Dailies 5/24/17: All I know is that I am still/compassionate. + boats, the runaround, & a memorial to Mark Strand

Edward Hirsch – In Memory of Mark Strand

Krumville Cemetery, Olivebridge, New York

I’m not sure why I glanced back
At the bus driver grinding a cigarette butt
With her heel into the gravel driveway.

She was a figure from a myth, from
One of his poems, a stranger, a guardian
Marking the passage to the other world.

Read rest of poem 


Josh Kalscheur – Blank Shot

I should not find my form
untouchable in ways others find it
passable. I should want to stand
by a small bridge, behind

Read rest of poem 


Robert Louis Stevenson – Where Go the Boats

Dark brown is the river,
Golden is the sand.
It flows along for ever,
With trees on either hand.

Read rest of poem 


Rae Armantrout – The Runaround


We encountered a problem

a command

to the program.

Did I say that

Read rest of poem 

When prayer is difficult, try poetry


I have a piece about using poetry as “secular prayer” up at The Mindful Word, which is a gorgeous-looking site on mindfulness, wholistic health, sustainability, and like-subjects. It’s based on an experience I wrote about here in my “Poetry Diary” back in the winter, in  “Rage Against Depression,”   and “Missing Persons.” I was trying to use poetry to help me through the anguish of knowing that a friend of mine was suffering and that there was nothing I could do to help.

Internet poetry publications are now the main places I go to for solace.

Remember The Moon 

(originally titled “Singing in the Night: when prayer is difficult, try poetry”)

Hokusai’s death poem


(poetry diary 257 – 5/24/17) Yesterday I talked w/a friend who focuses on Japanese poetry. He told me about Japanese poets who spent their lives holed up in huts in the woods, writing poems. I told him that, when we’re old, if my beloved husband dies before me, I will hope to spend the rest of my days like that. My friend later sent me this lovely “death poem” by the famous painter Hokusai:


as a spirit

I will stroll

through summer fields






hitodama de

yuku kisanji ya

natsu no hara


–          Hokusai

Dailies 5/23/17: If scent were white noise, doughnuts would be that scent. Also, escaping from a job, a Russian end to a divorce, & accidentally stepping on a service dog’s paw.


David Hernandez – Falling but Frozen 


By accident, mid-aisle, my heel

pressed against the paw of the service dog,

a bony softness as I


pivoted from one student desk to the next.


Read rest of poem 


Charles Bukowski – the great escape

listen, he said, you ever seen a bunch of crabs in a
no, I told him.
well, what happens is that now and then one crab
will climb up on top of the others
and begin to climb toward the top of the bucket,
then, just as he’s about to escape
another crab grabs him and pulls him back

Read rest of poem 


Jerry Williams – Russian Ending

As in some demented romantic comedy,
my wife and I divided the apartment in half.

She took the living room and I took the bedroom.
Bivouacked and bleeding, we waited for the lawyer

Read rest of poem 


Randall Mann – Proprietary


In a precisely lighted room, the CFO speaks
of start-to-start dependencies.
Says let me loop back with you.

Read rest of poem 


@ the Academy of American Poets: find commentary & an on-line anthology of Poems for Tragedy and Grief

from Poems for Tragedy and Grief Poets.org – February 21, 2014.

“Tragedy and grief can be encountered privately or publicly, felt in secret or experienced and expressed as a community. Poems of tragedy and grief address the occasions where words are difficult, from personal heartbreak to the Vietnam War to September 11, illuminating and sanctifying private and public loss. These poems try to help us to heal, or give us wisdom, or lend support in time of need. If they don’t say the unsayable, then they attempt it valiantly, speaking when we are afraid to speak, and bravely giving a voice to a collective grief.”

Dailies 5/22/17: Market Day, a chair, a town dreams that a tornado apologizes to them, & the time for nuance is over



Catherine Pierce – The Town Dreams the Tornado Apologizes


And then we woke up.  And our uncles

were still missing, our azaleas yanked


and gone, our dogs dashed against oaks.

But before we woke, we heard you say


Read rest of poem 


Linda Pastan – Market Day

We have traveled all this way
to see the real France:
these trays of apricots and grapes spilled out
like semi-precious stones

Read rest of poem 


Sam Sax – Doctrine

the time for nuance is over
i argue over breakfast
explaining how it’s oft used
to confuse descent—knife
through my poached egg.

Read rest of poem 


Michael Chitwood – His Chair

After lunch
and before he went

back to the fields,
he’d catch a nap

Read rest of poem 


“Poems should be written rarely and reluctantly”

“This World” by Czeslaw Milosz. Film by Zbigniew Czapla.

CZESLAW MILOSZ’S BATTLE FOR TRUTH: Having experienced both Nazi and Communist rule, Poland’s great exile poet arrived at a unique blend of skepticism and sincerity. – Adam Kirsch – New Yorker – May 29, 2017

“…it was his lifelong, intimate knowledge of suffering, both private and public, that did the most to shape Milosz’s work. Unlike many great twentieth-century writers, who saw truth in despair, Milosz’s experiences convinced him that poetry must not darken the world but illuminate it: ‘Poems should be written rarely and reluctantly, / under unbearable duress and only with the hope / that good spirits, not evil ones, choose us for their instrument.’ That decision for goodness is what makes Milosz a figure of such rare literary and moral authority. As we enter what looks like our own time of troubles, his poetry and his life offer a reminder of what it meant, and what it took, to survive the twentieth century.”

Child of Europe

Czeslaw Milosz

We, whose lungs fill with the sweetness of day.
Who in May admire trees flowering
Are better than those who perished.

We, who taste of exotic dishes,
And enjoy fully the delights of love,
Are better than those who were buried.

Read rest of poem 

Poems for graduation

(poetry diary 255-5/22/17) It’s Graduation Season.  (I’m sitting in one of the Yale libraries right now watching students in gowns run merrily through the library to our rest rooms before they have to make their official walk….) Here are two on-line anthologies of poems for graduates: 

“Poems for Graduation” at Poets.org and “Graduation Poems” at the Poetry Foundation.

[yonder deadfromtheneckup graduate]

E. E. Cummings

yonder deadfromtheneckup graduate of a
somewhat obscure to be sure university spends
her time looking picturesque under

Read rest of poem.  Note, according to Poets.org, in this poem Cummings “plays with the idiom ‘poeta nascitur, non fit’ or ‘a poet is born, not made.'” 

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