Saturday, February 28, 2009

Moles by Mary Oliver

This week, an animal poem by Mary Oliver


Under the leaves, under
the first loose
levels of earth
they're there -- quick
as beetles, blind
as bats, shy
as hares but seenless than these --
among the pale girders
of appleroot,
rockshelf, nests
of insects and black
pastures of bulbs
peppery and packed full
of the sweetest food:
spring flowers.
Field after field
you can see the traceries
of their long
lonely walks, then
the rains blur
even this frail hint of them --
so excitable,
so plush,so willing to continue
generation after generation
accomplishing nothing
but their brief physical lives
as they live and die,
pushing and shoving
with their stubborn muzzles against
the whole earth,
finding it

Mary Oliver was born on September 10, 1935 in Maple Heights, Ohio. She is the author of many book , including American Primitive (1983), for which she won the Pulitzer Prize. She currently lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Above Pate Valley by Gary Snyder

Gary Snyder is one of our best nature poets.  I think you can see here how Zen Buddhism has influenced him--he treats nature with a reverence.  

Above Pate Valley

We finished clearing the last
Section of trail by noon,
High on the ridge-side
Two thousand feet above the creek
Reached the pass, went on
Beyond the white pine groves,
Granite shoulders, to a small
Green meadow watered by the snow,
Edged with Aspen—sun
Straight high and blazing
But the air was cool.
Ate a cold fried trout in the
Trembling shadows. I spied
A glitter, and found a flake
Black volcanic glass—obsidian—
By a flower. Hands and knees
Pushing the Bear grass, thousands
Of arrowhead leavings over a
Hundred yards. Not one good
Head, just razor flakes
On a hill snowed all but summer,
A land of fat summer deer,
They came to camp. On their
Own trails. I followed my own
Trail here. Picked up the cold-drill,
Pick, singlejack, and sack
Of dynamite.
Ten thousand years.

Gary Snyder was born in San Francisco in 1930.  He was a member of the beat generation and is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize.  He is currently a professor at the University of California at Davis.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Design by Robert Frost

Frost was a master of the sonnet. In "Design" he takes on the classic argument for design: that the design evident in the natural world is proof of the existence of God.  


I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth--
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches' broth--
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.
What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?--
If design govern in a thing so small.

Robert Frost was born in San Francisco in 1874. He moved to New England at the age of eleven and became interested in reading and writing poetry during his high school years in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Frost lived and taught for many years in Massachusetts and Vermont, and died in Boston on January 29, 1963.

Friday, February 06, 2009

One Art by Elizabeth Bishop

Bishop's famous poem begins with a playful tone, then builds to a serious and powerful ending. You might recognize the form (the villanelle) from Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night."

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Elizabeth Bishop was born in 1911 in Worcester, Massachusetts, but grew up with her grandparents in Nova Scotia. She is considered to have been one of the great American poets of the 20th Century, and is best known for her remarkable book Geography III. She died in 1979.