Saturday, June 20, 2009

An Anonymous Poem from Iran

Friday the 19th of June, 2009
Tomorrow, Saturday
Tomorrow is a day of destiny
Tonight the cries of Allah-o Akhbar
Are heard louder and louder than the nights before

Where is this place?
Where is this place where every door is closed?
Where is this place where people are simply calling God?
Where is this place where the sound of Allah-o Akhbar gets louder and louder?
I wait every night to see if the sounds will get louder and whether the number increases
It shakes me
I wonder if God is shaken

Where is this place where so many innocent people are entrapped?
Where is this place where no one comes to our aid?
Where is this place where only with our silence we are sending our voices to the world?
Where is this place where the young shed blood and then people go and pray?
Standing on that same blood and pray?

Where is this place where the citizens are called vagrants?
Where is this place? You want me to tell you?
This place is Iran
The homeland of you and me
This place is Iran

Friday, June 12, 2009

Lesson by Ellen Bryant Voigt


Whenever my mother, who taught
small children forty years,
asked a question, she
already knew the answer.
"Would you like to" meant
you would. "Shall we" was
another, and "Don't you think."
As in "Don't you think
it's time you cut your hair."

So when, in the bare room,
in the strict bed, she said,
"You want to see?" her hands
were busy at her neckline,
untying the robe, not looking
down at it, stitches
bristling where the breast
had been, but straight at me.

I did what I always did:
not weep --she never wept--
and made my face a kindly
whitewashed wall, so she
could write, again, whatever
she wanted there.

Ellen Bryant Voigt was born and raised in VIrginia. Her poetry is influenced by her background in music. She has written several books of poetry and served as the Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She currently lives in Vermont and teaches for the Warren Wilson low-residency MFA program.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Personals by C.D. Wright


Some nights I sleep with my dress on. My teeth
are small and even. I don't get headaches.
Since 1971 or before, I have hunted a bench
where I could eat my pimento cheese in peace.
If this were Tennessee and across that river, Arkansas,
I'd meet you in West Memphis tonight. We could
have a big time. Danger, shoulder soft.
Do not lie or lean on me. I'm still trying to find a job
for which a simple machine isn't better suited.
I've seen people die of money. Look at Admiral Benbow. I wish
like certain fishes, we came equipped with light organs.
Which reminds me of a little known fact:
if we were going the speed of light, this dome
would be shrinking while we were gaining weight.
Isn't the road crooked and steep.
In this humidity, I make repairs by night. I'm not one
among millions who saw Monroe's face
in the moon. I go blank looking at that face.
If I could afford it I'd live in hotels. I won awards
in spelling and the Australian crawl. Long long ago.
Grandmother married a man named Ivan. The men called him
Eve. Stranger, to tell the truth, in dog years I am up there.

C. D. Wright was born in 1949 in Mountain Home, Arkansas. She is the author of numerous books of poetry and currently teaches at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Prayer by Carol Ann Duffy

I love Carol Ann Duffy's "Prayer," and the poem is even more remarkable when you consider how strictly she's stayed true to the Shakespearean sonnet form--and how well she's hidden it. The last line, which I'm told is familiar to Brits, is somewhat lost in translation. It's part of a nightly radio maritime weather forecast.


Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims1 sung by a tree, a sudden gift.

Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
in the distant Latin chanting of a train.

Pray for us now. Grade I piano scales
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child's name as though they named their loss.

Darkness outside. Inside, the radio's prayer -
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.

Carol Ann Duffy was born in in 1955 in Glasgow, Scotland. She was recently named the first female (and the first Scottish) poet laureate in British history.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

You Who Never Arrived by Rainer Maria Rilke

You Who Never Arrived

You who never arrived
in my arms, Beloved, who were lost
from the start,
I don't even know what songs
would please you. I have given up trying
to recognize you in the surging wave of
the next moment. All the immense
images in me -- the far-off, deeply-felt landscape,
cities, towers, and bridges, and un-
suspected turns in the path,
and those powerful lands that were once
pulsing with the life of the gods--
all rise within me to mean
you, who forever elude me.

You, Beloved, who are all
the gardens I have ever gazed at,
longing. An open window
in a country house-- , and you almost
stepped out, pensive, to meet me. Streets that I chanced
you had just walked down them and vanished.
And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors
were still dizzy with your presence and, startled, gave back
my too-sudden image. Who knows? Perhaps the same
bird echoed through both of us
yesterday, separate, in the evening...

--Translated by Stephen Mitchell

Rainer Maria Rilke was born in Prague in 1875. He resided throughout Europe during his lifetime, including a 12-year residency is Paris, where he befriending the famed sculptor Auguste Rodin. His best known work includes his Duino Elegies and his Sonnets to Orpheus.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins

This is good advice to anyone just starting to read poetry. And if you've ever been in a poetry workshop, you know what Collins is talking about in the last two stanzas.

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Billy Collins was born in New York City in 1941. He served as the Poet Laureate in 2001 and is the author of several books of poetry.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Alone by Edgar Allan Poe

Old school this week. What do you think?


From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were--I have not seen
As others saw--I could not bring
My passions from a common spring--
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow--I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone--
And all I lov'd--I lov'd alone--
Then--in my childhood--in the dawn
Of a most stormy life--was drawn
From ev'ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still--
From the torrent, or the fountain--
From the red cliff of the mountain--
From the sun that 'round me roll'd
In its autumn tint of gold--
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass'd me flying by--
From the thunder, and the storm--
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view--

Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 19, 1809, and was raised in Virginia. He is remembered as one of the first American writers to become a major figure in world literature.