Month: December 2018

A Poem to Cyclists by David Byrne

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I don’t think this qualifies as a poem, but it’s interesting that David Byrne does.

Does poetry have to be written? I think it does, but I think I can see David Byrne’s argument, that poetry is more of a feeling and less of a set of rules. Elements that once defined poetry, like meter and rhyme, now define only categories within the subject of poetry. Maybe, as we keep moving away from paper, the definition of poetry will extend to include digital media that explore poetic ideas.

So, maybe David Byrne is predicting the future, and poetry will not always be something you can put on paper. I’m not saying he’s right, but he’s got an interesting point.

an unusual poem by Derek Mahon

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“The Window” by Derek Mahon

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io                                                                         oo

n  o                                                                  o  w

d    d                                                               w    i

o   w                                                               o    n

w   o                                                               o    d

i     o                                                               d    o

n    d                                                               w  w

d   w                                                               o     i

o    o                                                               o    n

w   o                                                               d    d

i     d                                                               w   o

n   w                           wind                          o   w

d    o                                                               o     i

o    o                                                               d    n

w   d                                                               w   d

i    w                                                               o    o

n   d                                                                w  w

d  o                                                                   o   i

oo                                                                       on

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Honeysuckle By Karla K. Morton

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Honeysuckle

It sprang up wild along the chain link fence—thick,
with glorious white
and yellow summer blooms, and green tips that we
pinched and pulled for one

perfect drop of gold honey. But Dad hated
it—hated its lack
of rows and containment, its disorder. Each
year, he dug, bulldozed,

and set fire to those determined vines. But each
year, they just grew back
stronger. Maybe that’s why I felt the urge to
plant it that one day
in May, when cancer stepped onto my front porch
and rang the doorbell,

loose matches spilling out of its ugly fists.

“The Turnpike” by Daniel Tobin

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Notice the epigraph from Donne’s “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning.”

“The Turnpike” By Daniel Tobin

…an expansion,

Like gold to airy thinness beat…

You away, and me on the Peter Pan
heading home from my own required remove,
I’m drawn by the window’s broad reflection,
the traffic passing along it like a nerve—

an endless charge of cars inside the pane:
the voltage of the real; though as they go
sliding down its long, ethereal sheen
where the solid world softens into flow

they take on the ghostly substance of a dream
or, rather, what we picture dreams to be
since when we’re in them they are what we seem,
and cause us joy or pain as vividly

as the lives we think we live between the lines
that imprint us and we pass between.
Here, the world inverts.  Shades materialize
and cars speeding left expand a breach

that transports into doubles on the right,
and those in transit opposite condense
their mirror selves in a second teeming flight
as if our lightship bus could break such bonds

and matter shatter. Like all things physical
it’s a conjure of parts and energies,
a neverland of haunts inside the skull,
though saying so won’t prevent this child’s cries

from jolting with their needful disturbance,
or the aging woman across the aisle
from leaning in her slackened, palpable face—
comically, mildly—till the infant calms.

If, as scientists say, we are like hurled stones,
as bounded and bound, dear, by material,
and that our minds resolve into a mist
we thinly feel to be the actual,

then who’s to say the rock is not the air
it hurtles through, observed from deeper in,
not above. So you and I circuit there,
firing the inexhaustible engine.

 

“We sing sin. We thin gin.”

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The lifestyle of the seven pool players described in Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool” seems to create negative impression; they are after all youngsters who are missing school, lurking and striking. However, when you read this poem multiple times, you realize that there is no judgement (as far as I could tell) in the tone of the speaker. Partly because the repetition of the inclusive word “we” reads as though the speaker themselves, despite not being one of the pool players, lives the same lifestyle. The final line of the poem, “We die soon,” (7-8) reveals the expected death that we have all heard, read, and wrote about. If death is not a shocker and we are all aware that we will die someday, there is no reason to be critical of the pool players’ death.

“We sing sin. We thin gin” (4-6). This may be my favorite lines; they read so beautifully and the dilution of the alcohol in a way contrast their seemingly concentrated life.

-URBANA

So Much Light We Could See to the Other Side by Tina Change

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All fuel and fire, spine left like a bent arrow, dark matter,
the teeth as relic, all of our words bitter fruit. Who could
have believed we were made like this. The cosmonaut,

the soothsayer, and the blind archeologist knew merely
by feeling with the ends of their fingers which reached out
to nothing. We were a warring lot, hammered by days,

and greedy too. Our plates were dented with heavy spoons,
words spoken in secret in front of a fire, documents burned
before anything of substance was revealed. We made that fire,

fed the flames with newspapers, kings, martyrs, and love.
We were wanton, selfish, predisposed to constant dreaming.
We fed, fought and then fought some more until night arrived

with its hellish glow. All around us, mothers taught their children
words for the first time. They fashioned the universe into something
knowable, sayable. Say this, said the mother and the infant repeated

the words, clumsily, devoted. The child’s devotion was the world
fabricating a truth. Repairs on the other side of the hemisphere.
The archeologist found our bones and said we were a strong

and healthy race, grew more ingenious than any generation before us,
before we fell away from wit, invention, our own empty embrace.
We ran to our end like leaping into a volcano. Unstoppable fury.

We should have disappeared entirely after the bomb, the floods,
our own desertion. Someone’s mouth blows dust off the bones.
The soothsayer predicts that we will come back, the cosmonaut

is willing to bet when the world ended there were more
stars filling the sky than ever before. There once was shadow,
before a last light came, not to darken the plain but to define it.

“Woman Work” by Maya Angelou

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“Woman Work” by Maya Angelou

I’ve got the children to tend
The clothes to mend
The floor to mop
The food to shop
Then the chicken to fry
The baby to dry
I got company to feed
The garden to weed
I’ve got shirts to press
The tots to dress
The can to be cut
I gotta clean up this hut
Then see about the sick
And the cotton to pick.

Shine on me, sunshine
Rain on me, rain
Fall softly, dewdrops
And cool my brow again.

Storm, blow me from here
With your fiercest wind
Let me float across the sky
‘Til I can rest again.

Fall gently, snowflakes
Cover me with white
Cold icy kisses and
Let me rest tonight.

Sun, rain, curving sky
Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone
Star shine, moon glow
You’re all that I can call my own.

“This is a Photograph of Me” – Margaret Atwood

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It was taken some time ago. 
At first it seems to be 
a smeared
print: blurred lines and grey flecks 
blended with the paper;

then, as you scan
it, you see in the left-hand corner 
a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree 
(balsam or spruce) emerging 
and, to the right, halfway up 
what ought to be a gentle 
slope, a small frame house.

In the background there is a lake, 
and beyond that, some low hills.

(The photograph was taken
the day after I drowned.

I am in the lake, in the center 
of the picture, just under the surface.

It is difficult to say where 
precisely, or to say 
how large or small I am:
the effect of water 
on light is a distortion

but if you look long enough, 
eventually
you will be able to see me.)

“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou

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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.