Category Archives: Poetry

I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing

I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing
by Walt Whitman

I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing,
All alone stood it and the moss hung down from the branches,
Without any companion it grew there uttering joyous leaves of dark
green,
And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of myself,
But I wonder’d how it could utter joyous leaves standing alone there
without its friend near, for I knew I could not,
And I broke off a twig with a certain number of leaves upon it, and
twined around it a little moss,
And brought it away, and I have placed it in sight in my room,
It is not needed to remind me as of my own dear friends,
(For I believe lately I think of little else than of them,)
Yet it remains to me a curious token, it makes me think of manly love;
For all that, and though the live-oak glistens there in Louisiana solitary
in a wide flat space,
Uttering joyous leaves all its life without a friend a lover near,
I know very well I could not.


Experience

Experience
Carl Sandburg, 1878 – 1967

This morning I looked at the map of the day
And said to myself, “This is the way! This is the way I will go;
Thus shall I range on the roads of achievement,
The way is so clear—it shall all be a joy on the lines marked out.”
And then as I went came a place that was strange,—
’Twas a place not down on the map!
And I stumbled and fell and lay in the weeds,
And looked on the day with rue.

I am learning a little—never to be sure—
To be positive only with what is past,
And to peer sometimes at the things to come
As a wanderer treading the night
When the mazy stars neither point nor beckon,
And of all the roads, no road is sure.

I see those men with maps and talk
Who tell how to go and where and why;
I hear with my ears the words of their mouths,
As they finger with ease the marks on the maps;
And only as one looks robust, lonely, and querulous,
As if he had gone to a country far
And made for himself a map,
Do I cry to him, “I would see your map!
I would heed that map you have!”


Boston

Boston
Aaron Smith

I’ve been meaning to tell
you how the sky is pink
here sometimes like the roof
of a mouth that’s about to chomp
down on the crooked steel teeth
of the city,

I remember the desperate
things we did
and that I stumble
down sidewalks listening
to the buzz of street lamps
at dusk and the crush
of leaves on the pavement,

Without you here I’m viciously lonely

and I can’t remember
the last time I felt holy,
the last time I offered
myself as sanctuary

*

I watched two men
press hard into
each other, their bodies
caught in the club’s
bass drum swell,
and I couldn’t remember
when I knew I’d never
be beautiful, but it must
have been quick
and subtle, the way
the holy ghost can pass
in and out of a room.
I want so desperately
to be finished with desire,
the rushing wind, the still
small voice.

I will be in Boston most of this week for work, and I thought this was an appropriate poem to use. The imagery in this poem is quite interesting to me, especially the last stanza about the two men and the poets perception of self beauty, or lack there of.


Fire and Sleet and Candlelight

Fire and Sleet and Candlelight
by Elinor Wylie

For this you’ve striven
Daring, to fail:
Your sky is riven
Like a tearing veil.

For this, you’ve wasted
Wings of your youth;
Divined, and tasted
Bitter springs of truth.

From sand unslakèd
Twisted strong cords,
And wandered naked
Among trysted swords.

There’s a word unspoken,
A knot untied.
Whatever is broken
The earth may hide.

The road was jagged
Over sharp stones:
Your body’s too ragged
To cover your bones.

The wind scatters
Tears upon dust;
Your soul’s in tatters
Where the spears thrust.

Your race is ended—
See, it is run:
Nothing is mended
Under the sun.

Straight as an arrow
You fall to a sleep
Not too narrow
And not too deep.


[Sonnets are full of love, and this my tome]

[Sonnets are full of love, and this my tome]

by Christina Rossetti

Sonnets are full of love, and this my tome
Has many sonnets: so here now shall be
One sonnet more, a love sonnet, from me
To her whose heart is my heart’s quiet home,
To my first Love, my Mother, on whose knee
I learnt love-lore that is not troublesome;
Whose service is my special dignity,
And she my loadstar while I go and come.
And so because you love me, and because
I love you, Mother, I have woven a wreath
Of rhymes wherewith to crown your honoured name:
In you not fourscore years can dim the flame
Of love, whose blessed glow transcends the laws
Of time and change and mortal life and death.


The Voice of God

The Voice of God

by Crystal Williams

Poem for Aretha Franklin

when she opens her mouth
our world swells like dawn on the pond
when the sun licks the water & the jay garbles,
the whole quiet thing coming into tune,
the gnats, frogs, the dandelion pollen, the
pebbles & leaves & the whole world of us
sitting at the throat of the jay
dancing in the throat of the jay
all of us on the lip of the jay
singing doowop, doowop, do.

About This Poem

“Many years ago I heard someone describe Aretha Franklin’s voice as the voice of God, which was an amazing thing to say. This meditation is my attempt at understanding why that statement struck me as profoundly true. In the end, Aretha’s voice is an aggregation of the choruses of the natural world—all of their harmony, complexity, and distinctiveness—and it is as close to the divine as I can imagine.”
—Crystal Williams


Still I Rise

Still I Rise
Maya Angelou, 1928 – 2014

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

“Still I Rise” is a powerful, empowering poem all about the struggle to overcome prejudice and injustice. It is one of Maya Angelou’s most popular poems.

When read by those who understand the meaning of repeated wrongdoing, the poem becomes a kind of anthem, a beacon of hope for the oppressed and downtrodden.

It is a reminder of the abuse of power by those who sit in government, the judiciary, in the military and in the police force. For members of the public, for society, it sends out the clear, repeated message of hope. No matter the circumstances, there must always be hope to cling on to.


The Tree of Knowledge

The Tree of Knowledge

by Shane McCrae

The hastily assembled angel saw
One thing was like another thing and that
Thing like another everything depend-
ed on how high it was the place you saw

Things from and he had seen the Earth from where
A human couldn’t see the Earth and could-
n’t tell most human things apart and though
He hadn’t ever really understood

His job he knew it had to do with seeing
And what he saw was everything would come
Together at the same time everything
Would fall apart and that was humans thinking

The world was meant for them and other things
Were accidental or were decora-
tions meant for them and therefore purposeful
That humans thought that God had told them so

And what the hastily assembled angel
Thought was that probably God had said the same thing
To every living thing on Earth and on-
ly stopped when one said Really back but then

Again the hastily assembled angel
Couldn’t tell human things apart and maybe
That Really mattered what would he have heard
Holy or maybe Folly or maybe Kill

About This Poem

“‘The Tree of Knowledge’ is part of a tiny sequence of poems featuring a being I call ‘the hastily assembled angel.’ A lot of the poems I’ve been writing lately seem to me to be very belated responses to the Martian poetry that briefly appeared in the United Kingdom about forty years ago, and so feature protagonists to whom Earth seems even more strange than it seems to people who live on Earth in a more everyday way. If our country is going to be led by a comic-book villain, our poems might as well be filled with Martians.”
—Shane McCrae

Shane McCrae is the author, most recently, of The Gilded Auction Block forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux and In the Language of My Captor (Wesleyan University Press, 2017), which was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He teaches at Columbia University and lives in New York City.


The Mock Song

The Mock Song

BY JOHN WILMOT, EARL OF ROCHESTER

I swive as well as others do,

I’m young, not yet deformed,

My tender heart, sincere, and true,

Deserves not to be scorned.

Why Phyllis then, why will you swive,

With forty lovers more?

Can I (said she) with Nature strive,

Alas I am, alas I am a whore.

Were all my body larded o’er,

With darts of love, so thick,

That you might find in ev’ry pore,

A well stuck standing prick;

Whilst yet my eyes alone were free,

My heart, would never doubt,

In am’rous rage, and ecstasy,

To wish those eyes, to wish those eyes fucked out.

John Wilmot (1 April 1647 – 26 July 1680) was an English poet and courtier of King Charles II‘s Restoration court. The Restoration reacted against the “spiritual authoritarianism” of the Puritan era. Rochester was the embodiment of the new era, and he is as well known for his rakish lifestyle as his poetry, although the two were often interlinked. He died at the age of 33 from venereal disease.


By the Stream

By the Stream
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

By the stream I dream in calm delight, and watch as in a glass,
How the clouds like crowds of snowy-hued and white-robed maidens
pass,
And the water into ripples breaks and sparkles as it spreads,
Like a host of armored knights with silver helmets on their heads.
And I deem the stream an emblem fit of human life may go,
For I find a mind may sparkle much and yet but shallows show,
And a soul may glow with myriad lights and wondrous mysteries,
When it only lies a dormant thing and mirrors what it sees.


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