December 31, 2011

Some Extra Winter Prompting

If you want to write more in the new year, another source of poetry writing prompts is "The Music In It", poet Adele Kenny's blog on poetry and poets – the craft and the community. book
She posts a new writing prompt most weeks (usually on Saturdays) and there is an archive for past prompts.

Recently, she featured a winter prompt with a series of links to sample winter poems.

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15465  “A Winter Without Snow” by J. D. McClatchy

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/22693 “Approach of Winter” by Willian Carlos Williams

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/22694 “An Old Man’s Winter Night” by Robert Frost

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/20526 “Winter Distances” by Fanny Howe

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/22050 “Winter Trees” by William Carlos Williams

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/20938 “Return to Winter” by Elaine Terranova

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/19217 “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden


Adele Kenny is the author of 23 books of poetry and non-fiction. Over 700 of her poems, articles, and reviews have been published in journals throughout North and South America, the UK, Europe, Australia, and Asia, as well as in anthologies.  She is currently poetry editor of Tiferet: A Journal of Spiritual Literature.

December 6, 2011

Emily Dickinson First Book Award

The Poetry Foundation, the publisher of Poetry magazine, is pleased to announce the 2012 Emily Dickinson First Book Award. The occasional award is designed to recognize an American poet of at least 40 years of age who has yet to publish a first collection of poetry.

The winning poet will have one book-length poetry manuscript published by Graywolf Press. In addition to publication and promotion of the manuscript, the winner will receive a prize of $10,000.

Previous winners of the award include Landis Everson and Brian Culhane.

Manuscripts will be accepted from January 16 to February 17, 2012. The winner will be notified by April 30, 2012, and publicly announced at the Pegasus Awards ceremony in 2012.

For full contest rules, please visit www.poetryfoundation.org/dickinsonaward

November 28, 2011

Ars Poetica - Editing Your Memories


You know those poems known as ars poetica? Latin for "the art of poetry" or "on the nature of poetry," they are poems about poetry. There are examples of them by Aristotle and Horace and many poets have written ars poetica since.

Some are titled "Ars Poetica" but many more are just on the nature and art of poetry. My own personal theory is that almost every poem has some ars poetica in it.

Of the moderns, the best known is probably Archibald MacLeish's poem that ends with the couplet "A poem should not mean / But be".

One of the first known treatises on poetry, Horace's Ars Poetica (also referred to as Letters to Piso) is literally translated as "The Art of Poetry" or "On the Art of Poetry." It was composed around 15 B.C.E. and it outlines principles of poetry. His advice to poets is still valid - read widely, strive for precision, and seek honest criticism.

The modern ars poetica has shifted from didactic argument to a more introspective take on a poet's individual art.

We use "Ars Poetica" by MacLeish from his Collected Poems as our model for this month's prompt. In the poem, MacLeish says:
A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs,

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind—

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs.
Rereading the lines "Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves / Memory by memory the mind—" this time, I connected with an article I clipped some time ago about scientists trying to erase/edit memories.
Suppose scientists could erase certain memories by tinkering with a single substance in the brain. Could make you forget a chronic fear, a traumatic loss, even a bad habit.


For all that scientists have studied it, the brain remains the most complex and mysterious human organ — and, now, the focus of billions of dollars’ worth of research to penetrate its secrets.


Researchers in Brooklyn have recently accomplished comparable feats, with a single dose of an experimental drug delivered to areas of the brain critical for holding specific types of memory, like emotional associations, spatial knowledge or motor skills.


The drug blocks the activity of a substance that the brain apparently needs to retain much of its learned information. And if enhanced, the substance could help ward off dementias and other memory problems. 
Editing and erasing memories - Isn't that what we all do every day? Perhaps not with total success. Of course, writers work at this and poets are the masters of editing.

In this excerpt from "Work" by Mary Oliver, the speaker is in the realm of ars poetica, but is also dealing with writing memory into poetry.  She is able to conjure her dog to her side by throwing a "handful of words...into the air." This is the world that we create in our poems and it exists beyond what we touch, see and hear.
4.

All day I have been pining for the past.
That's when the big dog, Luke, breathed at my side.
Then she dashed away then she returned
in and out of the swales, in and out of the creeks,
her dark eyes snapping.
Then she broke, slowly,
in the rising arc of a fever.

And now she's nothing
except for mornings when I take a handful of words
and throw them into the air
so that she dashes up again out of the darkness,

like this--

this is the world.

For this prompt, try to write a poem about how you as a poet edit memories to create the world of the poem. It is an ars poetica on how we edit with a focus on the memory. It's more than just throwing a handful of words into the air, but when it works, it is that easy.

For some other takes on poets putting themselves and their relationship to the poem, and the act of writing, look at Sharon Old's "Take the I Out"; Heather McHugh's "What He Thought"; Billy Collins's "Workshop"; John Brehm's "The Poems I Have Not Written"; Mark Jarman's "Ground Swell"; Galway Kinnell's "The Bear" and James Galvin's "Art Class"

"Ars Poetica" Manuscript
Drafted March 14, 1925 by Archibald MacLeish

November 24, 2011

National Student Poets To Be Chosen


This past week, First Lady Michelle Obama helped launched a new arts program to pick five high school student poets who will spend one year promoting poetry through readings, workshops and other activities.

The National Student Poets program is created by the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, of which the first lady is honorary chair, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services through a partnership with nonprofit group, the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.

"What you learn through reading and writing poetry will stay with you throughout your life," Obama said in a statement. "It will spark your imagination and broaden your horizons and even help your performance in the classroom."

The five National Student Poets will be chosen from a pool of teenagers who have already received a national Scholastic Art & Writing Award for poetry. The selection panel will be comprised of poet Terrance Hayes, "Kenyon Review" editor David Lynn, Alice Quinn of the Poetry Society of America, and the Library of Congress' Robert Casper.

More than 185, 000 students apply annually for the Scholastic Art & Writing Award and since 1923, winners have included teenagers such as Truman Capote, Sylvia Plath, Joyce Carol Oates and others.

The first five National Student Poets will be announced in summer 2012, and will each receive academic awards of $5,000. They will serve as literary ambassadors in their communities and encourage kids to develop writing and creative skills.

The President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities focuses on increasing creativity in schools and engaging students in being innovative. The Institute of Museum and Library Services makes federal grants aimed at creating strong libraries and museums.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/21/us-finearts-poetry-obama-idUSTRE7AK0KT20111121

November 1, 2011

English Manor House Poetry Weekend (NJ)


Join poets Laura Boss and Maria Mazzioti Gillan on Friday, December 9 through Sunday, December 11, 2011 (Friday dinner through Sunday lunch) at the St. Marguerite's Retreat House in Mendham, NJ for a poetry retreat that gives writers the space and time to focus totally on their own work in a serene and beautiful setting away from the pressures and distractions of daily life.

This writing intensive is open to all writers over the age of 18.

Saint Marguerite’s Retreat House is an English manor house situated on 93 acres of wooded land with pathways that lend themselves to the serene contemplation of nature and nurturing of your creative spirit. The Retreat House is located at the convent of Saint John the Baptist, 82 West Main Street, Mendham, NJ.

Participants arrive before 6 PM on Friday evening, have dinner, settle into their rooms, and begin to retreat from the distractions of the world.

That evening, participants will be lead into creating new work. After each workshop, each participant will have the opportunity to read their work in the group.

After Saturday breakfast, participants will move into two groups for morning workshops, followed by free time for socializing and exploring the grounds.

After lunch, writing workshops will take place, followed by time to write. Each participant will have a chance to sign up in advance with Maria or Laura for one-on-one help with revision.

After dinner on Saturday evening, participants will be invited to read their poems to the groups, and the faculty will lead another workshop session on how to get published.

After Sunday breakfast, a final writing workshop and concluding reading by participants will serve as the “closing ceremony” to this inspiring and productive weekend. Lunch will provide a final opportunity for socializing.

The leaders envision this weekend as a retreat from the noise and bustle of daily life and see this retreat as a spiritual and creative break from our usual lives. The setting certainly allows us to take some time to look at life in a new light, to listen for our own voices, and to create in stillness, in quiet, and in community. These are times of contemplation and welcoming the muse.

The workshops will concentrate on "writing your way home" and the way writing can save us, save our stories and our lives. Participants should bring papers, pens, and the willingness to take some risks. Please also bring previously-written work for one-on-one sessions and for the readings.

The workshops, room, and meals are all included in the fee of $375.
Late registration will be accepted on a first come, first served basis. Enrollment is limited.
NJ teachers may receive 15 professional development credits for attending.

For further information and to register, contact mariagillan@verizon.net or send SASE to Maria Mazziotti Gillan, 40 Post Ave., Hawthorne, NJ  07506 or call  973-684-6555.


Selected Books by the Poets

October 16, 2011

Taha Muhammad Ali

From Blue Flower Arts, I saw the the announcement: "It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Taha Muhammad Ali, poet and person of exceptional powers. We will miss him dearly."

He is best known to an English-speaking audience by a collection of his work in English translation (with facing Arabic), So What: New & Selected Poems, 1971–2005, translated by Peter Cole published in 2006.

Taha Muhammad Ali
at the Dodge Poetry Festival
2006 (photos Lynn Saville)
At the Dodge Poetry Festival in 2006, I heard Taha Muhammad Ali and Peter Cole reading Taha’s powerful (and then unpublished) poem "Revenge" (see video below)

Tea and Sleep
by Taha Muhammad Ali (Palestine)

If, over this world, there’s a ruler
who holds in his hand bestowal and seizure,
at whose command seeds are sewn,
as with his will the harvest ripens,
I turn in prayer, asking him
to decree for the hour of my demise,
when my days draw to an end,
that I’ll be sitting and taking a sip
of weak tea with a little sugar
from my favorite glass
in the gentlest shade of the late afternoon
during the summer.
And if not tea and afternoon,
then let it be the hour
of my sweet sleep just after dawn.





Translator Peter Cole reads "Revenge" in English after Taha reads it in Arabic.

October 3, 2011

Games for National Poetry Day

National Poetry Day 2011 in the UK is Thursday, October 6th. This year's theme is GAMES. They ask that you use the theme for a themed reading, a poetry marathon, a classroom poetry game, a poetry workshop - a poetry prompt.

The Poetry Society in the UK celebrates National Poetry Day with events, like National Poetry Day Live, an event to celebrate National Poetry Day, and this year they will be presenting an afternoon of free events to celebrate this years theme "Games."

Various Poetry Society competitions take place on or around, or have celebrations linked to, National Poetry Day.

The Stanza Poetry Competition winner is announced on National Poetry Day, as are the winners of the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award.

The National Poetry Competition closes at the end of October, giving poets inspired by the day time to pen their poems and enter.

Follow @poetrydayuk on Twitter

October 2, 2011

Banned Poems

We just closed Banned Books Week when libraries and bookstores celebrate freadom.

There are banned books read aloud in the Virtual Read-Out at YouTube.

You might also consider banned poems. Poetry.about.com suggested four:
  1. The opening lines of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” from the Fayetteville Library
  2. Heinrich Heine poems (read here by a professor of German at the University of Texas)
  3. To the Rich Givers” and “City of Ships” from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass
  4. Shel Silverstein’s “If You Have to Dry the Dishes

September 23, 2011

7th Biennial Warren County Poetry Festival This Weekend


The 7th Biennial Warren County Poetry Festival is a free event to be held on Saturday, September 24, 2011. The festival is held on the campus of the Blair Academy, in Blairstown, New Jersey.

Featured poets this year include: Toi Derricotte, Mark Doty, Marie Howe, Jim Haba, Sander Zulauf, Martin Farawell, Stanley Barkan, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Lyn Lifshin, Joe Weil, and Laura Boss, who is also the Festival Artistic Director.


The Festival will feature workshops, panel discussions, book signings, and open mic sessions.






September 11, 2011

The Names by Billy Collins


After the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001, the Poet Laureate then in office, Billy Collins, was asked to write a poem to be read in front of a special joint session of Congress. Collins wrote "The Names, which he read on September 6, 2002.

 

The Names - Billy Collins

Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.
A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,
And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,
I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,
Then Baxter and Calabro,
Davis and Eberling, names falling into place
As droplets fell through the dark.
Names printed on the ceiling of the night.
Names slipping around a watery bend.
Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.
In the morning, I walked out barefoot
Among thousands of flowers
Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,
And each had a name --
Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal
Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.
Names written in the air
And stitched into the cloth of the day.
A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.
Monogram on a torn shirt,
I see you spelled out on storefront windows
And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.
I say the syllables as I turn a corner --
Kelly and Lee,
Medina, Nardella, and O'Connor.
When I peer into the woods,
I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden
As in a puzzle concocted for children.
Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,
Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,
Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.
Names written in the pale sky.
Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.
Names silent in stone
Or cried out behind a door.
Names blown over the earth and out to sea.
In the evening -- weakening light, the last swallows.
A boy on a lake lifts his oars.
A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,
And the names are outlined on the rose clouds --
Vanacore and Wallace,
(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)
Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.
Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.
A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.
Alphabet of names in a green field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.
Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.

September 9, 2011

Autumn Haiku Workshop (NJ)


We will be offering a another free haiku workshop next month in New Jersey. Our last workshop celebrated the start of summer and this next one will focus on autumn.

The autumn haiku workshop with Ken Ronkowitz is on both reading and writing haiku, that best known (and misunderstood?) form of Japanese verse. It will be held Saturday, October 8, 2011.

Though many Westerners associate haiku with early lessons on writing poetry as a child, the form dates back more than 300 years and is considered very serious poetry in the East.

Haiku consists of non-rhyming verses that frequently use nature and seasonal themes that aim to evoke vivid mental pictures and stir strong emotions in readers.

It is a form that has connections to other mediums of expression, aesthetics and Zen culture.

In the workshop, we will read and discuss the history of haiku, how it is composed in English and then compose and share our own haiku.


Our host location for this workshop is the Ringwood Public Library (New Jersey).

August 28, 2011

End of Summer


It is not quite the end of summer, but all the signs are appearing. So here is the first section of Jane Kenyon's  "Three Songs at the End of Summer"


A second crop of hay lies cut
and turned. Five gleaming crows
search and peck between the rows.
They make a low, companionable squawk,
and like midwives and undertakers
possess a weird authority.

Crickets leap from the stubble,
parting before me like the Red Sea.
The garden sprawls and spoils.

Across the lake the campers have learned
to water ski. They have, or they haven’t.
Sounds of the instructor’s megaphone
suffuse the hazy air. “Relax! Relax!”

Cloud shadows rush over drying hay,
fences, dusty lane, and railroad ravine.
The first yellowing fronds of goldenrod
brighten the margins of the woods.

Schoolbooks, carpools, pleated skirts;
water, silver-still, and a vee of geese."


by Jane Kenyon

read the full "Three Songs at the End of Summer" from Poetry Magazine



August 26, 2011

Poetry and Song Lyrics

The online school of Boston’s Berklee College of Music, is debuting the new online course, Creative Writing: Poetry, for their upcoming fall term, beginning September 26th, 2011.

The 12-week course focuses on writing better lyrics through the study of poetry.

“If you want to gain control over your writing, find out what makes poetry work, and what your compositional options are, then this is the course for you,” said Pat Pattison, course author and Professor of Lyric Writing and Poetry at Berklee. “By the time you finish this course, your eyes are going to be completely open to the possibilities of language. This course will make your writing better, and if you do music, it will make your music better.”

Bob Dylan's handwritten lyrics to Just Like a Woman
Are any of you poets reading this also musicians? Do you write poetry when you sit down to write lyrics? Those questions take me back to the late 1960s when students were arguing that their favorite musicians were writing poetry, and some teachers were beginning to use the lyrics of Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, The Beatles and others as a way to teach poetry.

The course says that you will learn "how to enhance your ideas through arranging lines into odd or even numbered line groups and creating either a feeling of tension or resolution with the composition itself, independent of the poem's meaning. You'll learn placement, timing, focus, and especially how to use rhythm in language expressively. By the end of the course you’ll be able to construct various chord types used in pop/rock and other styles, and have the improvisational (soloing) vocabulary used in pop/rock styles at your fingertips."

The course readings listed aren't from the world of music but from the very traditional class anthology with Shakespeare, Shelley, Keats, Emerson, Browning, Wadsworth, Longfellow, Tennyson, Yeats, Frost, Cummings, Allen Ginsberg.

August 24, 2011

Poetry On Video

A number of people have created videos to accompany poems. Not everyone gets the opportunities to go to festivals, workshops and reading and hear poets live, so sometimes video is the only alternative. And some videos are interesting films in themselves.

There are 11 Billy Collins poems animated at Billy Collins Action Poetry. (Also a Collins interview from Forum with Michael Krasny available to play (audio only)

Four Seasons Productions has made short films set to classic poetry. There are 21 that have won festival prizes and produced a DVD. Their best “poem videos” are available on their YouTube channel. and include Langston Hughes’ “The Weary Blues,” “Only Breath” by 13th century sufi poet Rumi and “100 Love Sonnets IX” by Pablo Neruda in the original Spanish.



Poetry Everywhere has 34 short videos of contemporary poets, one poem per video, hosted by Garrison Keillor, using footage from the Dodge Poetry Festival.

The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation's YouTube channel has video highlights from past Dodge Foundation Poetry Festivals, some of which have been featured on PBS.



Brian Turner reading "Caravan" and "Eulogy" at the 2006 Dodge Poetry Festival.

August 13, 2011

Philip Levine: Are You Happy and Starlight


When I read that Philip Levine was named the newest U.S. Poet Laureate, I had been doing a little research on the Perseids meteor showers. The Perseids is a very prolific meteor shower that comes every August and I try to watch each year.

They are called the Perseids because they appear to come from a point, called the radiant, within the constellation Perseus.

Perseus was one of the founding myths of the Twelve Olympians. Perseus killed the Gorgon Medusa, and claimed Andromeda, having rescued her from a sea monster sent by Poseidon in retribution for Queen Cassiopeia declaring herself more beautiful than the sea nymphs. Many of those mythological characters are now found in the constellations of the night sky.

I went looking through Levine's poems and rediscovered his poem "Starlight" which seemed like a good connection.

Philip Levine always seems to be described as "blue-collar, working class, poet of the people, poet of work" and similar terms. He is that. Those poems are in his collection and they are important and powerful. But, I hope that doesn't limit his appeal because readers think that all his poems are about that world.

"Starlight" is a father-son poem and I suggest you watch the video below of Levine reading that poem online. He gives it the briefest of introductions - only to say that his father did not live long after the setting of the poem.

The question is asked in the poem "Are you happy?" Such an easy, such a difficult question.

For this month's prompt, write a poem that uses the stars as a way to help tell your story. From the mythology of the constellations, the science of the stars, the romance and history connected to the night sky or this month's shooting stars from Perseus - you have many places to find your stars. Perhaps, you will also find your story in the night sky.

Submissions Due: September 4, 2011


Philip Levine reads his "Starlight" is from Stranger to Nothing: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, UK, 2006). This film is from In Person: 30 Poets.


News of the World

A Poetry App


The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, offers a free POETRY app for Android and iPad/iPhone. The free app has been updated for all mobile devices, including the iPhone.

The updated POETRY app now offers audio versions of many of the 1,700-plus poems included in its virtual poetry library, links to biographies of poets whose work is featured in the app, source information for each poem, and newly added poetry from Francisco Aragon, Rita Dove, Carolyn Kizer, J. Patrick Lewis, and Michael Palmer, among others. Users can browse by poet, mood, subject, or audio availability. Text size may also be increased according to preference.

The iPad edition of the POETRY app includes all of the features available on Androids and iPhones, as well as free digital editions of Poetry magazine. When connected to the Internet, iPad users can download and read the three most recent issues of Poetry as they appeared in print. Electronic editions of the magazine can then be stored in iBook or other e-reader software, allowing app users to read these issues offline at any time. 

The POETRY app offers hundreds of well-known poems by contemporary and classic poets, including Lucille Clifton, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, Heather McHugh, Pablo Neruda, William Shakespeare, C├ęsar Vallejo, and many, many others; easy access to new poems from the pages of Poetry magazine; a searchable database of poems to suit any mood or occasion; a folder for saving favorite poems; the capacity to share poems with friends through e-mail and social media; and an engaging, user-friendly interface.

Download the POETRY app for Android.
Download the POETRY app for iPads and iPhones.

August 10, 2011

Philip Levine Named New Poet Laureate


The Library of Congress has named Philip Levine as the new U.S. Poet Laureate. He will succeed W.S. Merwin in the one year appointment.

Levine's poetry has long reflected his Detroit origins and his own and others "blue-collar life."
He was born in Detroit in 1928, to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, and educated at Wayne University (now Wayne State), the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and Stanford University.

He is the author of twenty collections of poetry, and his honors include the Pulitzer Prize, two National Book Awards, and two National Book Critic Circle Awards.

The Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, described Philip Levine as
...one of America's great narrative poets. His plainspoken lyricism has, for half a century, championed the art of telling 'The Simple Truth'—about working in a Detroit auto factory, as he has, and about the hard work we do to make sense of our lives.

On November 29, 2007 a tribute was held in New York City in anticipation of Levine's 80th birthday. Among those celebrating Levine's career by reading Levine's work were Yusef Komunyakaa, Galway Kinnell, E. L. Doctorow, Charles Wright, Jean Valentine, and Sharon Olds. Levine himself read several new and interesting poems. He thanked his students and asked them to refrain from asking for any more letters of recommendation.








August 1, 2011

2011 Warren County Poetry Festival


The 7th Biennial Warren County Poetry Festival is a free event to be held on Saturday, September 24, 2011. The festival is held on the campus of the Blair Academy, in Blairstown, New Jersey.

The theme of this year's festival is "Mapping the Landscape of Love and Loss in Poetry."

The Festival will feature workshops, panel discussions, book signings, and open mic sessions.

Featured poets this year include: Toi Derricotte, Mark Doty, Marie Howe, Jim Haba, Sander Zulauf, Martin Farawell, Stanley Barkan, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Lyn Lifshin, Joe Weil, and Laura Boss, who is also the Festival Artistic Director.

This 7th Biennial Warren County Poetry Festival is made possible by a grant from the by the NJ State Council on the Arts and the Warren County Cultural and Heritage Commission.

July 29, 2011

Remembering Stanley Kunitz

THE ROUND

Light splashed this morning
on the shell-pink anemones
swaying on their tall stems;
down blue-spiked veronica
light flowed in rivulets
over the humps of the honeybees;
this morning I saw light kiss
the silk of the roses
in their second flowering,
my late bloomers
flushed with their brandy.
A curious gladness shook me.
So I have shut the doors of my house,
so I have trudged downstairs to my cell,
so I am sitting in semi-dark
hunched over my desk
with nothing for a view
to tempt me
but a bloated compost heap,
steamy old stinkpile,
under my window;
and I pick my notebook up
and I start to read aloud
the still-wet words I scribbled
on the blotted page:
"Light splashed . . ."
I can scarcely wait till tomorrow
when a new life begins for me,
as it does each day,
as it does each day.
by Stanley Kunitz
via http://www.theatlantic.com

It’s the birthday of poet Stanley Kunitz, born 1905 in Worcester, Massachusetts. He published his first book of poetry, Intellectual Things, in 1930.

His 1971 volume, The Testing-Tree, marked a shift in his work, from his early, formal style to one that was looser, more personal, and written in everyday language. He explained the shift in Publishers Weekly: “I think that as a young poet I looked for what Keats called ‘a fine excess,’ but as an old poet I look for spareness and rigor and a world of compassion.”

He was named U.S. poet laureate in 2000, at the age of 95. He was still publishing and promoting poetry. The Wild Braid: a Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden (2005) is a collection of essays and conversations about his two loves, poetry and gardening, and was released on his 100th birthday. He died the following spring.

(Source: writersalmanac.publicradio.org)

   


Poetry is ultimately mythology, the telling of stories of the soul. The old myths, the old gods, the old heroes have never died. They are only sleeping at the bottom of our minds, waiting for our call. We have need of them, for in their sum they epitomize the wisdom and experience of the race.

— Stanley Kunitz