similarity to Spanish and he laughed again and said, fantastically, that their language has no grammar in the way we recognize it. Most bizarre of all, they have no tenses for past, present and future. They do not sense time in that way. For them, time is one. The old man said it was impossible to learn their language without learning their world. I asked him how long it had taken him and he said that question had no meaning.”

“We packed our things and left for his ship. I would gladly have taken the dog kennel and its occupant, but she would not come. We made her a raft from a chicken crate and left her staring at the smoke-filled sky.”

“His face was pale, his hands trembled. I thought it was the devastation he had seen, but he shook his head. He was coming through London Fields when the fog covered him and, hurrying, he had fallen and banged his head. He came to, and feeling his way, arms outstretched, he had suddenly touched another face and screamed out. For a second the fog cleared and he saw that the stranger was himself.
‘Perhaps I am to die,’ he said, and then, while I was protesting this, ‘Or perhaps I am to live, to be complete as she said I would be.’
‘Who is this she?’

“The future lies ahead like a glittering city, but like the cities of the desert disappears when approached. In certain lights it is easy to see the towers and the domes, even the people going to and fro. We speak of it with longing and with love. The future. But the city is a fake. The future and the present and the past exist only in our minds, and from a distance the borders of each shrink and fade like the borders of hostile countries seen from a floating city in the sky. The river runs from one country to another without stopping. And even the most solid of things and the most real, the best-loved and the well-known, are only hand-shadows on the wall. Empty space and points of light.”

Gertrude Stein

November 29, 2006


Born to a German-Jewish immigrant family in Allegheny, Pennsylvania
Youngest of seven children
By the time she was 17, both of her parents were dead
Became the favorite student of William James while at Harvard: supposedly Stein wrote on an exam, “I’m sorry Professor James, I do not feel like taking an exam today” and James wrote on the top, “I understand perfectly. A.”
One of the first women to be admitted to John Hopkins medical school but just before graduating she lost interest in medicine (my book says because of an unhappy love affair with another woman, although I don’t see a connection)
Left with her brother Leo for Paris and began to build on eof the most remarkable and forward-looking art collections of the time
By 1910 Leo moved out and Alice B. Toklas moved in: Toklas was Stein’s devoted companion and lover for the rest of her life
Stein devoted herself to what she called ‘portraits’ prose poems about friends and artists
Wrote more conventional looking oems years before WWI
During WWI, Stein and Toklas labored as volunteers for relief to the troops and became famous for their literary salon
Became a well-known celebrity and spoke to sold-out auditoriums across the nation: had tea with Eleanor Roosevelt in the White House
Headed south when France fell to the Nazis in 1940 because both were in jeopardy of being transported to death camps
Died in 1946 of cancer
Before she was wheeled into the operation from which she never recovered consciousness she whispered to Toklas

“What is the answer?”
When Toklas was unable to respond, Stein smilingly asked
“In that case, what is the question?”


What Do I See.

A very little snail. / A medium sized turkey. / A small band of sheep. / A fair orange tree. / All nice wives are like that. / Listen to them from here. / Oh. / You did not have to answer. / Here. / Yes.

Why Do You Feel Differently.

Why do you feel differently about a very little snail and a big one. / Why do you feel differently about a medium sized turkey and a very large one. / Why do you feel differently about a small band of sheep and several sheep that are riding. / Why do you feel differently about a fair orange tree and one that has blossoms as well. / Oh very well. All nice wives are like that.
To Be / No Please. / To Be / They can please / Not to be / Do they please. / Not to be / Do they not please / Yes please. / Do they please / No please. / Please. / If you please. / And if you please. / And if they please. / And they please. / To be pleased. / Not to be pleased. / Not to be dispelased. / To be pleased and to please.

Bundles For Them.
A History of Giving Bundles.

We were able to notice that each one in a way carried a bundle, they were not a trouble to them nor were they all bundles as some of them were chickens some of them pheasants some of them sheep and some of them bundles, they were not a trouble to them and then indeed we learned that it was the principal recreation and they were so arranged that they were not given away, and to-day they were given away.
I will not look at them again. / They will not look for them again. / They have not seen them here again. / They are in there and we hear them again. / In which way are stars brighter than they are. When we have collie to this decision. We mention many thousands of buds. And whne I close my eyes I see them. / If you hear her snore / It is not before you love her / You love her so that to be her beau is very lovely / She is sweetly there and her curly hair is very lovely / She is sweetly here and I am very near and that is very lovely. / She is my tender sweet and her little feet are stretched out well which is a treat and very lovely / Her little tender nose is between her little eyes which close and are very lovely / She is very lovely and mine which is very lovely.

Let Us Describe

Let us describe how they went. It was a very windy night and the road although in excellent condition and extremely well graded has many turnings and although the curves are not sharp the rise is considerable. It was a very windy night and some of the larger vehicles found it more prudent not to venture. In consequence some of those who had planned to go were unable to do so. Many others did go and there was a sacrifice, of what shall we, a sheep, a hen, a cock, a village, a ruin, and all that and then that having been blessed let us bless it.

-Idem the Same

Idem is Latin for “the same”
The poem is a dual valentine intended for Toklas and their good friend Sherwood Anderson

A carafe, that is a blind glass.
A kind in glass and a cousin, a spectacle and nothing strange a single hurt col.or and an arrangement in a system to pointing. All this and not ordinary, not unordered in not resembling. The difference is spreading.

A box.
Out of kindness comes redness and out of rudeness comes rapid same question, out of an eye comes research, out of selection comes painful cattle. So then the order is that a white way of being round is something suggesting a pin and is it disappointing, it is not, it is so rudimentary to be analyzed and see a fine substance strangely, it is so earnest to have a green point not to red but to point again.

A long dress.
What is the current that makes machinery, that makes it crackle, what is the current that presents a long line and a necessary waits. What is this current.
What is the wind, what is it.
Where is the serene length, it is there and a dark place is not a dark place, only a white and red are black, only a yellow and green are blue, a pink is scarlet, a bow is every color. A line distinguishes it. A line just distinguishes it.

A white hunter.
A white hunter is nearly crazy.


Custard is this. It has aches, aches when. Not to be. Not to be narrowly.
This makes a whole little hill.
It is better than a little thing that has mellow real mellow. It is better than lakes whole lakes, it is better than seeding.

Asparagus in a lean in a lean to hot. This makes it art and it is wet wet weather wet weather wet.

Orange in.
Go lack go lack use to her.
Cocoa and clear soup and oranges and oat-meal.
Whist bottom whist close, whist clothes, woodling.
Cocoa and clear soup and oranges and oat-meal.
Pain soup, suppose it is question, suppose it is butter, real is, real is only, only excreate, only excreate a no since.
A no, a no since, a no since when, a no since when since, a no since when since a no since when since, a no since, a no since when since, a no since, a no, a no since a no since, a no since, a no since.


-Tender Buttons

Tender Buttons is a sequence of interrelated poems which evokes an enigmatic but mostly happy domestic world of objects, food, and rooms

E. E. Cummings

November 27, 2006


American poet and painter who first attracted attention for his eccentric punctuation
Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to liberal, encouraging parents
His father was a Harvard teacher and later a Unitarian minister
Educated at Cambridge High and Latin School, and from 1911 to 1916 he attended Harvard, where he met John Dos Passos
Became an aesthete, he began to dress unconventionally, and dedicated himself to painting and literature
During the last years of World War I, he drove an ambulance in France: indiscreet comments in the letters of a friend led to Cummings’s arrest and incarceration in a French concentration camp at La Ferté-Macé: later, he found out he had been accused of treason but the charges were never proved
Supported himself by painting portraits and writing for Vanity Fair
Was married three times
Believed that modern mass society was a threat to individuals
Interersted in cubism, and jazz (which had not became mass entertainment, and contemporary slang) an unorthodox form of language
Poetry expressed his rebellious attitude towards religion, politics, and conformity
Dealt with the antagonism between an individual and masses


am was.  are leaves few this.  is these a or / scratchily over which of earth dragged once / -ful leaf. & were who skies clutch an of poor / how colding hereless.  air theres what immense / live without every dancing.  singless on- / ly a child’s eyes float silently down / more than two those that and that noing our / gone snow gone
                      yours mine / .  We’re
alive and shall be:cities may overflow (am / was) assassinating whole grassblades,five / ideas can swallow a man;three words im / -prison a woman for all her now:but we’ve / such freedom such intense digestion so / much greenness only dying makes us grow

-am was.  are leaves few this.  is these a or (in whole)

up into the silence the green / silence with a white earth in it
you will (kiss me) go
out into the morning the young / morning with a warm world in it
(kiss me) you will go
on into the sunlight the fine / sunlight with a firm day in it
you will go (kiss me
down into your memory and / a memory and a memory
i) kiss me (will go)

-up into the silence the green (in whole)

anyone lived in a pretty how town / (with up so floating many bells down) / spring summer autumn winter / he sang his didn’t he danced his did.
Women and men (both little and small) / cared for anyone not at all / they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same / sun moon stars rain children guessed (but only a few / and down they forgot as up they grew / autumn winter spring summer) / that noone loved him more by more
when by now and tree by leaf / she laughed his joy she cried his grief / bird by snow and stir by still / anyone’s any was all to her someones married their everyones / laughed their cryings and did their dance / (sleep wake hope and then) they / said their nevers they slept their dream
stars rain sun moon / (and only the snow can begin to explain / how children are apt to forget to remember / with up so floating many bells down)
one day anyone died i guess / (and noone stooped to kiss his face) / busy folk buried them side by side / little by little and was by was all by all and deep by deep / and more by more they dream their sleep / noone and anyone earth by april / wish by spirit and if by yes.
Women and men (both dong and ding) / summer autumn winter spring / reaped their sowing and went their came / sun moon stars rain

 -anyone lived in a pretty how town (in whole)

these people socalled were not given hearts / how should they be?their socalled hearts would think / these socalled people have no minds but it / they had their minds socalled would not exist 
but if these not existing minds took life / such life could not begin to live id est / breathe but if such life could its breath would stink
and so for souls why souls are wholes not parts / but all these hundred upon thousands of / people socalled if multiplies by twice / infinity could never equal one)
which may your million selves and my suffice / to through the only mystery of love / become while every sun goes round its moon 

-these people socalled were not given hearts (in whole)

if there are any heavens my mother will (all by herself) have / one. It will not be a pansy heaven nor / a fragile heaven of lilies-of-the-valley but / it will be a heaven of blackred roses
my father will be (deep like a rose / tall like a rose)
standing near my
(swaying over her / silent) / with eyes which are really petals and see
nothing with the face of a poet really which / is a flower and not a face with / hands / which whisper / This is beloved my / (suddenly in sunlight / he will bow,
& the whole garden will bow)

-if there are any heavens my mother will (all by herself) have (in whole)

O sweet spontaneous / earth how often have / the / doting
fingers of prurient philosophers pinced / and / poked
thee / , has the naughty thumb / of science prodded / thy
beaty     . how / often have religions taken / thee upon their scraggy knees / squeezing and
bufferting thee that thou mightest conceive / gods / (but / true
to the imcomparable / couch of death thy / rhythmic / lover
thou answerest
them only with

-O sweet spontaneous (in whole)

Walter Arensberg

October 24, 2006


Major Dadaist figure
Majored in English and philosophy at Harvard University
Arensberg and his wife, Louise, were wealthy art collectors who purchased most of the works of the avant-garde French artist Marcel Duchamp
Thought poetry should appeal to

“all those alive without formula”

Described Dada poems as being representative of

“all that is young, alive, sporting”


Ing? Is it possible to mean ing? / Suppose / for the termination in g / a disoriented / series / of simple fractures / in sleep / Soporific / has accordingly a value for soap / so present to / sew pieces. / And p says: Peace is. / And suppose the i / to be bing in ing / As Beginning / Then Ing is to ing / as aloud / accompanied by times / and the meaning is apossibility / of ralsis.

-Ing (in whole)

Displays Arensberg’s exuberant and inconoclastic wordplay
puns, phonic repetitions, homophones, and invented words

Else von Freytag-Loringhoven

October 24, 2006


Leading Dadaist figure
Born on Polish-German border under a different, less regal name, the abused child of a stonemason
Arrived in the US. in 1909 after having lived a life filled with name changes, job changes, husbands, and lovers
Assumed her title of baroness through marriage to a man who soon left her
Lived in Greenwhich Village, New York working menial jobs, modeling for artists, and committing petty crimes
Arrived at parties wearing a birdcage or a bustle with a taillights
Produced art objects out of garbage
Improvised poems out of the words and images that chanced her way
Returned to Europe and became involved during this time in a bisexual affair with novelist Djuna Barnes, and she idolized Barnes for the remainder of her lifetime
Died in Paris when someone (it is suggested that it was a previous lover) snuck into her room and turned on the gas
Referred to in Pound’s Cantos as a woman living by

“the principle of non-acquiescence”

Mary Anne Caws describes her as

“the author of texts as bizarre as her outfits”


City stir- -wind on eardrum- – / dancewind : herbstained – – / flowerstained- -silken- -rustling- – / tripping- -swishing- -frolicking- – / courtesing- -careening- -brushing- – / flowing- -lying down- -bending- – / teasing- -kissing : treearms- -grass- – / limbs- -lips. / City stir on eardrum- -. / In night lonely / peers- -: / moon- -riding ! / pale- -with beauty aghast- – / too exalted to share ! / in space blue- -rides she away from mine chest- – / illumined strangely- – / appalling sister !
Herbstained- -flowerstained- – / shellscented- -seafaring- – / foresthunting- -junglewise- – / desert gazing- – / rides heart from chest- – / lashing with beauty- – / afleet- – / across chimney- – / tinfoil river- – / to meet- – / another’s dark heart- –
Bless mine feet !

-Appalling Heart (in whole)

Kaleidoscopic text suggests a scene both urban and natural, and an interior life marked by psychic mobility

It is- -is it- – ? / heart white sheet ! / kiss it / flame beat ! / in chest midst / print teeth / bite- –  – –   – –  / this green / ponderous night.

-Is It? (in whole)

Gerard Manley Hopkins

October 24, 2006


First publication of his poems was made accessible to readers 29 years after his death
Most poems celebrate the wonders of God’s creation
Were known only to a small circle of friends during his lifetime
Praised for his striking experiments with meter and diction
Widely hailed as a pioneering figure of ‘modern’ literature and unconnected with fellow Victorian poets
Often grouped with twentieth-century poets
Born near London into a cultivated family in comfortable circumstances
Attended Oxford and was exposed to the Broad Church theology of one of his tutors
White at Oxford Hopkins wrote poems in the vein of John Keats but burned most of these writings after his conversion: drafts survive
Entered the Roman Catholic Church: suffered estrangement from his family
Because a Jesuit priest
Appointed professor of classics at University College in Dublin
Felt everything in the universe was characterized by what he called ‘inscape’: the distinctive design that constitutes individual dynamic identity: Each being in the universe enacts its identity and the human recognizes the inscape of other beings in an act he terms instress: the apprehension of an object in an intense thrust of energy toward it that enables one to realize its specific distinctiveness- all of this leads on to Christ, for the individual identity of any object is the stamp of divine creation
Poetry enacts this celebration of identity
Hopkins seeks to give each poem a unique design that captures the initial inspiration when he is caught by his subject
Creates compounds to represent the unique interlocking fo the characteristics of an object
Disrupts conventional syntax, coins and compounds words, and uses ellipsis and repetition to represent the stress and action of the brain in moments of inspiration
Uses new rhythm to give each poem a distinctive design
Believed that sprung rhythm was the natural rhythm of common speech, written prose and music
In early poems, beauty of individual objects brings him close to God but in late poems the distinctive individuality comes to isolate him from God
In the ‘terrible sonnets’ he cannot escape a world solely of his own imagining
Yeats calls Hopkins’s poetry

“a last development of poetical diction.”


I caught this morning morning’s minion, king- / dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding / Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding / High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing / In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing, / As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding / Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding / Stirred for a bird, -the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here / Buckle! And the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion / Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough down sillion / Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear, / Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.

-The Windhover – To Christ our Lord (in whole)

Glory be to God for dappled things- / For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow; / For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim; / Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls, finches’ wings; / Landscape plotted and pieced- fold, fallow, and plough; / And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange; / Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?) / With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim; / He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: / Praise him.

-Pied Beauty (in whole)

Pied means of two or more colors in blotches, variegated

Margaret, are you grieving/ Over Goldengrove unleaving?/ Leaves, like the things of man, you/ With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?/ Ah! as the heart grows older/ It will come to such sights colder/ By and by, nor spare a sigh/ Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;/ And yet you will weep and know why./ Now no matter, child, the name:/ Sorrow’s springs are the same./ Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed/ What heart heard of, ghost guessed:/ It is the blight man was born for,/ It is Margaret you mourn for.

-Spring and Fall (in whole)

To a Young Child

Langston Hughes

October 17, 2006


Major American poet, leading name in Harlem Renaissance poetry, premier poet of political left, international poet
Born in Joplin, Missouri in a racially segregated society where lynching was a growing problem
Wrote more than 20 poems on lynching alone
Descended from a distinguished abolitionist African-American family
Held long term same-sex relationships
Strongly influenced by a diverse range of poets: Edgar Lee Masters, Vachel Lindsay, Amy Lowell, Carl Sandburg, and Walt Whitman
Captivated by African-American singers more than any writer
Attended columbia University for one year, but spent the time exploring the world of Harlem
Unlike most poets, was able to support himself through writing
Traveled as a journalist to Spain during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39
Notably inventive in his use of culural styles and materials in poetry: adapted blues and jazz forms as well as oral traditions
Paired poetry with illustrations to tell stories more vividly
Relied on performing arts and drama to create a multi-voiced poetry
Investigated by FBI because of campaigns against lynching and leftist affiliations during the Cold War: not permitted to assume position of Poet Laureate
Forced to tone down politics in poetry and could not travel outside the country until 1960
Became the image of a poet who combines artistic innovation and vitality with joyful humor and humanity and the effective expression of social justice


Oh, silver tree! / Oh, shining rivers of the soul!
In a Harlem cabaret / Six long-headed jazzers play. / A dancing girl whose eyes are bold / Lifts high a dress of silken gold.
Oh, singing tree! / Oh, shining rivers of the soul!
Were Eve’s eyes / In the first garden / Just a bit too bold? / Was Cleaopatra gorgeous / In a gown of gold?
Oh, shining tree! / Oh, silver rivers of the soul!
In a whirling cabaret / Sing long-headed jazzers play.

-Jazzonia (in whole)

An attempt to adapt jazz to poetry

Droning a drowsy syncopated tune, / Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon, / I heard a Negro play. / Down on Lenox Avenue the other night / By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light / He did a lazy sway … / He did a lazy sway … / To the tune o’ those Weary Blues. / With his ebony hands on each ivory key / He made that poor piano moan with melody. / O Blues! / Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool / He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool. / Sweet Blues! / Coming from a black man’s soul. / O Blues!
In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone / I head that Negro sing, that old piano moan – / ‘Ain’t got nobody in all this world, / Ain’t got nobody but ma self. / I’s gwine to quit ma frownin’ / And put ma troubles on the shelf.’ / Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor. / He played a few chords then he sang some more – / ‘I got the Weary Blues / And I can’t be satisfied. / God the Weary Blues / And can’t be satisfied – / I ain’t happy no mo’ / And I wish that I had died.’ / And far into the night he crooned that tune. / The stars went out and so did the moon. / The singer stopped playing and went to bed / While the Weary Blues echoed through his head. / He slept like a rock or a man that’s dead.

-The Weary Blues (in whole)
See Poetry Speaks

Transformation of isolated pain into solace, art, and human connection

I’ve known rivers: / I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.
My sould has grown deep like the rivers.
I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young. / I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep. / I looked upon the Nile and Raised the pyramids above it. / I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down th New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.
I’ve known rivers: / Ancient, dusky rivers.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

-The Negro Speaks of Rivers (in whole)
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One of Hughes’ first poems, written in high school

I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother. / They send me to eat in the kitchen / When company comes, / But I laugh, / And eat well, / And grow strong.
Tomorrow, I’ll be at the table / When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare / Say to me, / ‘Eat in the kitchen,’ / Then.
Besides, / They’ll see how beautiful we are / And be ashamed-
I, too, am America.

-I, too (in whole)
See Poetry Archive

Compare to Walt Whitman’s “I Hear American Singing”

Oh, wash-woman / Arms elbow-deep in white suds, / Soul washed clean, Clothes washed clean, / I have many songs to sing you / Could I but find the words.
Was it four o’clock or six o’clock on a winter afternoon, I saw you wringing out the last shirt in Miss White Lady’s kitchen? Was it four o’clock or six o’clock? I don’t remember.
But I know, at seven one spring morning you were on Vermont Street with a bundle in your arms going to wash clothes. / And I know I’ve seen you in the New York subway in the late afternoon coming home from washing clothes.
Yes, I know you, wash-woman.
I know how you send your children to school, and high-school, and even college. / I know how you work to help your man when times are hard. / I know how you build your house up from the washtub and call it home. / And how you raise your churches from white suds for the service of the Holy God.
I’ve seen you winging, wash-woman. Out in the backyard garden under the apple trees, singing, hanging white clothes on long lines in the sunshine. / And I’ve seen you in church on Sunday morning singing, praising your Jesus because some day you’re going to sit on the right hand side of the Son of God and forget you ever were a wash-woman. And the aching back and the bundles of clothes will be unremembered then.
Yes, I’ve seen you singing.
So for you, O singing wash-woman, / For you, singing little brown woman, / Singing strong black woman, / Singing tall yellow woman, / Arms deep in white suds, / Soul washed clean, / Clothes washed clean, / For you I have / Many songs to sing / Could I but find the words.

-Song to a Negro Wash-Woman (in whole)

Jessie Redmon Fauset

October 16, 2006


Best known for literary editorship of the NAACP publication The Crisis
Discovered and promoted Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and Claude McKay
One of the Harlem Renaissance’s most prolific novelists
Mentored women writers thorough literary salons in her home and developed a poetic voice described as the New Negro Woman’s voice
Born in a Philadelphia suburb, was the only African American in her high school and college classes
First African American at Cornell University
Denied teaching position in Philadelphia because of her race, moved to Baltimore and Washington, D.C. to teach
Poetry focuses on African-American middle-class life as seen through the eyes of the New Negro Woman


How did it happen that we quarreled? / We two who loved each other so! / Only the moment before we were one, / Using language that lovers know. / And then of a sudden, a word, a phrase, / That struck at the heart like a poignard’s blow. / And you went berserk, and I saw red, / And love lay between us, bleeding and dead! / Dead! When we’d loved each other so!
How could it happen that we quarreled! / Think of the things we used to say! / ‘What does it matter, dear, what you do? / Love such as ours has to last for aye!; / – ‘Try me! I long to endure your test!’ / – ‘Love, we shall always love, come what may!’ / What are the words the apostle saith? / ‘In the power of the tongue are Life and Death!’ / Think of the
things we used to say!

-Words! Words! (in whole)

Dear, when we sit in that high, placid room, / ‘Loving’ and ‘doving’ as all lovers do, / Laughing and leaning so close in the gloom,-
What is the change that creeps sharp over you? / Just as you raise your fine hand to my hair, / Bringing that glance of mixed wonder and rue?
‘Black hair,’ you murmur, ‘so lustrious and rare, / Beautiful too, like a raven’s smooth wing; / Surely no gold locks were ever more fair.’
Why do you say every night that same thing? / Turning your mind to some old constant theme, / Half meditating and half murmuring?
Tell me, that girl of your young manhood’s dream, / Her you loved first in that dim long ago- / Had she blue eyes? Did her hair goldly gleam?
Does she come back to you softly and slow, / Stepping wraith-wise from the depths of the past? / Quickened and fired by the warmth of our glow?
There, I’ve divined it! My wit holds you fast. / Nay, no excuses; ’tis little I care, / I knew a lad in my own girlhood’s past, – / Blue eyes he had and such waving gold hair!

-Touche (in whole)

Touche is a French fencing term, meaning here “I’ve got you”
African-American poets are forced to redefine metaphor: black can no longer mean evil, white good
The man in the poem has no words, weak description of her hair, she understands and forgives him
Both have a traditional view of a fairy prince, or princess

On summer afternoons I sit / Quiescent by you in the park, / And idly watch the sunbeams gild / And tint the ash-trees’ bark.
Or else I watch the squirrels frisk / And chaffer in the grassy lane; / And all the while I mark your voice / Breaking with love and pain.
I know a woman who would give / Her chance of heaven to take my place; / To see the love-light in your eyes, / The love-glow on your face!
And there’s a man whose lightest word / Can set my chilly blood afire; / Fulfillment of his least behest / Defines my life’s desire.
But he will none of me. Nor I / Of you. Nor you of her. ‘Tis said / The world is full of jests like these. – / I wish that I were dead.

-L Vie C’est la Vie (in whole)

The French expression la vie c’est la vie means ‘life-that’s life’

Louise Bogan

October 16, 2006


Disturbed childhood due to difficult relationship between working-class parents
In poetry female figures appear both as icons of power and as figures to appease or fear
Attended Boston Girls’ Latin School, spent a year at Boston University
Married unhappily at 19 and divorced 12 years later
Reserved her best energies for her poetry and literary criticism she wrote for the New Yorker and journals
Found the confessional poetry of Robert Lowell and John Berryman distasteful and self-indulgent
W.H. Auden noted in a funeral eulogy, Bogan’s life was a

“struggle to wrest beauty and joy out of dark places.”

Companion of Theodore Roethke who saw Bogan as a ‘true inheritor’ of great poetry of the past, called her a poet who

“writes out of the severest lyrical tradition in English whose subjects are love, passion, its complexities, its tensions, its betrayals…”


Women have no wilderness in them, / They are provident instead, / Content in the tight hot cell of their hearts / To eat dusty bread.
They do not see cattle cropping red winter grass, / They do not hear / Snow water going down under culverts / Shallow and clear.
They wait, when they should turn to journeys, / They stiffen, when they should bend. / They use against themselves that benevolence / To which no man is friend.
They cannot think of so many crops to a field / Or of clean wood cleft by an axe. / Their love is an eager meaninglessness / Too tense, or too lax.
They hear in every whisper that speaks to them / A shout and a cry. / As like as not, when they take life over their door-sills / They should let it go by.

-Women (in whole)

Does Bogan take on the voice of a male speaker?
What is the purpose of the connection between masculinity and nature, and femininity and domesticity