Category Archives: Poetry

Spring (Katharine Swift)

Yes, it is spring
But with our kind of luck
We're surrounded 
By great mounds of muck
Yes, we hear some birds sing
But the dominate thing
is the beep, beep of a 
Backing up truck.

Only be sure always to call it please research.

Let no one else's work evade your eyes, 
Remember why the good Lord made your eyes, 
So don't shade your eyes, 
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize… 
Only be sure always to call it please research.

(Tom Lehrer, "Lobachevsky", copyright 1951)

Lyrics in full are in "Too Many Songs by Tom Lehrer", and if you click through to the Amazon link below you can get to their "Look inside" to see the whole thing.

Wendell Berry – The Real Work

There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say "It is yet more difficult than you thought." This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.

This prose piece sometimes shows up on the net as poetry; that's how I found it. It's from Wendell Berry's essay Poetry and Marriage, in his compilation Standing by Words. Br. Tom Murphy tells a story of how he tracked this piece down from a fragment, and then realized he had given it to his students the previous semester.


Off I Go To The County Board – David Bloom, inspired by Mary Morgan of @a2chronicle

David Bloom holds forth in song in Off I Go To The County Board, one of the few songs written about the process of covering public meetings.

Off I Go To The County Board,
inspired by Mary Morgan

Off I Go To The County Board,
To hear the rabble bray,
Of taxes met, infractions scored,
On this harumphing day.

Oh Washtenaw, brave Washtenaw,
Of eighty-three, the best.
The other counties hold in awe,
Your credit-worthiness.

There's more verses (oh, so many more) – in fairness to the author, I commend you to view and listen to them directly.

Anoche cuando dormía – three translations of the Antonio Machado poem

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt – marvelous error! –
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from all my old failures.

(Antonio Machado, translated by Robert Bly)

Last night I had a dream—
a blessed illusion it was—
I dreamt of a hive at work
deep down in my heart.
Within were the golden bees
straining out the bitter past
to make sweet-tasting honey,
and white honeycomb.

(Antonio Machado, translated by Alan S. Trueblood)

Last night while sleeping
I dreamt, – blessed illusion!
that a beehive  
within my heart;  
and the golden bees  
were making,  
from my bitter disappointments, 
white wax and sweet honey.  

(Antonio Machado, translated by Chris Cavanagh)

Anoche cuando dormía 
soñé, ¡bendita ilusión!, 
que una colmena tenía 
dentro de mi corazón; 
y las doradas abejas 
iban fabricando en él, 
con las amarguras viejas 
blanca cera y dulce miel.

The full text, in English and in Spanish, is here at Goodreads. Thanks to Joanna Hastings for taking note of it in a post to Facebook.

I must learn to love the fool in me (Theodore Rubin)

I must learn to love the fool in me—the one who feels too much, talks too
much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks
self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks
promises, laughs and cries. It alone protects me against that utterly
self-controlled, masterful tyrant whom I also harbor and who would rob me of
human aliveness, humility and dignity but for my fool. -Theodore Rubin

The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm, Wallace Stevens


The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book. 
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be. 

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world, 
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

— Wallace Stevens

Somehow, along the way, I also found this Concordances and the Authors’ Horizon of Words’ Meaning, a way to start looking at how poets use words through tools that include “keyword in context”.