Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Mower to the Glow-Worms by Andrew Marvell

This week, a terrific poem in the English pastoral tradition. I love how convention is upended by the personal in the last stanza.

The Mower to the Glow-Worms

Ye living lamps, by whose dear light
The nightingale does sit so late,
And studying all the summer night,
Her matchless songs does meditate;

Ye county comets, that portend
No war nor prince’s funeral,
Shining unto no higher end
Than to presage the grass’s fall;

Ye glow-worms, whose officious flame
To wand’ring mowers shows the way,
That in the night have lost their aim,
And after foolish fires do stray;

Your courteous lights in vain you waste,
Since Juliana here is come,
For she my mind hath so displac’d
That I shall never find my home.

Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) was a well-known politician in his day, holding office in Oliver Cromwell's government. Though good friends with John Milton, he was, himself, relatively unknown as a poet and his work was only published posthumously. He is now considered one of the great English poets of the 17th Century.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Separation by W.S. Merwin


Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

William S. Merwin was born in New York City in 1927, the son of a Presbyterian minister. He has written more than 20 books of poetry, won numerous prestigious awards, and served as Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. He currently resides in Hawaii.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Looking Around, Believing by Gary Soto

This week, Gary Soto reminds us that we can always stop to find the world miraculous.

Looking Around, Believing

How strange that we can begin at any time.
With two feet we get down the street.
With a hand we undo the rose.
With an eye we lift up the peach tree
And hold it up to the wind — white blossoms
At our feet. Like today. I started
In the yard with my daughter,
With my wife poking at a potted geranium,
And now I am walking down the street,
Amazed that the sun is only so high,
Just over the roof, and a child
Is singing through a rolled newspaper
And a terrier is leaping like a flea
And at the bakery I pass, a palm,
Like a suctioning starfish, is pressed
To the window. We're keeping busy —
This way, that way, we're making shadows
Where sunlight was, making words
Where there was only noise in the trees.

Gary Soto was born in Fresno, California in 1952 to working-class, Mexican-American parents. He is the author of many books of poetry, including, most recently A Simple Plan (Chronicle books). Soto currently resides in Northern California.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

I, Too, Sing America by Langston Hughes

A repeat, but I thought it was a good time to post this one again.

I, Too, Sing America

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.

Langston Hughes was born in 1902 in Joplin, Missouri. Through his poetry, fiction and plays he tried to accurately portray the African-American experience in early to mid-twentieth century America. He made major contributions to the Harlem Rennaisance, and is known for incorporating jazz influences into his work.