Archive for the 'Paper Topic' Category

Edgar Allan Poe

February 1, 2007


Born in Boston, son of itinerant actors: mom died, dad left
Lived in London with merchant John Allan and his family
In 1827, clashed with Allan and left for Boston where he joined the army
Attended the US Military Academy until dismissed
Began writing for magazines in Baltimore
Secured a position with the Southern Literary Messenger and married his cousin
Fired by publisher of SLM and relocated in New York: Published his only novel
Became the editor of Graham’s Magazine, devastated by wife’s tuberculosis and resigned
Became owner of Broadway Journal
Courted his first sweetheart in Richmond, lectured on poetry
Collapsed in Baltimore and died in a hospital

The Pit And The Pendulum

About the torments endured by a prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition


“And then my vision fell upon the seven tall candles upon the table. At first they wore the aspect of charity, and seemed white slender angels who would save me; but then, all at once, there came a most deadly nausea over my spirit, and I felt every fibre in my frame thrill as if I had touched the wire of a galvanic battery, while the angel forms became meaningless spectres, with heads f flame, and I saw that from them there would be no help. And then there stole into my fancy like a rich musical note, the thought of what sweet rest there must be in the grave.”

“even in the grave all is not lost. Else there is no immortality for man.”

“In the return to life from the swoon there are two stages: first, that of the sense of mental or spiritual, secondly, that of the sense of physical, existence.”

“Then a strong desire to lapse into insensibility.”

“It was not that I feared to look upon things horrible, but that I grew aghast lest there should be nothing to see.”

“Yet not for a moment did I suppose myself actually dead. Such a supposition, notwithstanding what we read in fiction, is altogether inconsistent with real existence; but where and in what state was I?”

“And the death just avoided was of that very character which I had regarded as fabulous and frivolous in the tales respecting the Inquisition. To the victims of its tyranny there was the choice of death with its direst physical agonies, or death with its most hideous moral horrors. I had been reserved for the latter.”

“so potent is the effect of total darkness upon one rousing from lethargy or sleep!”

“Its sweep was brief, and of course slow. I watched it for some minutes, somewhat in fear, but more in wonder.”

“I could no longer doubt the doom prepared for me by monkish ingenuity in torture.”

“It was, as I say, a half-formed thought: man has many such, which are never completed. I felt that it was of joy- of hope; but I felt also that it had perished in its formation. In vain I struggled to perfect- to regain it. Long suffering had nearly annihilated all my ordinary powers of mind. I was an imbecile- an idiot.”

“the unformed half of that idea of deliverance to which I have previously alluded, and of which a moiety only floated indeterminately through my brain when I raised food to my burning lips. the whole thought was now preseent- feeble, scarcely sane, scarcely definite- but still entire.”

“There was a discordant hum of human voices! There was a loud blast as of many trumpets! There was a harsh grating as of a thousand thunders! The fiery walls rushed back! An outstretched arm caught my own as I fell, fainting, into the abyss. It was that of General Lasalle. The French army had entered Toledo. The Inquisition was in the hands of its enemies.”

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1837)


“Augustus frankly confessed to me that, in his whole life, he had at no time eperienced so excruciating a sense of dismay as when on board our little boat he first discovered the extent of his intoxication, and felt himself sinking beneath its influence.”


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)

Frank O’Hara

September 27, 2006


Russel Joseph O’Hara
Poetry is provocative and provoking
Work was immediate and quickly typed out: ‘Lunch Poems’ was typed during his lunch break
Notoriously disorganized: legend states that before publishing O’Hara’s poems City Lights publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti had to fly from San Francisco to New York and search through all of O’Hara’s coat pockets to find them
Collaborated with the painters in the New York School to make “poem-paintings”
Poetry combines impromptu lyrics, a jumble of witty talk, journalistic parodies and surrealist imagery
Served in the South Pacific and Japan as a sonarsman on the destroyer USS Nicholas during World War II
Attended Harvard, where he roomed with artist Edward Gorey
Died in an accident on Fire Island: was struck and injured by a beach buggy
He died at age 40 the following day: is buried in Springs Cemetery on Long Island

Frank reading “Metaphysical Poem”, “Poem (Lana Turner has collapsed”, “Political Poem on a Last Line of Pasternak’s”, and “Poem (Hoopla! yah yah yah)”


Did you see me walking by the Buick Repairs? / I was thinking of you / having a Coke in the heat it was your face / I saw on the movie magazine, no it was Fabian’s / I was thinking of you / and down at the railroad tracks where the station / has mysteriously disappeared / I was thinking of you / as the bus pulled away in the twilight / I was thinking of you / and right now

-Song (Did you see me walking by the Buick Repairs?)  (in whole) 

Have you forgotten what we were like then / when we were still first rate / and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth
it’s no use worrying about Time / but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves / and turned some sharp corners
the whole pasture looked like our meal / we didn’t need speedometers / we could manage cocktails out of ice and water
I wouldn’t want to be faster / or greener than now if you were with me O you / were the best of all my days

-Animals (in whole)

I am stuck in traffic in a taxicab / which is typical / and not just of modern life
mud chambers up the trellis of my nerves / must lovers of Eros end up with Venus / muss es sein? es muss nicht sein, I tell you
how I hate disease, it’s like worrying / that comes true / and it simply must not be able to happen
in a world where you are possible / my love / nothing can go wrong for us, tell me

-Song (I’m stuck in traffic) (in whole)

Oh! kangaroos, sequins, chocolate sodas! / You really are beautiful! Pearsl, / harmonicas, jujubes, asprins! all / the stuff they’ve always talked about
still makes a poem a surprise! / These things are with us every day / even on beachheads and biers. They / do have meaning. They’re strong as rocks.

-Today (in whole)

When do you want to go / I’m not sure I want to go there / where do you want to go / any place / I think I’d fall apart any place else / well I’ll go if you really want to / I don’t particularly care / but you’ll fall apart any place else / I can just go home / I don’t really mind going there / but I don’t want to force you to go there / you won’t be forcing me I’d just as soon / I wouldn’t be able to stay long anyway / maybe we could go somewhere nearer / I’m not wearing a jacket / just like you weren’t wearing a tie / well I didn’t say we had to go / I don’t care whether you’re wearing one / we don’t really have to do anything / well all right let’s not / okay I’ll call you / yes call me

-Metaphysical Poem (in whole)

Lana Turner has collapsed! / I was trotting along and suddenly / it started raining and snowing / and you said it was hailing / but hailing hits you on the head / hard so it was really snowing and / raining and I was in such a hurry / to meet you but the traffic / was acting exactly like the sky / and suddenly I see a headline / LANA TURNER HAS COLLAPSED! / there is no snow in Hollywood / there is no rain in California / I have been to lots of parties / and acted perfectly disgraceful / but I never actually collapsed / oh Lana Turner we love you get up

-Poem (Lana Turner has collapsed) (in whole)
 see Poetry Speaks

How funny you are today New York / like Ginger Rogers in Swingtime / and St. Bridget’s steeple leaning a little to / the left
here I have just jumped out of a bed full of / V-days  / (I got tired of D-days) and blue you there still / accepts me foolish and free / all I want is a room up there / and you in it / and even the traffic halt so thick is a way / for people to rub up against each other / and when their surgical appliances lock / they stay together / for the rest of the day (waht a day) / I go by to check a slide and I say / that painting’s not so blue
where’s Lana Turner / she’s out eating / and Garbo’s backstage at the Met / everyone’s taking their coat off / so they can show a rib-cage to the bib-watchers / and the park’s full of dancers with their / tights and shoes / in little bags / who are often mistaken for worker-outers at / the West Side Y / why not / the Pittsburgh Pirates shout because they / won / and in a sense we’re all winning / we’re alive
the apartment was vacated by a gay couple / who moved to the country for fun / they moved a day too soon / even the stabbings are helping the / population explosion / though in the wrong country / and all those liars have left the UN / and Seagram Buildin’s no longer rivalled in / interest / not that we need liquor (we just like it)
and the little box is out on the sidewalk / next to the delicatessen / so the old man can sit on it and drink beer / and get knocked off it by his wife later in the / day / while the sun is still shining
oh god it’s wonderful / to get out of bed / and drink too much coffee / and smoke too m any cigarettes / and love you so much

-Steps (in whole)

So we are taking off our masks, are we, and keeping / our mouths shut? as if we’d been pierced by a glance!
The song of an old cow is not more full of judgement / Than the vapors which escape one’s soul when one is sick,
so I pull the shadows around me like a puff / and crinkle my eyes as if at the most exquisite moment
of a very long opera, and then we are off! / without reproach and without hope that our delicate feet
will touch the earth again, let alone ‘very soon.’ / It is the law of my own voice I shall investigate.
I start like ice, my finger to my ear, my ear / to my heart, that proud cur at the garbage can
in the rain. It’s wonderful to admire oneself / with complete candor, tallying up the merits of each
of the latrines. 14th Street is drunken and credulous, / 53rd tries to tremble but is too at rest. The good
love a park and the inept a railway station, / and there are the divine ones who drag themselves up
and down the lengthening shadow of an Abyssinian head / in the dust, trailing their long elegant heels of hot air
crying to confuse the brave ‘It’s a summer day, / and I want to be wanted more than anything else in the world.’

-Homosexuality (in whole)

I think you’re wonderful and so does everyone else.
Just as Jackie Kennedy has a baby boy, so will you- even bigger.
You will meet a tall beautiful blonde stranger, and you will n ot say hello.
You will take a long trip and you will be very happy, though alone.
You will marry the first person who tells you your eyes are like scrambled eggs.
In the beginning there was YOU- there will always be YOU, I guess.
You will write a great play and it will run for three performances.
Please phone The Village Voice immediately: they want to interview you.
Roger L. Stevens and Kermit Bloomgarden have their eyes on you.
Relax a little; one of your most celebrated nervous tics will be your undoing.
Your first volume of poetry will be published as soon as you finish it.
You may be a hit uptown, but downtown you’re legendary!
Your walk has a musical quality which will bring you fame and fortune.
You will eat cake.
Who do you think you are, anyway? Jo Van Fleet?
You think your life is Pirandello, but it’s really like O’Neill.
A few dance lessons with James Waring and who know? Maybe something will happen.
That’s not a run in your stocking, it’s  hand on your leg.
I realize you’ve lived in France, but that doesn’t mean you know EVERYTHING!
You should wear white more often- it becomes you.
The next person to speak to you will have a very intriguing proposal to make.
A lot of people in this room wish they were you.
Have you been to Mike Goldberg’s show? Al Leslie’s? Lee Krasner’s?
At times, your disinterestedness may seem insincere, to strangers.
Now that the election’s over, what are you going to do with yourself?
You are a prisoner in a croissant factory and you love it.
You eat mean. Why do you eat meat?
Beyond the horizon there is a vale of gloom.
You too could be Premier of France, if only… if only…

-Lines for the Fortune Cookies (in whole)

Mothers of America / let your kids go to the  movies! / get them out of the house so they won’t know what you’re up to / it’s true that fresh air is good for the body / but what about the soul / that grows in darkness, embossed by silvery images / and when you grow old as grow old you must / they won’t hate you / they won’t criticize you they won’t know / they’ll be in some glamorous country / they first saw on a Saturday afternoon or playing hookey / they may even be grateful to you / for their first sexual experience / which only cost you a quarter / and didn’t upset the peaceful home / they will know where candy bars come from / and gratuitous bags of popcorn / as gratuitous as leaving the movie before it’s over / with a pleasant stranger whose apartment is in the Heaven on Earth Bldg / near the Williamsburg  / oh mothers you will have made the little tykes / so happy because if nobody does pick them up in the movies / they won’t know the difference / and if somebody does it’ll be sheer gravy / and they’ll have been truly entertained either way / instead of hanging around the yard / or up in their room / hating you / prematurely since you won’t have done anything horribly mean yet / except keeping them from the darker joys / it’s unforgivable the latter / so don’t blame me if you won’t take this advice / and the family breaks up / and your children grow old and blind in front of a TV set / seeing / movies you wouldn’t let them see when they were young

-Ave Maria (in whole)

The eager note on my door said ‘Call me, / call when you get in!’ so I quickly threw / a few tangerines into my overnight bag, / straightened my eyelids and shoulders, and
headed straight for the door. It was autumn / by the time I got around the corner, oh all / unwilling to be either pertinent or bemused, but / the leaves were brighter than grass on the sidewalk!
Funny, I thought, that the lights are on this late / and the hall door open; still up at this hour, a / cahmpion jai-alai player like himself? Oh fie! / for shame! What a hose, so zealous! And he was
there in the hall, flat on a sheet of blood that / ran down the stairs, I did appreciate it. There are few / hosts who so throughly prepare to greet a guest / only casually invited, and that several months ago.

-Poem (The eater note on my door said “Call me,) (in whole)

It’s my lunch hour, so I go / for a walk among the hum-colored / cabs. First, down the sidewalk / where laborers feed their dirty / glistening torsos sandwiches / and Coca-Cola, with yellow helmets / on. They protect them from falling / bricks, I guess. Then onto the / avenue where skirts are flipping / above heels and blow up over / grates. The sun is hot, but the / cabs stir up the air. I look / at bargains in wristwatches. There / are cats playing in sawdust.
On / to Times Square, where the sign / blows smoke over my head, and higher / the waterfall pours lightly. A / Negro stands in a doorway with a / toothpick, languorously agitating. / A blonde chorus girl clicks: he / smiles and rubs his chin. Everything / suddenly honks: it is 12:40 of / a Thursday.
Neon in daylight is a / great pleasure, as Edwin Denby would / write, as are light bulbs in daylight. / I stop for a cheeseburger at Juliet’s / Corner. Giulietta Masina, wife of / Federico Fellini, e bell’ attrice / And chocolate malted. A lady in / foxes on such a day puts her poodle in a cab.
There are several Puerto / Ricans on the avenue today, which / makes it beautiful and warm. First / Bunny died, then John Latouche, / then Jackson Pollock. But is the / earth as full as life was full, of them? / And one has eaten and one walks, / past the magazines with nudes / and the posters for bullfight and / the Manhattan Storage Warehouse, / which they’ll soon tear down. I / used to think they had the Armory / Show there.
A glass of papaya juice / and back to work. My heart is in my / pocket, it is Poems by Pierre Reverdy.

-A Step Away From Them (in whole)

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday / three days after Bastille day, yes / it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine / because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton / at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner / and I don’t know the people who will feed me
I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun / and have a hamburger and a malted and buy / an ugly New World Writing to see what the poets / in Ghana are doing these days
I go on to the bank / and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard) / doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life / and in the Golden Griffin I get a little Verlaine / for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do / think of Hesoid, trans. Richmond Lattimore or / Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Negres / of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine / after practically going to sleep with quandariness
and for Mike I just stroll into the Park Lane / Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and / then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue / and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and / casually ask for a carton of Gaulosises and a carton / of Picayunes, and a New York Post with her face on it
and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of / leaning on the john door in the 5 spot / while she whispered a song along the keyboard / to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing

-The Day Lady Died (in whole)

About Billie Holiday’s death

The Sun woke me this morning loud / and clear, saying “Hey! I’ve been / trying to wake you up for fifteen / minutes. Don’t be so rude, you are / only the second poet I’ve ever chosen / to speak to personally
so why / aren’t you more attentive? If I could / burn you through the window I would / to wake you up. I can’t hang around / here all day.”
“Sorry, Sun, I stayed / up late last night talking to Hal.”
“When I woke up Mayakovsky he was / a lot more prompt” the Sun said / petulantly. “Most people are up / already waiting to see if I’m going / to put in an appearance.”
I tried / to apologize “I missed you yesterday.” / “That’s better” he said. “I didn’t / know you’d come out.” “you may be / wondering why I’ve come so close?” / “Yes” I said beginning to feel hot / wondering if maybe he wasn’t burning me anyway.
“Frankly I wanted to tell you / I like your poetry. I see a lot / on my rounds and you’re okay. You may / not be the greatest thing on earth, but / you’re different. Now, I’ve heard some / say you’re crazy, they being excessively / calm themselves to my mind, and other / crazy poets think that you’re a boring / reactionary. Not me.
Just keep on / like I do and pay no attention. You’ll / find that people always will complain / about the atmosphere, either too hot / or too cold too bright or too dark, days / too short or too long.
If you don’t appear at all one day they think you’re lazy / or dead. Just keep right on, I like it.
And don’t work about your lineage / poetic or natural. The Sun shines on / the jungle, you know, on the tundra / the sea, the ghetto. Wherever you were / I knew it and saw you moving. I was waiting / for you to get to work.
And now that you are making your own days, so to speak, / even if no one reads you but me / you won’t be depressed. Not / everyone can look up, even at me. It / hurts their eyes.”
“Oh Sun, I’m so grateful to you!”
“Thanks and remember I’m watching. It’s / easier for me to speak to you out / here. I don’t have to slide down / between buildings to get your ear. / I know you love Manhattan, but / you ought to look u more often.
And / always embrace things, people earth / sky stars, as I do, freely and with / the appropriate sense of space. That / is your inclination, known in the heavens / and you should follow it to hell, if / necessary, which I doubt.
Maybe we’ll / speak again in Africa, of which I too / am specially fond. God back to sleep no / Frank, and I may leave a tiny poem / in that brain of yours as my farewell.”
“Sun, don’t go!” I was awake / at last. “No, go I must, they’re calling / me.”
‘Who are they?”
Rising he said “Some / day you’ll know. They’re calling to you / too.” Darkly he rose, and then I slept.

-A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island (in whole)

Inspired by “And Extraordinary Adventure which Befell Vladimir Mayakovsky in a Summer Cottage” which describes the Russian avantgarde poet’s own conversation with the sun

I am not a painter, I am a poet. / Why? I think I would rather be / a painter, but I am not. Well,
for instance, Mike Goldberg / is starting a painting. I drop in. / “Sit down and have a drink” he / says. I drink; we drink. I look / up. “You have sardines in it.” / “Yes, it needed something there.” / “Oh.” I go and the days go by / and I drop in again. The painting / is going on, and I go, and the days / go by. I drop in. The painting is / finished. “Where’s sardines?” / All that’s left is just / letters, “It was too much,” Mike says.
But me? One days I am thinking of / a color: orange. I write a line / about orange. Pretty soon it is a / whole page of words, not lines. / Then another page. There should be / so much more, not of orange, of / words, of how terrible orange is / and life. Days go by. It is even in / prose, I am a real poet. My poem / is finished and I haven’t mentioned / orange yet. It’s twelve poems, I call / it oranges. And one day in a gallery / I see Mike’s painting, called Sardines.

-Why I Am Not a Painter (in whole)

Personism: A Manifesto (1959)

O’Hara parodically deflates the pretensions of other poetic manifestos and offers a valuable point of entry into his poetry
Turned down as too frivolous by “New American Poetry”, first appeared in “Yugen”
Claims the poet must be witty, never boring; the poet must communicate the spontaneity of imaginative creation; the poet must be effortlessly allusive; and the poet must convey a robust sense of pesonal immediacy and yet not be dully confessional


“Everything is in the poems, but at the risk of sounding like the poor wealthy man’s Allen Ginsberg I will write to you because I just heard that one of my fellow poets thinks that a poem of mine that can’t be got at one reading is because I was confused too. Now, come one.  don’t believe in god, so I don’t have to make elaborately sounded structures. I hate Vachel Lindsay, always have; I don’t even like rhythm, assonance, all that stuff. You just go on your nerve. If someone’s chasing you down the street with a knife you just run, you don’t trun around and shoult, ‘Give it up! I was a track star for Mineola Prep.'”

“The only good thing about it is that when I get lofty enough I’ve stopped thinking and that’s when refreshment arrives.
But how can you really care if anybody gets it, or gets what it means, or if it improves them. Improves them for what? For death? Why hurry them along? Too many poets act like a middle-aged mother trying to get her kids to eat too much cooked meat, and potatoes with drippings (tears). I don’t give a mean whether they eat or not. Forced feeding leads to excessive thinness (effete). Nobody should experience anything they don’t need to, if they don’t need poetry bully for them. I like the movies too. And after all, only Whitman and Crane and Williams, of the American poets, are better than the movies. As for measure and other techincal apparatus, that’s just common sense: if you’re goiing to buy a pair of pants you want them to be tight enough so everyone will want to go to bed with you. There’s nothing metaphysical about it. Unless, of course, you flatter yourself into thinking that what you’re epxeriencing is ‘yearning.'”

“Abstraction (in poetry, not in painting) involves personal removal by the poet. For instance, the decision involved in the choice between ‘the nostalgia of the infinite; and ‘the nostalgia for the infinite’ defines an attitude towards degree of abstraction. The nostalgia of the infinite representing the greater degree of abstraction, removal, and negative capability (as in Keats and Mallarme). Personism, a movement which I recently founded and which nobody knows about, interests me a great deal, being so totally opposed to this kind of abstract removal that it is vergin on a true abstraction for the first time, really, in the history of poetry.”

“But to give you a vague idea, one of its minimal aspects is to address itslef to one person (other than the poet himself), thuis evoking overtones of love without destroying love’s life-giving vulgarity, and sustaining the poet’s feelings towards the poem while preventing love from distracting him into feeling about the person.”

“It puts the poem squarely between the poet and the person, Lucky Pierre style, and the poem is correspondingly gratified. The oem is at last between two persons instead of two pages.”

“What can we expect of Personism? (This is getting good, isn’t it?) Everything, but we won’t get it. It is too new, too vital a movement to promise anything. But it, like Africa, is on the way. The recent propagandists for tenchique on the one hand, and for content on the other, had better watch out.”

Carl Sandburg

September 21, 2006


American poet, historian, novelist, balladeer and folklorist
Was born in Galesburg, Illinois of Swedish parents
Major Chicago poet
Poetry speaks unapologetically: direct, representative of the masses
Transforms poetry into more of a political pamphlet: changes the use of poetry
H. L. Mencken called Carl Sandburg

“indubitably an American in every pulse-beat”


Among the mountains I wandered and saw blue haze and red crag and was amazed; / On the beach where the long push under the endless tide maneuvers, I stood silent; / Under the stars on the prairie watching the Dipper slant over the horizon’s grass, I was full of thoughts. / Great men, pageants of war and labor, soldiers and workers, mothers lifting their children- these all I touched, and felt more solemn thrill of them. / And then one day I got a true look at the Poor, millions of the Poor, patient and toiling; more patient than crags, tides , and stars; innumerable, patient as the darkness of night- and all broken, humble ruins of nations.

-Masses (in whole)

Mrs. Gabrielle Giovannitti comes along Peoria Street every morning at nine o’clock / With kindling wood piled on top of her head, her eyes looking straight ahead to find the way for her old feet.
Her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Pietro Giovannitti, whose husband was killed in a tunnel explosion through the negligence of a fellow-servant, / Works ten hours a day, sometimes twelve, picking onions or Jasper on the Bowmanville road. / She takes a street car at half-past five in the morning, Mrs. Pietro Giovannitti does, / And gets back from Jasper’s with cash for her day’s work, between nine and ten o’clock at night. / Last week she got eight cents a box, Mrs. Pietro Giovannitti, picking onions for Jasper, / But this week Jasper dropped the pay to six cents a box because so many women and girls were answering the ads in the Daily News. / Jasper belongs to an Episcopal church in Ravenswood and on certain Sundays / He enjoys chanting the Nicene creed with his daughters on each side of him joining their voices with his. / If the preacher repeats old sermons of a Sunday, Jasper’s mind wanders to his 700-acre farm and how he can make it produce more efficiently / And sometimes he speculates on whether he could word an ad in the Daily News so it would bring more women and girls out to his farm and reduce operating costs. / Mrs. Pietro Giovannitti is far from desperate about life; her joy is in a child she knows will arrive to her in three months. / And now while these are the pictures for today there are other pictures of the Giovannitti people I could give you for to-morrow, / And how some of them go to the county agent on winter mornings with their baskets for beans and cornmeal and molasses. / I listen to fellows saying here’s good stuff for a novel or it might be worked up into a good play. / I say there’s no dramatist living can put old Mrs. Gabrielle Giovannitti into a play with that kindling wood piled on top of her head coming along Peoria Street nine o’clock in the morning.
-Onion Days (in whole)

I waited today for a freight train to pass./ Cattle cars with steers butting their horns against the bars, went by./ And a half a dozen hoboes stood on bumpers between cars. / Well, the cattle are respectable, I thought. / Every steer has its transportation paid for by the farmer sending it to market, / While the hoboes are law-breakers in riding a railroad train without a ticket. / It reminded me of ten days I spent in the Allegheny County jail in Pittsburgh. / I got ten days even though I was a veteran of the Spanish-American war. / Cooped in the same cell with me was an old man, a bricklayer and a booze-fighter./ But it just happened he, too, was a veteran soldier, and he had fought to preserve the Union and free the niggers. / We were three in all, the other being a Lithuanian who got drunk on pay day at the steel works and got to fighting a police man; / All the clothes he had was a shirt, pants and shoes– somebody got his hat and coat and what money he had left over when he got drunk.

-‘Boes (in whole)

I am the people- the mob- the crowd- the mass. / Do you know that all the great work of the world is done through me? / I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the world’s food and clothes. / I am the audience that witnesses history. The Napoleons come from me and the Lincolns. They die. And then I send forth more Napoleons and Lincolns. / I am the seed ground. I am a prairie that will stand for much plowing. Terrible storms pass over me. I forget. The best of me is sucked out and wasted. I forget. Everything but Death comes to me and makes me work and give up what I have. And I forget. / Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few red drops for history to remember. Then- I forget. / When I , the People, learn to remember, when I, the People, use the lessons of yesterday and no longer forget who robbed me last year, who played me for a fool- then there will be no speaker in all the world say the name: “The People,” with any fleck of a sneer in his voice or any far-off smile of derision. / The mob- the crowd- the mass- will arrive then.

-I Am the People, the Mob (in whole)

Hog Butcher for the World, / Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, / Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler; / Storny, husky, brawling, / City of the Big Shoulders: / They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys. / And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again. / And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wonton hunger. / And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city, and give them back the sneer and say to them: / Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning. / Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities; / Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness, / Bareheaded, / Shoveling, / Wrecking, / Planning, / Building, breaking, rebuilding, / Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth, / Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs, / Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle, / Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his ribs the heart of the people, / Laughing! / Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

-Chicago (in whole)

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo. / Shovel them under and let me work- / I am the grass; I cover all. / And pile them high at Gettysburg / And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun. / Shovel them under and let me work. / Two years, then years, and the passengers ask the conductor: / What place is this? / Where are we now?
I am the grass. / Let me work.

-Grass (in whole)

Compare to the natural imagery in Rosenberg’s ‘Dead Man’s Dump’: what is the earth’s role in a time of war?
Is Sandburg’s poem ironic: is the grass a helpful force or a force of dangerous amnesia?

Drum on your drums, batter on your banjoes, / sob on the long cool winding saxophones. / Go to it, O jazzmen.
Sling your knuckles on the bottoms of the happy / tin pans, let your trombones ooze, and go husha- / husha-hush with the slippery sand-paper.
Moan like an autumn wind high in the lonesome treetops, moan soft like you wanted somebody terrible, cry like a racing car slipping away from a motorcycle cop, bang-bang! you jazzmen, bang altogether drums, traps, banjoes, horns, tin cans – make two people fight on the top of a stairway and scratch each other’s eyes in a clinch tumbling down the stairs.
Can the rough stuff … Now a Mississippi steamboat pushes up the night river with a hoo-hoo-hoo-oo … and the green lanterns calling to the high soft stars … a red moon rides on the humps of the low river hills … go to it, O jazzmen.

Jazz Fantasia (in whole)

Jazz was still an emerging form when Sandburg wrote this poem

There was a high majestic fooling / Day before yesterday in the yellow corn.
And day after to-morrow in the yellowing corn / There will be high majestic fooling.
The ears ripen in late summer / And come on with a conquering laughter, / Come on with a high and conquering laughter.
The long-tailed blackbirds are hoarse. / One of the smaller blackbirds chitters on a stalk / And a spot of red is on its shoulder / And I never heard its name in my life.
Some of the ears are bursting. / A white juice works inside. / Cornsilk creeps in the end and dangles in the wind. / Always- I never knew it any other way – / The wind and the corn talk things over together. / And the rain and the corn and the sun and the corn / Talk things over together.
Over the road is the farmhouse. / The siding is white and a green blind is slung loose. / It will not be fixed till the corn is husked. / The farmer and his wife talk things over together.

-Laughing Corn (in whole)

Percy Bysshe Shelley

September 12, 2006


Considered the most radical Romantic poet, in poetry and in politics
Very aristocratic
He saw the petty tyranny of schoolmasters and schoolmates as representative of man’s general inhumanity to man
Dedicated his life to a war against injustice and oppression: called ‘mad Shelley’ by his schoolmates
Was expelled from Oxford with friend Thomas Jefferson Hogg for the publication of a pamphlet titled “The Necessity of Atheism”
Attributed the evils of society to humanity’s own moral failures and grounded the possibilty of social reform in the redeeming power of love
Repeatedly charged with intellectual and emotional immaturity
Drowned in the Gulf of Lerici off the Italian coast when he was thirty years old
John Murray on Shelley:

“You are all brutally mistaken about Shelley, who was, without exception, the best and least selfish man I ever knew.”


O Wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being, / Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead / Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red, / Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O Thou, / Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low, / Each like a corpse within its grave, until / Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow
Her Clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill / (Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air) / With living hues and odours plain and hill:
Wild Spirit, which art moving everrywhere; / Destroyer and Preserver; hear, O hear!

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe / Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth! / And, by the incantation of this verse,
Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth / Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind! / Be through my lips to unawakened Earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind, / If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

-Ode to the West Wind

Apostrophe to the wind
Wind as a representation of poetry or poetic inspiration
The wind may speak only through the poet

Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! / Bird thou never wert- / That from Heaven, or near it, / Pourest thy full heart / In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.
Higher still and higher / From the earth thou springest / Like a cloud of fire; / The blue deep thou wingest, / And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.

Like a Poet Hidden / In the light of thought, / Singing hymns unbidden, / Till the world is wrought / To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not:

We look before and after, / And pine for what is not- / Our sincerest laughter / With some pain is fraught- / Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.
Yet if we could scorn / Hate and pride and fear; / If we were things born / Not to shed a tear, / I know not how thy joy we ever should come near.

Teach me half the gladness / That thy brain must know, / Such harmonious madness / From my lips would flow / The world should listen then- as I am listening now.

-To a Sky-Lark

The European skylark is a small bird that sings only in flight, often when it is too high to be visible
The poet is most like the sky-lark: the poet’s job is to reveal uncommon emotions to the reader
Humans can only feel intense emotion through comparison, unlike the sky-lark
The poem ends with the speaker looking to the bird, not the poet

“According to one mode of regarding those two classes of mental action, which are called reason and imagination, the former may be considered as mind contemplating the relations borne by one thought to another, however produced; and the latter, as mind acting upon those thoughts so as to colour them with its own light, and composing from them, as from elements, other thoughts, each containing within itself the principle of its own integrity.”

“But there is a principle within the human being, and perhaps within all sentient beings, which acts otherwise than in the lyre, and producs not melody, alone, but harmony, by an internal adjustment of the sounds or motions thus excited to the impressions which excite them.”

“In the infancy of society every author is necessarily a poet, because language itself is poetry; and to be a poet is to apprehend the true and the beautiful, in a word the good which exists in the relation, subsisting, first between existence and perception, and secondly between perception and expression.”

“But Poets, or those who imagine and express this indestructible order, are not only the authors of language and of music, of the dance and architecure and statuary and painting: they are the institutors of laws, and the founders of civil society and the inventors of the arts of life and the teachers, who draw into a certain propinquity with the beautiful and the true that partial apprehension of the agencies of the invisible world which is called religion.”

“Poets, according to the circumstances of the age and nation in which hey appeared, were called in the earlier epochs of the world legislators or prophets: a poet essentially comprises and unites both these characters. For he not only beholds intensely the present as it is, and discovers those laws according to which present things ought to be ordered, but he beholds the future in the present, ,and his thoughts are the germs of the flower and the fruit of the latest time.”

“A Poet participates in the eternal, the infinite, and the one; as far as relates to his conceptions, time and place and number are not.”

“A poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth.”

“Time, which destroys the beauty and the use of the story of particular facts, stript of the poetry which should invest them, augments that of Poetry, and for ever develops new and wonderful applications of the eternal truth which it contains.”

“Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted.”

“Poetry is ever accompanied with pleasure: all spirits on which it falls, open themselves to receive the wisdom which is mingled with its delight.”

“A Poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds; his auditors are as men entranced by the melody of an unseen musician, who feel that they aremoved and softened, yet know not whence or why.”

“A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many other; the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own. The great instrument of moral good is the imagination; and poetry administers to the effect by acting upon the cause. Poetry enlarges the circumference of the imagination…”

“A Poet therefore would do ill to embody his own conceptions of right and wrong, which are usually those of his place and time, in his poetial creations, which participate in neither.”

“All things exist as they are perceived: at least in relation to the percipient. The mind is its own place, and of itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.’ But poetry defeats the curse which binds us to be subjected to the accident of surrounding impressions… It makes us the inhabitants of a world to which the familiar world is a chaos. It reproduces the common universe of which we are portions and percipients, and it purges from our inward sight the film of familiarity which obscures from us the wonder of our being. It compels us to feel that which we perceive, and to imagine that which we know. It creates anew the universe after it has been annihilated in our minds by the recurrence of impressions blunted by reiteration.”

“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the World.”

-A Defense of Poetry

Response to friend’s (Peacock) satirical critique on Romantic Poetry
All imaginitive thought is poetry
Parallels with Plato’s interest in truths not available through the senses: Shelley’s Poet is Plato’s Philosopher

John Keats

September 12, 2006


The Romantic poet of sensuous imagery
Born in London
Son of a stable keeper
Parents died before he was fifteen
Apprenticed to a surgeon for five years
Brutal attacks were made upon his verse by critics
Fell in love with Fannie Brawne b ut could not marry her because of his poverty and illness
Accused of sentimentalism and melodrama in poetry
Lover of beauty in its ideal form
Died at 26
Wrote for 4 years

“I am certain of nothing but… the truth of the imagination.”


Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget / What thou among the leaves hast never known, / The weariness, the fever, and the fret / Here, where men sit and hear each other groan; / Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs, / Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies; / Where but to think is to be full of sorrow / And leaden-eyed despairs, / Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes, / Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

I cannot see what flowers are at my fee, / Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs, / But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet / Wherewith the seasonable month endows / The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild; / White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine; / Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves; / And mid-May’s eldest child, / The coming must-rose, full of dewy wine, / The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.
Darkline I listen; and, for many a time / I have been half in love with easeful Death, / Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme, / To take into the air my quiet breath; / Now more than ever seems it rich to die, / To cease upon the midnight with no pain, / While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad / In such an ecstasy! / Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain- / To thy high requiem become a sod.
Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird! / No hungry generations tread thee down; / The voice I hear this passing night was heard / In ancient days by emperor and clown: / Perhaps the self-same song that found a path / Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home, / She stood in tears a mid the alien corn; / The same that oft-time hath / Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam / Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Was it a vision, or a waking dream? / Fled is that music:- Do I wake or sleep?

-Ode to a Nightingale

Connection to Shelley’s “To a Sky-Lark”
The bird effortlessly produces poetry, the poet struggles
Form: 10 line stanzas ABAB/CDECDE
Poet is portrayed with a sense of heaviness and blankness
The bird is described in lightness and plenitude
Nightingale is heard, not seen (like Shelley’s Sky-Lark)
Sight is excluded: the mind’s eye is the eye of imagination
Human world is subject to time: everything is described in its relation to time

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard / Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on; / Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d, / Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone: / Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave / Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare; / Bold lover, never, never canst thou kiss, / Though winning near the goal- yet, do not grieve; / She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, / For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede / Of marble men and maidens overwrought, / With forest branches and the trodden weed; / Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought / As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral! / When old age shall this generation waste, / Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe / Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st, / ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ -that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

-Ode on a Grecian Urn

“on” establishes distance between speaker and subject
Comparison of human world with an artifact
Urn tells a story without speaking
Sight is the only sense evoked (in contrast with “Ode to a Nightingale)
Urn depicts static world: movement and emotion frozen in time
Speaker compares the desirability of the two
3 scenes: men chasing women (rape), two lovers, communal ritual

Robert Frost

September 11, 2006


Insanely popular; cause for many false preconceived notions about poetry
Read at Kennedy’s inauguration: turned him into a National Poet though it was not a suitable title
Received the Pulitzer Prize four times
Commonly associated with New England
Uses themes of nature and travel/movement to convey loneliness in poetry


All out-of-doors looked darkly in at him / Through the thin frost, almost in separate stars, / That gathers on the pane in empty rooms. / What kept his eyes from giving back the gaze / Was the lamp tilted near them in his hand. / What kept him from remembering what it was / That brought him to that creaking room was age. / He stood with barrels round him-at a loss. / And having scared the cellar under him / In clomping here, he scared it once again / In clomping off; -and scared the outer night, / Which has its sounds, familiar, like the roar / Of trees and crack of branches, common things, / But nothing so like beating on a box. / A light he was to no one but himself / Where now he sat, concerned with he knew what, / A quiet light, and then not even that. / He consigned to the moon, such as she was, / So late-arising, to the broken moon / As better than the sun in any case / For such a charge, his snow upon the roof, / His icicles along the wall to keep; / And slept. The log that shifted with a jolt / Once in the stove, disturbed him and he shifted, / And eased his heavy breathing, but still slept. / One aged man-one man- can’t keep a house, / A farm, a countryside, or if he can, / It’s thus he does it of a winter night.

-An Old Man’s Winter Night (in whole)

You were forever finding some new play. / So when I saw you down on hands and knees / In the meadow, busy with the new-cut hay, / Trying, I thought, to set it up on end, / I went to show you how to make it stay, / If that was your idea, against the breeze, / And, if you asked me, even help pretend / To make it root again and grow afresh. / But ’twas no make-believe with you today, / Nor was the grass itself your real concern, / Though I found your hand full of wilted fern, / Steel-bright June-grass, and blackening heads of clover. / ‘Twas a nest full of young birds on the ground / The cutter-bar had just gone champing over / (Miraculously without tasting flesh) / And left defenseless to the heat and light.

-The Exposed Nest (in whole)

The house had gone to bring again / To the midnight sky a sunset glow. / Now the chimney was all of the house that stood, / Like a pistil after the petals go.
The barn opposed across the way, / That would have joined the house in flame / Had it been the will of the wind, was left / To bear forsaken the place’s name.
No more it opened with all one end / For teams that came by the stony road / To drum on the floor with scurrying hoofs / And brush the mow with the summer load.
The birds that came to it through the air / At broken windows flew out and in, / Their murmur more like the sigh we sigh / From too much dwelling on what has been.
Yet for them the lilac renewed its leaf, / And the aged elm, though touched with fire; / And the dry pump flung up an awkward arm; / And the fence post carried a strand of wire.
For them there was really nothing sad. / But though they rejoiced in the news they kept, / One had to be versed in country things /Not to believe the phoebes wept.

-The Need of Being Versed in Country Things (in whole)

He would declare and could himself believe / That the birds there in all the garden round / From having heard the daylong voice of Eve / Had added to their own an oversound, / Her tone of meaning but without the words. / Admittedly an eloquence so soft / Could only have had an influence on birds / When call or laughter carried it aloft. / Be that as may be, she was in their son. / Moreover her voice upon their voices crossed / Had now persisted in the woods so long / That probably it never would be lost. / Never again would birds’ song be the same. / And to do that to birds was why she came.

-Never Again Would Birds’ Song Be the Same (in whole)

And both that morning equally lay / In leaves no step had trodden black. / Oh, I kept the first for another day! / Yet knowing how way leads on to way, / I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh / Somewhere ages and ages hence: / Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.

-The Road Not Taken
(See Poetry Speaks)

Could be seen as an ironic poem- written for an indecisive friend
Perhaps making fun of reminiscent story telling; the tendancy of humans to attribute more meaning to past decisions when we reflect on them
Sometimes falsely read as an optimistic poem about unique life paths; “difference” is a neutral term

There is a singer everyone has heard, / Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird, / Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again. / He says that leaves are old and that for flowers / Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten. / He says the early petal-fall is past, / When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers / On sunny days a moment overcast; / And comes that other fall we name the fall. / He says the highway dust is over all. / The bird would cease and be as other birds / But that he knows in singing not to sing. / The question that he frames in all but words / Is what to make of a diminished thing.

-The Oven Bird (in whole)
(See Poetry Speaks)

The oven birds in an American warbler that builds a dome-shaped nest on the ground: creates more vulnerability in the bird to industrial progress (“highway dust”)
The bird carries no celebration in its song
“what to make of a diminished thing” does not ask us to fix the problem

I have been one acquainted with the night. / I have walked out in rain- and back in rain. / I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane. / I have passed by the watchman on his beat. / And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet / When far away an interrupted cry / Came over the houses from another street,
But not to call me back or say good-by; / And further still at an unearthly height / One luminary clock against the sky
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right / I have been one acquainted with the night.

Acquainted with the Night (in whole)

Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast / In a field I looked into going past, / And the ground almost covered smooth in snow, / But a few weeds and stubble showing last.
The woods around it have it- it is theirs. / All animals are smothered in their lairs. / I am too absent-spirited to count; / The loneliness includes me unawares.
And lonely as it is, that loneliness / Will be more lonely ere it will be less- / A blanker whiteness of benighted snow / With no expression, nothing to express.
They cannot scare me with their empty spaces /  Between stars- on stars where no human race is. / I have it in me so much nearer home / To scare myself with my own desert places.

-Desert Places (in whole)

Nothing is reflected in a positive light; there is no break in sadness: not the snow or anything underneath it; the worst thing is the expressionlessness of the snow
Speaker is not afraid of the stars, but the distance between the stars
The landscape has nothing to express and no way to shape the speaker, therefore he has nothing to express- but why does he write a poem (a vessel of expression)
The poem has no moral center: the situations created by Frost are neither good nor bad

(Her Word)

One ought not to have to care / So much as you and I / Care when the birds come round the house / To seem to say good-bye;
Or care so much when they come back / With whatever it is they sing; / The truth being we are as much / Too glad for the one thing
As we are too sad for the other here — / With birds that fill their breasts / But with each other and themselves / And their built or driven nests.
House FearAlways — I tell you this they learned — / Always at night when they returned / To the lonely house from far away, / To lamps unlighted and fire gone gray, / They learned to rattle the lock and key / To give whatever might chance to be
Warning and time to be off in flight: / And preferring the out- to the in-door night, / They learned to leave the house-door wide / Until they had lit the lamp inside.
The Oft-Repeated DreamShe had no saying dark enough / For the dark pine that kept / Forever trying the window-latch / Of the room where they slept.
The tireless but ineffectual hands / That with every futile pass / Made the great tree seem as a little bird / Before the mystery of glass!
It never had been inside the room, / And only one of the two / Was afraid in an oft-repeated dream / Of what the tree might do.

The Impulse

It was too lonely for her there, / And too wild, / And since there were but two of them, / And no child,
And work was little in the house, / She was free, / And followed where he furrowed field, / Or felled tree.
She rested on a log and tossed / The fresh chips, / With a song only to herself / On her lips.
And once she went to break a bough / Of black alder. / She strayed so far she scarcely heard / When he called her —
And didn’t answer — didn’t speak — / Or return. / She stood, and then she ran and hid / In the fern.
He never found her, though he looked / Everywhere, / And he asked at her mother’s house / Was she there.
Sudden and swift and light as that / The ties gave, / And he learned of finalities / Besides the grave.

-The Hill Wife (in whole)

No set rhythm or shyme
2 distinct speakers: “Her Word” speaker, and observer- don’t speak to each other, both address us
Frost borrows perspectives from drama
Written at the moment of women gaining the right to vote
Poem about freedom: what it would mean for a woman of this time- structure of the poem is free, bird as a symbol of freedom
Could the woman be insane?

He saw her from the bottom of the stairs / Before she saw him. She was starting down, / Looking back over her shoulder at some fear. / She took a doubtful step and then undid it / To raise herself and look again. He spoke / Advancing toward her: ‘What is it you see / From up there always? -for I want to know.’

‘You make me angry. I’ll come down to you. / God, what a woman! And it’s come to this, / A man can’t speak of his own child that’s dead.’
‘You can’t because you don’t know how to speak. / If you had any feelings, you that dug / With your own hand- how could you? -his little grave; / I saw you from that very window there, / Making the gravel leap and leap in air, / Leap up, like that, like that, and land so lightly / And roll back down the mound beside the hole. / I thought, Who is this man? I didn’t know you. / And I crept down the stairs and up the stairs / To look again, and still your spade kept lifting.

‘The nearest friends can go / With anyone to death, comes so far short / They might as well not try to go at all. / No, from the time when one is sick to death, / One is alone, and he dies more alone. / Friends make the pretense of following to the grave, / But before one is in it, their minds are turned / And making the best of their way back to life / And living people, and things they understand. / But the world’s evil. I won’t have grief so / If I can change it. Oh, I won’t, I won’t!’

-Home Burial

Concerns a home burial for the couple’s child
It was the custom then to bury family members on family property
The death reveals deep fissures in the relationship between husband and wife
Thought of as a scene

I stayed the night for shelter at a farm / Behind the mountain, with a mother and son, / Two old-believers. They did all the talking.

Mother.   And when I’ve done it, what good have I done? / Rather than tip a table for you, let me / Tell you what Ralle the Sioux Control once told me. / He said the dead had souls, but when I asked him / How could that be- I thought the dead were souls, / He broke my trance. Don’t that make you suspicious / That there’s something the dead are keeping back? / Yes, there’s something the dead are keeping back.

Mother.  … I struck the hand off brittle on the floor, / And fell back from him on the floor myself. / The finger-pieces slid in all directions. / (Where did I see one of those pieces lately? / Hand me my button-box -it must be there.)

Mother.   … When they sometimes / Come down the stairs at night and stand perplexed / Behind the door and headboard of the bed, / Brushing their chalky skully with chalky fingers, / With sounds like the dry rattling of a shutter, / That’s what I sit up in the dark to say- / To no one anymore since Toffile died. / Let them stay in the attic since they went there. / I promised Toffile to be cruel to them / For helping them be cruel once to him.

She hadn’t found the finger-bone she wanted / Among the buttons poured out in her lap. / I verified the name next morning: Toffile. / The rural letter box said Toffile Lajway.

-The Witch of Coos

“Abstraction is an old story with the philosophers, but it has been like a new toy in the hands of the artists of our day. Why can’t we have any one quality of poetry we choose by itself? We can have in thought. Then it will go hard if we can’t in practice. Our lives for it.”

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader. For me the initial delight is in the surprise of remembering something I didn’t know I knew. I am in a place, in a situation, as if I had materialized from cloud or risen out of the ground. There is a glad recognition of the long lost and the rest follows. Step by step the wonder of unex pected supply keeps growing. The impressions most useful to my purpose seem always those I was unaware of and so made no note of at the time when taken, and the conclusion is come to that like giants we are always hurling experience ahead of us to pave the future with against the day when we may Want to strike a line of purpose across it for somewhere. The line will have the more charm for not being mechanically straight. We enjoy the straight crookedness of a good walking stick. Modern instruments of precision are being used to make things crooked as if by eye and hand in the old days.”

“We prate of freedom. We call our schools free because we are not free to stay away from them till we are sixteen years of age. I have given up my democratic prejudices and now willingly set the lower classes free to be completely taken care of by the upper classes. Political freedom is nothing to me. I bestow it right and left. All I would keep for myself is the freedom of my material-the condition of body and mind now and then to summons aptly from the vast chaos of all I have lived through.”

” Originality and initiative are what I ask for my country. For myself the originality need be no more than the freshness of a poem run in the way I have described: from delight to wisdom. The figure is the same as for love. Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting. A poem may be worked over once it is in being, but may not be worried into being. Its most precious quality will remain its having run itself and carried away the poet with it. Read it a hundred times: it will forever keep its freshness as a petal keeps its fragrance. It can never lose its sense of a meaning that once unfolded by surprise as it went.”

-The Figure a Poem Makes

Frost attempts to name what is unique about poetry: settles of ‘wildness’- wildness of form (organic form)
Believes the shape of the poem should come from the context

Charles Brockden Brown

August 24, 2006


American novelist, historian, magazine editor
Regarded as the most ambitious and accomplished US novelist before Cooper: wrote 7 novels in 2 years
Writing covers multiple genres: novel, short story, essay, historiography, reviews
Touchstone for understanding the Early Republic
Born to a Quaker family, initially intended for a legal career
Died of tuberculosis at 39

Wieland (1798)

“Wieland or The Transformation: An American Tale”
Gothic novel
Novel of authority misrepresented and imagined, a terrifying account of the fallibility of the human mind and of democracy
Set in rural Pennsylvania before the American Revolution; relates how a small community is disturbed by the intrusion of the mysterious Carwin whose extraordinary verbal gifts cast doubt among them
Narrator Clara is intended for the private- novel in letter form, journals, notes- but forced into the public by both Carwin and Pleyel
Brockden states in the “Advertisement” section about his intentions for writing the book:

“His purpose is neither selfish nor temporary, but aims at the illustration of some important branches of the moral constitution of man.”

Ideas to Explore:

The use of eyes in the novel
The transformation of private to public
The “family” as a representation of early America
The fault of the victim
Issues of trusting evidence


“I feel little reluctance in complying with your request. You know not fully the cause of my sorrows. You are a stranger to the depth of my distress. Hence your efforts at consolation must necessarily fail. Yet the tale that I am going to tell is not intended as a claim upon your sympathy. In the midst of my despair, I do not disdain to contribute what little I can to the benefit of mankind. I acknowledge your right to be informed of the events that have lately happened in my family. Make what use of the tale you shall think proper. If it be communicated to the world, it will inculcate the duty of avoiding deceit. It will exemplify the force of early impressions, and show, the immeasurable evils that flow from an erroneous or imperfect discipline.”

“His morals, which had never been loose, were now modelled by a stricter standard. The empire of religious duty extended itself to his looks, gestures, and phrases. All levities of speech, and negligences of behaviours, were proscribed. His air was mournful and contemplative. He laboured to keep alive a sentiment of fear, and a belief of the awe-creating presence of the Deity. ideas foreign to this were sedulously excluded. To suffer their intrusion was a crime against the Divine Majesty inexpiable but by days and weeks of the keenest agonies.
No material variation had occured in the lapse of two years. Every day confirmed him in his present modes of thinking and acting. it was to be expected that the tide of his emotions would sometimes recede, that intervals of despondency and doubt would occur; but these gradually were more rare, and of shorter duration; and he, at last, arrived at a state considerably uniform in this respect.”

“Was this the penalty of disobedience? this the stroke of a vindictive and invisible hand? Is it a fresh proof that the Divine Ruler interferes in human affairs, meditates an end, selects, and commissions his agents, and enforces by unequivocal sanctions, submission to his will? Or, was it merely the irregular expansion of the fluid that imparts warmth to our heart and our blood, caused by the fatigue of the preceding day, or flowing, by established laws, from the condition of his thoughts?”

“We were frequently reminded how much happiness depends on society.”

“The sound of war had been heard, but it was at such a distance as to enhance our enjoyment by affording objects of comparison.”

“He urged, that to rely on the exaggerations of an advocate, or to make the picture of a single family a model from which to sketch the condition of a nation, was absurd.”

“The will is the tool of the understanding, which must fashion its conclusions on the notices of the sense. If the senses be depraved, it is impossible to calculate the evils that may flow from the consequent deductions of the understanding.”

“So flexible, and yet so stubborn, is the human mind. So obedient to impulses the most transient and brief, and yet so unalterably observant of the direction which is given to it!”

“Something whispered that the happiness we at present enjoyed was set on mutable foundations. Death must happen to all. Whether our felicity was to be subverted by it to-morrow, or whether it was ordained that we should lay down our heads full of years and of honor, was a question that no human being could solve.”

“I have not lived so as to fear death, yet to perish by an unseen and secret stroke, to be mangled by the knife of an assassin, was a thought at which I shuddered; what had I done to deserve to be made the victim of malignant passions?”

“My brother was a much more sanguine reasoner than our guest. Even in some of the facts which were related by Carwin, he maintained the probability of celestial interference, when the latter was disposed to deny it, and had found, as he imagined, footsteps of a human agent. Pleyel was by no means equally credulous. He scrupled not to deny faith to any testimony but that of his senses, and allowed the facts which had been supported by this testimony, not to mould his belief, but merely to give birth to doubts.”

“My errors have taught me thus much wisdom; that those sentiments which we ought not to disclose, it is criminal to harbour.”

“Ideas exist in our minds that can be accounted for by no established laws.”

“I used to suppose that certain evils could never befall a being in possession of a sound mind; that true virtue supplies us with energy which vice can never resist; that it was always in our power to obstruct, by his own death, the designs of an enemy who aimed at less than our life. How was it that a sentiment like despair had now invaded me, and that I trusted to the protection of chance, or to the pity of my persecutor?”

“Are human faculties adequate to receive stronger proofs of the existence of unfettered and beneficent intelligences than I have received?”

“‘Surely,’ said I, ‘there is omnipotence in the cause that changed the views of a man like Carwin. The divinity that shielded me from his attempts will take suitable care of my future safety. Thus to yield to my fears is to deserve that they should be real.'”

“I have lost all faith in the stedfastness of human resolves. It was thus that in periods of calm I had determined to act. No cowardice had been held by me in greater abhorrence than that which prompted an injured female to destroy, not her injurer ere the injury was perpetrated, but herself when it was without remedy. Yet now this penknife appeared to me of no other use than to baffle my assailant, and prevent the crime by destroying myself. To deliberate at shuch a time was impossible; but among the tumultuous suggestions of the moment, I do not recollect that it once occurred to me to use it as an instrument of direct defense.”

“Should I confide in the testimony of my ears?”

“Surprize is an emotion that enfeebles, not invigorates.”

“Carwin’s plot owed its success to a coincidence of events scarcely credible. The balance was swayed from its equipoise by a hair.”

“Have I not reason on my side, and the power of imparting conviction?”

“Reputation and life might be wrested from me by another, but my rectitude and honor were in my own keeping, and were safe.”

“Alas! my heart droops, and my fingers are enervated; my ideas are vivid, but my language is faint; now know I what it is to entertain incommunicable sentiments. The chain of subsequent incidents is drawn through my mind, and being linked with those which forewent, by turns rouse up agonies and sink me into hopelessness.
Yet I will persist to the end. My narrative may be invaded by inaccuracy and confusion; but if I live no longer, I will, at least, live to complete it. What but ambiguities, abruptnesses, an dark transitions, can be expected from the historian who is, at the same time, the sufferer of these disasters?”

“‘Madness, say you? Are you sure? Were not these sights, and these sounds, really seen and heard?'”

“Was I not likewise transformed from rational and human into a creature of nameless and fearful attributes? Was I not transported to the brink of the same abyss? Ere a new day should come, my hands might be embrued in blood, and my remaining life be consigned to a dungeon and chains.
With moral sensibility like mine, no wonder that this new dread was more insupportable than the anguish I had lately endured. Grief carries its own antidote along with it. When thought becomes merely a vehicle of pain, its progress must be stopped. Death is a cure which nature or ourselves must administer: to this cure I now looked forward with gloomy satisfaction.”

“Presently, I considered, that whether Wieland was a maniac, a faithful servant of his God, the vistim of hellish illusions, or the dupe of human imposture, was by no means crtain.”

“‘Catharine was dead by violence. Surely my malignant stars had not made me the cause of her death; yet had I not rashly set in motion a machine, over whose progress I had no controul, and which experience had shewn me was infinite in power? Every day might add to the catalog of horrors of which this was the source, and a seasonable disclosure of the truth might prevent numberless ills.'” -Carwin

“Were views so vivid and faith so strenuous thus liable to fading and to change? Was there not reason to doubt the accuracy of my perceptions?”

“Alas! nothing but subjection to danger, and exposure to temptation, can show us what we are.”

“I listen to my own pleas, and find them empty and false: yes, I acknowledge that my guilt surpasses that of all mankind: I confess that the curses of a world, and the frowns of a deity, are inadequate to my demerits. Is there a thing in the world worth of infinite abhorrence? It is I.”

“‘Sister,’ said he, in an accent mournful and mild, ‘I have acted poorly my part in this world. What thinkest thou? Shall I not do better in the next?'” -Weiland

“Such was my weakness, that even in the midst of these thoughts, my mind glided into abhorrence of Carwin, and I uttered in a low voice, O! Carwin! Carwin! What hast thou to answer for?”

“Such is man. Time will obliterate the deepest impressions. Grief the most vehement and hopeless, will gradually decay and wear itself out. Arguments may be employed in vain: every moral prescription may be ineffectually tried: remonstrances, however cogent or pathetic, shall have no power over the attention, or shall be repelled with disdain; yet, as day follows day, the turbulence of our emotions shall subside, and our fluctuations be finally succeeded by a calm.”

“I leave you to moralize on this tale. That virtue should become the victim of treachery is, no doubt, a mournful consideration; but it will not escape your notice, that the evils of which Carwin and Maxwell were the authors, owed their existence to the errors of the sufferers. All efforts would have been ineffectual to subvert the happiness or shorten the existence of the Stuarts, if their own frailty had not seconded these efforts. If the lady had crushed her disastrous passion in the bud, and driven the seducer from her presence, when the tendency of his artifices was seen; if Stuart had not admitted the spirit of absurd revenge, we should not have had to deplore this catastrophe. If Wieland had framed juster notions of moral duty, and of the divine attributes; or if I had been gifted with ordinary equanimity or foresight, the double-toungued deceiver would have been baffled and repelled.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

June 16, 2006


Considered the German language’s greatest 20th century poet
Famous for “thing poems”
Focus on the problems of Christianity in an age of disbelief and solitude, coexistence of the material and spiritual realms, tension between life and death
Suffered from leukemia, and died of an infection he contracted when he pricked himself on a rose thorn
Known as the “poet of loneliness”

“It is a question in marriage, to my feeling, not of creating a quick community of spirit by tearing down and destroying all boundaries, but rather a good marriage is that in which each appoints the other guardian of his solitude, and shows him this confidence, the greatest in his powers to bestow. A togetherness between two people is an impossibility…”


Otherwise this stone would seem defaced / beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders / and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:
would not, from all the borders of itself, / burst like a star: for here there is no place / that does not see you.  You must change your life.

-Archaic Torso of Apollo

This laboring through what is still undone, / as though, legs bound, we hobbled along the way, / is like the awkward walking of the swan.
And dying- to let go, no longer feel / the solid ground we stand on every day- / is like his anxious letting himself fall
into the water, which receives him gently / and which, as though with reverence and joy, / draws back past him in streams on either side; / while, infinitely silent and aware, / in his full majesty and ever more / indifferent, he condescends to glide.

-The Swan

The Duino Elegies (1912-1922)

Rilke had been visiting Princess Marie von Thurn in the Duino castle in the region when he came across some cliffs from which he drew his inspiration to start his set of ten poems
According to a story, Rilke heard in the wind the first lines of his elegies when he was walking on the rocks above the sea – “Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels’ / hierarchies?”
Completion of the elegies was delayed by Rilke’s battle with depression


Angel! If there were a place that we didn’t know of, and there, / on some unsayable carpet, lovers displayed / what they never could bring to mastery here- the bold / exploits of their high-flying hearts, / their towers of pleasure, their ladders / that have long since been standing where there was no ground, leaning / just on each other, trembling, -and could master all this, / before the surrounding spectators, the innumerable soundless dead: / Would these, then, throw down their final, forever saved-up, / forever hidden, unknown to us, eternally valid / coins of happiness before the at last / genuinely smiling pair on the gratified / carpet?

Why, if this interval of being can be spent serenely / in the form of a laurel… / why then / have to be human- and, escaping from fate, / keep longing for fate?…

But because truly being here is so much; because everything here / apparently needs us, this fleeting world, which in some strange way / keeps calling to us.  Us, the most fleeting of all. / Once for each thing.  Just once; no more.  And we too, / just once.  And never again.  But to have been / this once, completely, even if only once: / to have been at one with the earth, seems beyond undoing.

Speak and bear witness.  More than ever / the Things that we might experience are vanishing, for / what crowds them out and replaces them is an imageless act. / An act under a shell, which easily cracks open as soon as the business inside outgrows it and seeks new limits.

And these Things, / which live by perishing, know you are praising them; transient, / they look to us for deliverance: us, the most transient of all. / They want us to change them, utterly, in our invisible heart, / within- oh endlessly- within us!  Whoever we may be at last.

Earth, my dearest, I will.  Oh believe me, you no longer / need your springtimes to win me over- one of them, / ah, even one, is already too much for my blood. / Unspeakably I have belonged to you, from the first. / You were always right, and your holiest inspiration / is our intimate companion, Death.
Look, I am living.  On what?  Neither childhood nor future / grows any smaller…. Superabundant being / wells up in my heart.

And we, who have always thought / Of happiness as rising, would feel / The emotion that almost overwhelms us / Whenever a happy thing falls.

Toni Morrison

June 14, 2006


Nobel Prize winner
Played an important role in bringing African American literature into the mainstream
Concentrates on themes of feminism and racism in America

Sula (1973)

Two friends, Nel and Sula, whose relationship examines the confusing mysteries of human emotions
Addresses ideas of good and evil and how the two resemble one another


“In 1969, in Queens, snatching liberty seemed compelling.  Some of us thrived; some of us died.  All of us had a taste.”

“Which accounted for the fact that white people lived on the rich valley floor in that little river town in Ohio, and the blacks populated the hills above it, taking small consolation in the fact that every day they could literally look down on the white folks.”

“Shadrack stared at the soft colors that filled these triangles: the lumpy whiteness of rice, the quivering blood tomatoes, the grayish-brown meat.  All their repugnance was contained in the neat balance of the triangles- a balance that soothed him, transferred some of its equilibrium to him.  Thus reassured that the white, the red and the brown would stay where they were- would not explode or burst forth from their restricted zones…”

“When they bound Shadrack into a straitjacket, he was both relieved and grateful, for his hands were at last hidden and confined to whatever size they had attained.”

“Suddenly without raising his eyelids, he began to cry.  Twenty-two years old, weak, hot, frightened, not daring to acknowledge the fact that he didn’t even know who or what he was…”

“There in the toilet water he saw a grave black face.  A black so definite, so unequivocal, it astonished him.  He had been harboring a skittish apprehension that he was not real- that he didn’t exist at all.  But when the blackness greeted him with its indisputable presence, he wanted nothing more.”

“It was not death or dying that frightened him, but the unexpectedness of both.  In sorting it all out, he hit on the notion that if one day a year were devoted to it, everybody could get it out of the way and the rest of the year would be safe and free.  In this manner he instituted National Suicide Day.”

“An eagerness to please and an apology for living met in her voice…Then, for no earthly reason, at least no reason that anybody could understand, certainly no reason that Nel understood then or later, she smiled.  Like a street pup that wags its tail at the very doorjab of the butcher shop he has been kicked away from only moments before, Helene smiled.”

“‘I’m me,’ she whispered.  ‘Me.’
Nel didn’t know quite what she meant, but on the other hand she knew exactly what she meant.
‘I’m me.  I’m not their daughter.  I’m not Nel.  I’m me.  Me.’
Each time she said the word me there was a gathering in her like power, like joy, like fear. Back in bed with her discovery, she stared out the window at the dark leaves of the horse chestnut.
‘Me,’ she murmured.  And then, sinking deeper into the quilts, ‘I want..I want to be…wonderful.  Oh, Jesus, make me wonderful.'”

“And it was natural that he, after all, because the first one to join Shadrack- Tar Baby and the deweys- on National Suicide Day.”

“The Peace women simply loved maleness, for its own sake.”

“They were solitary little girls whose loneliness was so profound it intoxicated them and sent them stumbling into Technicolored visions that always included a presence, a someone, who, quite like the dreamer, shared the delight of the dream.”

“Sula was a heavy brown with large quiet eyes, one of which featured a birthmark that spread from the middle of the lid toward the eyebrow, shaped something like a stemmed rose.  It gave her otherwise plain face a broken excitement and blue-blade threat like the keloid scar of the razored man who sometimes played checkers with her grandmother.  The birthmark was to grow darker as the years passed, but now it was the same shade as her gold-flecked eyes, which to the end, were as steady and clean as rain.”

“When, he wondered, will those people ever be anything but animals, fit for nothing but substitutes for mules, only mules didn’t kill each other the way niggers did.”

“‘You settin’ here with your healthy-ass self and ax me did I love you?  Them big old eyes in your head would a been two holes full of maggots if I hadn’t.'”

“I’d be laying here at night and he be downstairs in that room, but when I closed my eyes I’d see him… six feet tall smilin’ and crawlin’ up the stairs quietlike so I wouldn’t hear and opening the door soft so I wouldn’t hear and he’d be creepin’ to the bed trying to spread my legs trying to get back up in my womb.”

“Sula was probably struck dumb, as anybody would be who saw her own mamma burn up.  Eva said yes, but inside she disagreed and remained convinced that Sula had watched Hannah burn not because she was paralyzed, but because she was interested.”

“‘Well, don’t let your mouth start nothing that your ass can’t stand.  When you gone to get married?  You need to have some babies.  It’ll settle you.’
‘I don’t want to make somebody else.  I want to make myself.'”

“‘Any more fires in this house, I’m lighting them!’
‘Hellfire don’t need lighting and it’s already burning in you…’
‘Whatever’s burning in me is mine!'”

“‘The real hell of Hell is that it is forever.’ Sula said that.  She said doing anything forever and ever was hell…’Sula was wrong.  Hell ain’t things lasting forever.  Hell is change.'”

“Sula was distinctly different.  Eva’s arrogance and Hannah’s self-indulgence merged in her and, with a twist that was all her own imagination, she lived out her days exploring her own thoughts and emotions, giving them full reign, feeling no obligation to please anybody unless their pleasure pleased her.  As willing to feel pain as to give pain, to feel pleasure as to give pleasure, hers was an experimental life…She was completely free of ambition, with no affection for money, property or things, no greed, no desire to command attention or compliments- no ego.  For that reason she felt no compulsion to verify herself- be consistent with herself.”

“Now Nel was one of them.  One of the spiders whose only thought was the next rung of the web, who dangled in dark dry places suspended by their own spittle, more terrified of the free fall than the snake’s breath below… If they were touched by the snake’s breath, however fatal, they were merely victims and knew how to behave in that role (just as Nel knew how to behave as the wronged wife).  But the free fall, oh no, that required- demanded- invention: a thing to do with the wings, a way of holding the legs and most of all a full surrender to the downward flight if they wished to taste their tongues or stay alive.  But alive was what they, and now Nel, did not want to be.  Too dangerous.”

“All those cities held the same people, working the same mouths, sweating the same sweat.”

“If I take a chamois and rub real hard on the bone, right on the ledge of your cheek bone, some of the black will disappear.  It will flake away into the chamois and underneath there will be gold leaf.  I can see it shining through the black.  I know it is there…”

“‘After all the old women have lain with the teen-agers; when all the young girls have slept with their old drunken uncles; after all the black men fuck all the white ones; when all the white women kiss all the black ones; when the guards have raped all the jailbirds and after all the whores make love to their grannies; after all the faggots get their mothers’ trim; when Lindbergh sleeps with Bessie Smith and Norma Shearer makes it with Stepin Fetchit; after all the dogs have fucked all the cats and every weathervane on every barn flies off the roof to mount the hogs… then there’ll be a little love left over for me.  And I know just what it will feel like.'”

“Then she realized, or rather she sensed, that there was not going to be any pain.  She was not breathing because she didn’t have to.  Her body did not need oxygen.  She was dead.
Sula felt her face smiling.  ‘Well, I’ll be damned,’ she thought, ‘it didn’t even hurt.  Wait’ll I tell Nel.'”

“They hugged trees simply to hold for a moment all that life and largeness stilled in glass, and gazed at the sun pressed against the gray sky like a worn doubloon, wondering all the while if the world were coming to an end.”

“So he had said ‘always,’ so she would not have to be afraid of the change- the falling away of skin, the drip and slide of blood, and the exposure of bone underneath.  He had said ‘always’ to convince her, assure her, of permanency.”

“Still, when the day broke in an incredible splash of sun, he gathered his things.  In the early part of the afternoon, drenched in sunlight and certain that this would be the last time he would invite them to end their lives neatly and sweetly, he walked over the rickety bridge and on into the Bottom.  But it was not heartfelt this time, not loving this time, for he no longer cared whether he helped them or not.  His rope was improperly tied; his bell had a tinny unimpassioned sound.  His visitor was dead and would come no more.”

“Maybe the sun; maybe the clots of green showing in the hills promising so much; maybe the contrast between Shadrack’s doomy, gloomy bell glinting in all that sweet sunshine.  Maybe just a brief moment , for once, of not feeling fear, of looking at death in the sunshine and being unafraid.  She laughed.”

“Called to them to come out and play in the sunshine- as though the sunshine would last, as though there really was hope.””A lot of them died there.  The earth, now warm, shifted; the first forepole slipped; loose rock fell from the face of the tunnel and caused a shield to give way.  They found themselves in a chamber of water, deprived of the sun that had brought them there”

“‘Sula?’ she whispered, gazing at the tops of trees.  ‘Sula?’
Leaves stirred; mud shifted; there was the smell of overripe green things.  A soft ball of fur broke and scattered like dandelion spores in the breeze.
‘All that time, all that time, I thought I was missing Jude.’  And the loss pressed down on her chest and came up into her throat. ‘We was girls together,’ she said as though explaining something. ‘O Lord, Sula,’ she cried, ‘girl, girl, girlgirlgirl.’
It was a fine cry- loud and long- but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow.”