January 29, 2016

Winter Words

It is fully winter in my part of the world, and we had a blizzard last weekend that is finally melting away. That makes me think of "Blizzard" by William Carlos Williams.

years of anger following
hours that float idly down —
the blizzard
drifts its weight
deeper and deeper for three days
or sixty years, eh? Then
the sun! a clutter of
yellow and blue flakes —
Hairy looking trees stand out
in long alleys
over a wild solitude.
The man turns and there —
his solitary track stretched out
upon the world.

Williams says "three days or sixty years, eh?" and I wonder about the blizzards we endure.

In his poem, "Winter Trees," there is an optimism in the trees that have prepared for the inevitable and will wait out the cold.

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

I did some searching online to find the Williams poems and came upon a page of winter words, including some poets and poems that I have not read for many years. If you're feeling the cold, make a nice cup of something hot to drink and read a few.

"The cold earth slept below"
by Percy Bysshe Shelley

The cold earth slept below;
Above the cold sky shone;
And all around,
With a chilling sound,
From caves of ice and fields of snow
The breath of night like death did flow
Beneath the sinking moon.

The wintry hedge was black;
The green grass was not seen;
The birds did rest
On the bare thorn’s breast,
Whose roots, beside the pathway track,
Had bound their folds o’er many a crack
Which the frost had made between...

    continue reading

by Mary Oliver

In winter
    all the singing is in
         the tops of the trees
             where the wind-bird

with its white eyes
    shoves and pushes
         among the branches.
             Like any of us

he wants to go to sleep,
    but he's restless...  

continue reading

January 7, 2016

Best-Selling Poets

"Best-seller" is not a term in publishing often attached to poetry. In fact, some modern poets have been criticized for their popularity and sales. It probably is no surprise that William Shakespeare is the best-selling poet in history, but it probably is surprising to many people that he is followed on the poetry best-seller list by Lao-Tzu and Kahil Gibran. .

Khalil Gibran was born in the mountain village in Bsharri, Lebanon in 1883. His mother decided to leave her alcoholic husband and take her four children to America where they settled in Boston, where they had relatives. But his mother wanted him to learn about his Lebanese heritage, so Kahil went to a prep school and college in Beirut when he was 15.

After he returned to Boston, a man named Alfred A. Knopf was invited to a gathering at Gibran’s apartment. Knopf was just starting up a publishing company, and when he saw how fascinated people were with Gibran, he decided to offer the man a publishing contract. Kahlil Gibran’s first two books with Knopf weren’t very successful, but his third was a collection of 26 poetic essays called The Prophet (1923). It didn’t sell well at first, but gradually gained a readership, becoming especially popular in the 1960s and was eventually translated into more than 30 languages.

Lao Tzu - Project Gutenberg eText 15250.jpg
Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu (also Laozi or Lao-Tze) was a philosopher and poet of ancient China. He is known as the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching and the founder of philosophical Taoism, and as a deity in religious Taoism and traditional Chinese religions. Although he is a legendary figure, he is usually dated to around the 6th century BCE and reckoned a contemporary of Confucius.

If you understand others you are smart.
If you understand yourself you are illuminated.
If you overcome others you are powerful.
If you overcome yourself you have strength.
If you know how to be satisfied you are rich.
If you can act with vigor, you have a will.
If you don't lose your objectives you can be long-lasting.
If you die without loss, you are eternal. 

A leader is best
When people barely know he exists
Of a good leader, who talks little,
When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
They will say, “We did this ourselves."

The The Tao Te Ching is the foundation of Taoism. Translated literally, “the Tao” is “the Way” or “the Path.” It is the way of heaven, or the path to enlightenment. However, in some contexts, it seems to describe the same thing that various texts refer to as “Source,” “intelligence,” “the spirit of God,” or “the light of Christ” that creates and sustains everything in existence.

January 1, 2016

Burning the Old Year

Burning the Old Year
by Naomi Shihab Nye

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable...

continues at poetryfoundation.org