May 12, 2012

Poems for Mothers Day

Not so much Mother's Day greeting cards, but The Poetry Foundation collected some poems about moms that  are "tender, to funny, to mournful" and that explore what it means to be a mom and the special bond between mother and child.

Here's one older poem that I remember reading as a young boy.

To Any Reader

As from the house your mother sees
You playing round the garden trees,
So you may see, if you will look
Through the windows of this book,
Another child, far, far away,
And in another garden, play.
But do not think you can at all,
By knocking on the window, call
That child to hear you. He intent
Is all on his play-business bent.
He does not hear; he will not look,
Nor yet be lured out of this book.
For, long ago, the truth to say,
He has grown up and gone away,
And it is but a child of air
That lingers in the garden there.

By Robert Louis Stevenson

May 9, 2012

Barack Obama on T.S. Eliot and Fatalism

Barack Obama at Harvard
New York magazine has a story with the trashy title "Barack Obama’s Old Girlfriends Get Dishy" that turns out to be about poetry. They pulled from a Vanity Fair article, which in turn is an excerpt from a forthcoming Obama biography which includes some observations from a few Obama girlfriends.

Everything you put to paper matters when you become the President.

The letter quoted below was sent to Alex McNear, an Occidental College student in the eighties who must have had some interest in postmodern literary criticism. Though this is no Obama love letter (I hope), I know I wrote a few literary letters myself as an undergrad.
I had a back and forth exchange with a girl-friend about T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets (never did get my annotated copy back from her!).

I haven’t read “The Waste Land” for a year, and I never did bother to check all the footnotes. But I will hazard these statements — Eliot contains the same ecstatic vision which runs from Münzer to Yeats. However, he retains a grounding in the social reality/order of his time. Facing what he perceives as a choice between ecstatic chaos and lifeless mechanistic order, he accedes to maintaining a separation of asexual purity and brutal sexual reality. And he wears a stoical face before this. Read his essay on Tradition and the Individual Talent, as well as Four Quartets, when he’s less concerned with depicting moribund Europe, to catch a sense of what I speak.

Remember how I said there’s a certain kind of conservatism which I respect more than bourgeois liberalism — Eliot is of this type. Of course, the dichotomy he maintains is reactionary, but it’s due to a deep fatalism, not ignorance. (Counter him with Yeats or Pound, who, arising from the same milieu, opted to support Hitler and Mussolini.) And this fatalism is born out of the relation between fertility and death, which I touched on in my last letter — life feeds on itself. A fatalism I share with the western tradition at times. You seem surprised at Eliot’s irreconcilable ambivalence; don’t you share this ambivalence yourself, Alex?

New York also did a little analysis and grading of young Barack's take on Eliot.

May 4, 2012

Philip Levine to Lead May 4 Video Conference Today with High Schools and Public Libraries

Philip Levine, the 18th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress, will connect with high schools and public libraries via video conference to read and discuss three of his poems: "Our Valley," "The Simple Truth," and "What Work Is." The reading and discussion will be followed by an extended question and answer period with video conference participants.

Event Date: Friday, May 4, 3 p.m. Eastern Time

Viewing the Event: This event will be streamed live on the Web. A link to the live video feed will be available from the Poetry and Literature Center home page –
PHILIP LEVINE 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.