Tuesday, April 22, 2014

To a Frustrated Poet

I think this may be the only poem R.J. Ellmann has ever written, but when you've done this well first shot out of the box, why mess with it? Delight.

Click the title of the poem to listen.

To a Frustrated Poet

This is to say
I know
You wish you were in the woods,
Living the poet life,
Not here at a formica topped table
In a meeting about perceived inequalities in the benefits and
     allowances offered to employees of this college,
And I too wish you were in the woods,
Because it's no fun having a frustrated poet
In the Dept. of Human Resources, believe me.
In the poems of yours that I've read, you seem ever intelligent
     and decent and patient in a way 
Not evident to us in this office,
And so, knowing how poets can make a feast out of trouble,
Raising flowers in a bed of drunkenness, divorce, despair,
I give you this check representing two weeks' wages
And ask you to clean out your desk today
And go home
And write a poem
With a real frog in it
And plums from the refrigerator,
So sweet and so cold.

R.J. Ellmann

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Goose

Click the title of the poem to listen.

The Goose

Do you want to know why I am alive today?
I will tell you.
Early on, during the food-shortage,
Some of us were miraculously presented
Each with a goose that laid a golden egg.
Myself, I killed the cackling thing and I ate it.
Alas, many and many of the other recipients
Died of gold-dust poisoning.

Muriel Spark

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Dawn Revisited

Click the title of the poem to listen.

Dawn Revisited

Imagine you wake up
with a second chance: The blue jay
hawks his pretty wares
and the oak still stands, spreading
glorious shade. If you don't look back,

the future never happens.
How good to rise in sunlight,
in the prodigal smell of biscuits --
eggs and sausage on the grill.
The whole sky is yours

to write on, blown open
to a blank page. Come on, 
shake a leg! You'll never know
who's down there, frying those eggs,
if you don't get up and see.

Rita Dove

Friday, April 18, 2014

Three More Days

Mike Watts is a poet and spoken word performer from Hull, Yorkshire. This poem is taken from his book Day and Night in the Damaged Goods Factory. Phil mined this gem of a lament, and he's guest reading today.

Click the title of the poem to listen.



Alone for three weeks
In a bed that has
Crippled me,
Whose sheets have tormented
To the edge of 
Insanity
And tonight,
As bleak northern bursts
Pelt rain at my window,
Wanting nothing more
Than to feel
The warm plump
Of breasts
Soft at my back.

I am here
And she is 250 miles south
Of hands
That would peel
Her like fruit
If she were beside me now.

Heavy as I am,
Sleep touches briefly
And the need 
To piss
Is about to break it
Completely.

There is too much space.

I want
An entanglement of legs,
An arm locked
Around my chest,
I want to close my eyes
Until the point
Of an elbow
Digs a rib
And wakes me.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

In Defense of Our Overgrown Garden

A lucky find for me on the Poetry Foundation app, this. It was love at first confusion. I like a good thicket of words, and a love letter to thickets, to home, to love letters? With internal rhymes? Yes, please.

Click the title of the poem to listen.

In Defense of Our Overgrown Garden


Last night the apple trees shook and gave each lettuce a heart
Six hard red apples broke through the greenhouse glass and
Landed in the middle of those ever-so-slightly green leaves
That seem no mix of seeds and soil but of pastels and light and
Chalk x’s mark our oaks that are supposed to be cut down   
I’ve seen the neighbors frown when they look over the fence
And see our espalier pear trees bowing out of shape I did like that
They looked like candelabras against the wall but what’s the sense
In swooning over pruning I said as much to Mrs. Jones and I swear
She threw her cane at me and walked off down the street without
It has always puzzled me that people coo over bonsai trees when
You can squint your eyes and shrink anything without much of   
A struggle ensued with some starlings and the strawberry nets
So after untangling the two I took the nets off and watched birds
With red beaks fly by all morning at the window I reread your letter
About how the castles you flew over made crenellated shadows on   
The water in the rainbarrel has overflowed and made a small swamp
I think the potatoes might turn out slightly damp don’t worry
If there is no fog on the day you come home I will build a bonfire
So the smoke will make the cedars look the way you like them
To close I’m sorry there won’t be any salad and I love you

by Matthea Harvey, from Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Red Fox

Many thanks to Kirsten for teaching me how to pronounce the French bit in this sharp-toothed beauty. Sauve qui peut means "save which can" or "save who can."

Red Fox

The red fox crosses the ice
intent on none of my business.
It's winter and slim pickings.

I stand in the bushy cemetery,
pretending to watch birds,
but really watching the fox
who could care less.
She pauses on the sheer glare
of the pond. She knows I'm there,
sniffs me in the wind at her shoulder.
If I had a gun or a dog
or a raw heart, she'd smell it.
She didn't get this smart for nothing.

She's a lean vixen: I can see
the ribs, the sly
trickster's eyes, filled with longing
and desperation, the skinny
feet, adept at lies.

Why encourage the notion
of virtuous poverty?

It's only an excuse 
for zero charity.
Hunger corrupts, and absolute hunger
corrupts absolutely,
or almost. Of course there are mothers,
squeezing their breasts
dry, pawning their bodies,
shedding teeth for their children,
or that's our fond belief.
But remember - Hansel
and Gretel were dumped in the forest
because their parents were starving,
Sauve qui peut. To survive
we'd all turn thief

and rascal, or so says the fox,
with her coat of an elegant scoundrel,
her white knife of a smile,
who knows just where she's going:

to steal something
that doesn't belong to her -
some chicken, or one more chance,
or other life.

by Margaret Atwood from Morning in the Burned House

Monday, April 14, 2014

Induction

Phil has been following and contributing to my National Poetry Month project since the first year I did it. He lives in Hull, Yorkshire, which is a city with a great history of gritty, mouthy, sharply brilliant poets. When he discovers something new that he likes, I file it away to share during April. They've been some of my favorite posts over the last few years, and I particularly love this one. Russ Litten is a local Hull poet, and he teaches a creative writing class in a prison (read a little more about that on his website). Phil is guest reading today.

Click the title of the poem to listen.

Induction

Every Monday morning I stand up
before twenty or so disinterested faces
slouched around library tables
and tell them
about the possibilities of poetry
and the prospect of escape.

It's a poor joke, and some mornings
it goes down less well
than others.

Like this morning,
one sullen soul flinging rancour
from the back of the room:
What's that for then?

...

Yeah, but what do you get at the end of it?

...

Do you get paid?

...

So what use is that to me?

...

And I said
(quoting Scargill quoting his Dad)
:

"...the quality of your life depends upon
your ability to manipulate words..."
Does it fuck, he
said,
thus proving
both of
our 
points.

by Russ Litten