Category: poetry

An interview with John Ashbery

poetry

wwnorton:

Claude Peck: Why has Rimbaud appealed, over the years, to various music icons, from Jim Morrison to Patti Smith?

John Ashbery: Bob Dylan, I think, also. Rimbaud has always appealed to misfits and delinquents, who are very often poets. Poets are very often of those persuasions.

Misfits and delinquents. Love it.

 

Stanley Kunitz, “Hermetic Poem”

poetry

The secret my heart keeps
Flows into cracked cups.

No saucer can contain
This overplus of mine:

It glisters to the floor,
Lashing like lizard fire

And ramps upon the walls
Crazy with ruby ills.

Who enters by my door
Is drowned, burned, stung, and starred.

* * *

There is really little to say about this poem, except that it is perfection.

 

Jack Kerouac, 1st Chorus of “Desolation Blues”

poetry

I stand on my head on Desolation Peak
And see that the world is hanging
Into an ocean of endless space
The mountains dripping rock by rock
Like bubbles in the void
And tending where they want—
That at night the shooting stars
Are swimming up to meet us
Yearning from the bottom black
But never make it, alas—
That we walk around clung
To earth
Like beetles with big brains
Ignorant of where we are, how,
What, & upsidedown like fools,
Talking of governments & history,
—But Mount Hozomeen
The most beautiful mountain I ever seen,
Does nothing but sit & be a mountain,
A mess of double pointed rock
Hanging pouring into space
O frightful silent endless space
—Everything goes to the head
Of the hanging bubble, with men
The juice is in the head—
So mountain peaks are points
Of rocky liquid yearning

~ ~ ~

Whenever I get lost, thinking too much about the world and how hard it can be sometimes, I remember that there is the lonely fire lookout on Desolation Peak.

Sam Shepard, “He changed the canaries”

poetry

He changed the canaries
Fed the Mule
Stood transfixed for ½ an hour
 
Every morning
He changed the canaries
Fed the Mule
And stood transfixed for ½ an hour
 
He never planned on standing transfixed for ½ an hour
It just happened
Every morning
 
Maybe it was the pause in finishing feeding the Mule
The momentum running down
 
There seemed to be a natural momentum
From changing the canaries
To feeding the Mule
 
It just happened
Every morning
 
It was the pause
After feeding the Mule
That stunned him
 
A Giant Pause
 
He even knew what the next thing was
He knew it very clearly
 
He knew the next thing was feeding himself
After feeding the Mule
 
But he couldn’t move
 
He stood transfixed for ½ an hour
Staring at the desert
 
Sometimes staring at his bottle house
 
Sometimes staring at the well pump
 
It depended on which direction he happened to be facing
When the transfixion struck him
 
It got to the point where he looked forward
To standing transfixed for ½ an hour
 
It was the high point of his morning
 
Change the canaries
Feed the Mule
Stand transfixed for ½ an hour
 
1/15/80
Homestead Valley, Ca.

~ ~ ~

From his fantastic book Motel Chronicles.

Allen Ginsberg, “The Bricklayer’s Lunch Hour”

poetry

Two bricklayers are setting the walls
of a cellar in a new dug out patch
of dirt behind an old house of wood
with brown gables grown over with ivy
on a shady street in Denver. It is noon
and one of them wanders off. The young
subordinate bricklayer sits idly for
a few minutes after eating a sandwich
and throwing away the paper bag. He
has on dungarees and is bare above
the waist; he has yellow hair and wears
a smudged but still bright red cap
on his head. He sits idly on top
of the wall on a ladder that is leaned
up between his spread thighs, his head
bent down, gazing uninterestedly at
the paper bag on the grass. He draws
his hand across his breast, and then
slowly rubs his knuckles across the
side of his chin, and rocks to and fro
on the wall. A small cat walks to him
along the top of the wall. He picks
it up, takes off his cap, and puts it
over the kitten’s body for a moment.
Meanwhile it is darkening as if to rain
and the wind on top of the trees in the
street comes through almost harshly.

Denver, Summer 1947

~ ~ ~

Now, the last Ginsberg post is not to say that his early stuff is not great. It is of course great, monumental and beautiful. It goes without saying. Just look at this. This scene he creates, and the way he dissolves it at the end with almost equal beauty.

Allen Ginsberg, “Returning to the Country for a Brief Visit”

poetry

Annotations to Amitendranath Tagore’s Sung Poetry

“In later days, remembering this I shall certainly go mad.”

Reading Sung poems, I think of my poems to Neal
dead a few years now, Jack underground
invisible – their faces rise in my mind.
Did I write truthfully of them? In later times
I saw them little, not much difference they’re dead.
The live in books and memory, strong as on earth.

“I do not know who is hoarding all this rare work.”

Old One the dog stretches stiff legged,
soon he’ll be underground. Spring’s first fat bee
buzzes yellow over the new grass and dead leaves.

What’s this little brown insect walking zigzag
across the sunny white page of Su Tung-p’o’s poem?
Fly away, tiny mite, even your life is tender –
I lift the book and blow you into the dazzling void.

“You live apart on rivers and seas…”

You live in apartments by rivers and seas
Spring comes, waters flow murky the salt wave’s covered with oily dung
Sun rises, smokestacks cover the roofs with black mist
winds blow, city skies are clear blue all afternoon
but at night the full moon hesitates behind brick.
How will all these millions of people worship the Great Mother?
When all these millions of people die, will they recognize the Great Father?

Cherry Valley, April 20, 1973

~ ~ ~

This is absolutely one of my favorite Ginsberg poems. People tend to focus on his work of the 40s and 50s as his most vital, and it’s easy to forget that when Jack and Neal died – when many people thought beat itself was dead – men like Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti (and so many more) carried on with the Zen beat message and poetry for generations. Ginsberg is gone now too, a tiny mite blown into the void, but even today Snyder and Ferlinghetti and others are as vital today as they ever were, perhaps more so. It would be a sad mistake for poetry and beat fans to focus only on the Six Gallery days and forget the beautiful lifetimes that followed.

Robert Herrick, “Delight in Disorder”

poetry

A sweet disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantonness;
A lawn about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction;
An erring lace, which here and there
Enthrals the crimson stomacher;
A cuff neglectful, and thereby
Ribands to flow confusedly;
A winning wave, deserving note,
In the tempestuous petticoat;
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie
I see a wild civility:
Do more bewitch me, than when art
Is too precise in every part.

~ ~ ~

This one’s from 1648. Yeah, look at the cool guy with his 362-year-old poetry. Seriously though, I really like this little poem and I’ll tell you why. To me this poem perfectly describes poetry itself. Poetry is an ancient thing, originally born from earth and pure emotion, out of the wild. It is humanity’s oldest way to explore and think about the natural world, our place in it, and the mysterious forces that we feel govern it. But poetry is also an art of kings and scholars; and this duality is shown here. “Sweet disorder,” “fine distraction,” and of course – so beautifully said – “wild civility.” Wild civility. If that is not poetry’s true identity I don’t know what is.

And Herrick was right to choose the word “bewitch” when he describes what this wild civility does to him, because poetry, as I said before, is about the mysterious forces – about magic. And I don’t mean magic in the cheesy, is this your card way – I mean magic in the old school way. It’s hard to say what I mean…like Tom Robbins said, “using words to describe magic is like using a screwdriver to cut roast beef.” But I think you understand just the same. Poetry is essentially a catalog of the world’s mysteries.

Bill Callahan, “Too Many Birds”

poetry

Too many birds in one tree
Too many birds in one tree
And the sky is full of black and screaming leaves
The sky is full of black and screaming

And one more bird
Then one more bird
And one last bird
And another

One last black bird without a place to land
One last black bird without a place to be
Turns around in hopes to find the place it last knew rest
Oh black bird, over black rain burn
This is not where you last knew rest
You fly all night to sleep on stone
The heartless rest that in the morn, we’ll be gone
You fly all night to sleep on stone, to return to the tree with too many birds
Too many birds
Too many birds

If
If you
If you could
If you could only
If you could only stop
If you could only stop your
If you could only stop your heart
If you could only stop your heart beat
If you could only stop your heart beat for
If you could only stop your heart beat for one
If you could only stop your heart beat for one heart
If you could only stop your heart beat for one heart beat

~ ~ ~

This song is very beautiful on the page, especially that last section, where each line has this new nuance that carries you along. But – the song must really be heard to be loved.

Seamus Heaney, “The Schoolbag”

poetry

My handsewn leather schoolbag. Forty years.
Poet, you were nel mezzo del cammin
When I shouldtered it, half-full of blue-lined jotters,
And saw the classroom charts, the displayed bean,

The wallmap with its spray of shipping lanes
Describing arcs across the blue North Channel…
And in the middle of the road to school,
Ox-eye daisies and wild dandelions.

Learning’s easy carried! The bag is light,
Scuffed and supple and unemptiable
As an itinerant school conjuror’s hat.
So take it, for a word-hoard and a handsel,

As you step out trig and look back all at once
Like a child on his first morning leaving parents.

~ ~ ~

I really have a thing for Heaney’s poetry these days. As a reader he is constantly rewarding; I could flip to any page in any of his books and be perfectly satisfied, and more likely blown away, by the poem I found there. He’s a magician, an alchemist. I look at his poems and think, these are just words. These are simple words I know and use. And yet he shapes them into magic, over and over again. This is true poetry here friends, I hope you’re seeing it.

(from his book Seeing Things)