Sophie Hannah |
Although you have given me a stomach upset,
Weak knees, a lurching heart, a fuzzy brain,
A high-pitched laugh, a monumental phone bill,
A feeling of unworthiness, sharp pain
When you are somewhere else, a guilty conscience,
A longing, and a dread of what’s in store,
A pulse rate for the Guinness Book of Records -
Life now is better than it was before.
Although you have given me a raging temper,
Insomnia, a rising sense of panic,
A hopeless challenge, bouts of introspection,
Raw, bitten nails, a voice that’s strangely manic,
A selfish streak, a fear of isolation,
A silly smile, lips that are chapped and sore,
A running joke, a risk, an inspiration –
Life now is better than it was before.
Although you have given me a premonition,
Chattering teeth, a goal, a lot to lose,
A granted wish, mixed motives, superstitions,
Hang-ups and headaches, fear of awful news,
A bubble in my throat, a dare to swallow,
A crack of light under a closing door,
The crude, fantastic prospect of forever –
Life now is better that it was before.
Barry Tebb |
For Jeremy Reed
Rejection doesn’t lead me to dejection
But to inspiration via irritation
Or at least to a bit of naughty new year wit-
Oh isn’t it a shame my poetry’s not tame
Like Rupert’s or Jay’s - I never could
Get into their STRIDE just to much pride
To lick the arses of the poetry-of-earthers
Or the sad lady who runs KATABASIS from the back
Of a bike, gets shouted at by rude parkies
And writing huffy poems to prove it.
Oh to be acceptable and
IN THE POETRY REVIEW
Like Lavinia or Jo
With double spreads
And a glossy colour photo
Instead I’m stuck in a bus queue at Morden
London’s meridian point of zero imagination
Actually it’s a bit like ACUMEN with the Oxleys
Boasting about their 150,000 annual submissions-
If what they print’s the best God help the rest.
At least my Christmas post had - instead of a card
From Jeremy Reed - his ELEGY FOR DAVID GASCOYNE -
The best poem I’ve had by post in forty years
And Jeremy’s best to date in my estimate -
The English APOLLINAIRE - your ZONE, your SONG
OF THE BADLY LOVED - sitting in a cafe in South End Green
I send you this poem, Jeremy, sight unseen,
A new year’s gift to you, pushing through
To star galaxies still unmapped and to you, BW,
Sonneteer of silence, huddled in the fourth month
Of your outdoor vigil, measuring in blood, tears and rain
Your syllable count in hour-glass of pain.
Sir Walter Raleigh |
I was a Poet!
But I did not know it,
Neither did my Mother,
Nor my Sister nor my Brother.
The Rich were not aware of it;
The Poor took no care of it.
The Reverend Mr.
Never knew it.
The High did not suspect it;
The Low could not detect it.
Said it was obviously untrue.
Said I was off my head:
(This from a Colonial
Was really a good testimonial.
Still everybody seemed to think
That genius owes a good deal to drink.
So that is how
I am not a poet now,
My inspiration has run dry.
It is no sort of use
To cultivate the Muse
If vulgar people
Can't tell a village pump from a church steeple.
I am merely apologizing
For the lack of the surprising
In what I write
I am quite well-meaning,
But a lot of things are always intervening
What I mean
And what it is said
I had in my head.
It is all very puzzling.
Says Poets need muzzling.
More great poems below...
Erica Jong |
Sometimes the poem
doesn't want to come;
it hides from the poet
like a playful cat
who has run
under the house
& lurks among slugs,
roots, spiders' eyes,
ledge so long out of the sun
that it is dank
with the breath of the Troll King.
Sometimes the poem
like a coy lover
who is afraid of being possessed,
of feeling too much,
of losing his essential
loneliness-which he calls
Sometimes the poem
the poet's passion.
The poem is a dance
between poet & poem,
but sometimes the poem
just won't dance
and lurks on the sidelines
tapping its feet-
out of step with the music
of your mariachi band.
If the poem won't come,
I say: sneak up on it.
Pretend you don't care.
Sit in your chair
reading Shakespeare, Neruda,
and let yourself flow
into their music.
Go to the kitchen
and start peeling onions
for homemade sugo.
Before you know it,
the poem will be crying
as your ripe tomatoes
When the whole house is filled
with the tender tomato aroma,
start kneading the pasta.
As you rock
over the damp sensuous dough,
making it bend to your will,
as you make love to this manna
of flour and water,
the poem will get hungry
just like a cat
when you least
Allen Ginsberg |
Elan that lifts me above the clouds
into pure space, timeless, yea eternal
Breath transmuted into words
Transmuted back to breath
in one hundred two hundred years
nearly Immortal, Sappho's 26 centuries
of cadenced breathing -- beyond time, clocks, empires, bodies, cars,
chariots, rocket ships skyscrapers, Nation empires
brass walls, polished marble, Inca Artwork
of the mind -- but where's it come from?
Inspiration? The muses drawing breath for you? God?
Nah, don't believe it, you'll get entangled in Heaven or Hell --
Guilt power, that makes the heart beat wake all night
flooding mind with space, echoing through future cities, Megalopolis or
Cretan village, Zeus' birth cave Lassithi Plains -- Otsego County
farmhouse, Kansas front porch?
Buddha's a help, promises ordinary mind no nirvana --
coffee, alcohol, cocaine, mushrooms, marijuana, laughing gas?
Nope, too heavy for this lightness lifts the brain into blue sky
at May dawn when birds start singing on East 12th street --
Where does it come from, where does it go forever?
Barry Tebb |
I was never a film buff, give me Widmark and Wayne any day
Saturday matin?es with Margaret Gardener still hold sway
As my memory veers backwards this temperate Boxing Day-
Westerns and war films and a blurred Maigret,
Coupled with a worn-out sixties Penguin Mallarm?-
How about that mix for a character trait?
Try as I may I can’t get my head round the manifold virtues
Of Geraldine Monk or either Riley
Poetry has to have a meaning, not just patterns on a page,
Vertical words and snips of scores just make me rage.
Is Thom Gunn really the age-old sleaze-weasel Andrew Duncan says?
Is Tim Allen right to give Geraldine Monk an eleven page review?
At least they care for poetry to give their lives to it
As we do, too.
My syntax far from perfect, my writing illegible
But somehow I’ll get through, Bloodaxe and Carcourt
May jeer but an Indian printer’s busy with my ‘Collected’
And, Calcutta typesetters permitting, it will be out this year
With the red gold script of sari cloth on the spine
And fuck those dusty grey contemporary voices
Those verses will be mine.
Haslam’s a whole lot better but touchy as a prima donna
And couldn’t take it when I said he’d be a whole lot better
If he’d unloose his affects and let them scatter
I’m envious of his habitat, The Haworth Moors
Living there should be the inspiration of my old age
But being monophobic I can’t face the isolation
Or persuade my passionate friend to join me.
What urban experiences can improve
Upon a cottage life with my own muse!
Kahlil Gibran |
One hour devoted to the pursuit of Beauty
And Love is worth a full century of glory
Given by the frightened weak to the strong.
From that hour comes man's Truth; and
During that century Truth sleeps between
The restless arms of disturbing dreams.
In that hour the soul sees for herself
The Natural Law, and for that century she
Imprisons herself behind the law of man;
And she is shackled with irons of oppression.
That hour was the inspiration of the Songs
Of Solomon, an that century was the blind
Power which destroyed the temple of Baalbek.
That hour was the birth of the Sermon on the
Mount, and that century wrecked the castles of
Palmyra and the Tower of Babylon.
That hour was the Hegira of Mohammed and that
Century forgot Allah, Golgotha, and Sinai.
One hour devoted to mourning and lamenting the
Stolen equality of the weak is nobler than a
Century filled with greed and usurpation.
It is at that hour when the heart is
Purified by flaming sorrow and
Illuminated by the torch of Love.
And in that century, desires for Truth
Are buried in the bosom of the earth.
That hour is the root which must flourish.
That hour of meditation, the hour of
Prayer, and the hour of a new era of good.
And that century is a life of Nero spent
On self-investment taken solely from
This is life.
Portrayed on the stage for ages;
Recorded earthly for centuries;
Lived in strangeness for years;
Sung as a hymn for days;
Exalted but for an hour, but the
Hour is treasured by Eternity as a jewel.
Anne Sexton |
Like Oedipus I am losing my sight.
LIke Judas I have done my wrong.
Their punishment is over;
the shame and disgrace of it
are all used up.
But as for me,
look into my face
and you will know that crimes dropped upon me
as from a high building
and although I cannot speak of them
or explain the degrading details
I have remembered much
about Judas -
about Judas, the old and the famous -
that you overlooked.
The story of his life
is the story of mine.
I have one glass eye.
My nerves push against its painted surface
but the other one
waiting for judgement
continues to see .
the New Testament is very small.
Its mouth opens four times -
as out-of-date as a prehistoric monster,
yet somehow man-made
held together by pullies
like the stone jaw of a back-hoe.
It gouges out the Judaic ground,
taking its own backyard
like a virgin daughter.
And furthermore how did Judas come into it -
that Judas Iscariot,
belonging to the tribe of Reuben?
He should have tried to lift him up there!
His neck like an iron pole,
hard as Newcastle,
his heart as stiff as beeswax,
his legs swollen and unmarked,
his other limbs still growing.
All of it heavy!
That dead weight that would have been his fault
He should have known!
In the first place who builds up such ugliness?
I think of this man saying .
Look! Here's the price to do it
plus the cost of the raw materials
and if it took him three or four days
to do it, then, they'd understand.
They figured it weighed enough
to support a man.
fifteen stone is the approximate weight
of a thief.
Its ugliness is a matter of custom.
If there was a mistake made
then the Crucifix was constructed wrong .
not from the quality of the pine,
not from hanging a mirror,
not from dropping the studding or the drill
but from having an inspriation.
But Judas was not a genius
or under the auspices of an inspiration.
I don't know whether it was gold or silver.
I don't know why he betrayed him
other than his motives,
other than the avaricious and dishonest man.
And then there were the forbidden crimes,
those that were expressly foretold,
and then overlooked
and then forgotten
except by me .
Judas had a mother
just as I had a mother.
Oh! Honor and relish the facts!
Do not think of the intense sensation
I have as I tell you this
but think only .
Judas had a mother.
His mother had a dream.
Because of this dream
he was altogether managed by fate
and thus he raped her.
As a crime we hear little of this.
Also he sold his God.
Robert William Service |
Hark to the Sourdough story, told at sixty below,
When the pipes are lit and we smoke and spit
Into the campfire glow.
Rugged are we and hoary, and statin' a general rule,
A genooine Sourdough story
Ain't no yarn for the Sunday School.
A Sourdough came to stake his claim in Heav'n one morning early.
Saint Peter cried: "Who waits outside them gates so bright and pearly?"
"I'm recent dead," the Sourdough said, "and crave to visit Hades,
Where haply pine some pals o' mine, includin' certain ladies.
Said Peter: "Go, you old Sourdough, from life so crooly riven;
And if ye fail to find their trail, we'll have a snoop round Heaven.
He waved, and lo! that old Sourdough dropped down to Hell's red spaces;
But though 'twas hot he couldn't spot them old familiar faces.
The bedrock burned, and so he turned, and climbed with footsteps fleeter,
The stairway straight to Heaven's gate, and there, of course, was Peter.
"I cannot see my mates," sez he, "among those damned forever.
I have a hunch some of the bunch in Heaven I'll discover.
Said Peter: "True; and this I'll do (since Sourdoughs are my failing)
You see them guys in Paradise, lined up against the railing -
As bald as coots, in birthday suits, with beards below the middle .
Well, I'll allow you in right now, if you can solve a riddle:
Among that gang of stiffs who hang and dodder round the portals,
Is one whose name is know to Fame - it's Adam, first of mortals.
For quiet's sake he makes a break from Eve, which is his Madame.
Well, there's the gate - To crash it straight, just spy the guy that's Adam.
The old Sourdough went down the row of greybeards ruminatin'
With optics dim they peered at him, and pressed agin the gratin'.
In every face he sought some trace of our ancestral father;
But though he stared, he soon despaired the faintest clue to gather.
Then suddenly he whooped with glee: "Ha! Ha! an inspiration.
And to and fro along the row he ran with animation.
To Peter, bold he cried: "Behold, all told there are eleven.
Suppose I fix on Number Six - say Boy! How's that for Heaven?"
"By gosh! you win," said Pete.
But tell me how you chose him.
They're like as pins; all might be twins.
There's nothing to disclose him.
The Sourdough said: "'Twas hard; my head was seething with commotion.
I felt a dunce; then all at once I had a gorgeous notion.
I stooped and peered beneath each beard that drooped like fleece of mutton.
My search was crowned.
That bird I found - ain't got no belly button.
Kahlil Gibran |
I am the lover's eyes, and the spirit's
Wine, and the heart's nourishment.
I am a rose.
My heart opens at dawn and
The virgin kisses me and places me
Upon her breast.
I am the house of true fortune, and the
Origin of pleasure, and the beginning
Of peace and tranquility.
I am the gentle
Smile upon his lips of beauty.
Overtakes me he forgets his toil, and his
Whole life becomes reality of sweet dreams.
I am the poet's elation,
And the artist's revelation,
And the musician's inspiration.
I am a sacred shrine in the heart of a
Child, adored by a merciful mother.
I appear to a heart's cry; I shun a demand;
My fullness pursues the heart's desire;
It shuns the empty claim of the voice.
I appeared to Adam through Eve
And exile was his lot;
Yet I revealed myself to Solomon, and
He drew wisdom from my presence.
I smiled at Helena and she destroyed Tarwada;
Yet I crowned Cleopatra and peace dominated
The Valley of the Nile.
I am like the ages -- building today
And destroying tomorrow;
I am like a god, who creates and ruins;
I am sweeter than a violet's sigh;
I am more violent than a raging tempest.
Gifts alone do not entice me;
Parting does not discourage me;
Poverty does not chase me;
Jealousy does not prove my awareness;
Madness does not evidence my presence.
Oh seekers, I am Truth, beseeching Truth;
And your Truth in seeking and receiving
And protecting me shall determine my
Paul Laurence Dunbar |
I like to hear of wealth and gold,
And El Doradoes in their glory;
I like for silks and satins bold
To sweep and rustle through a story.
The nightingale is sweet of song;
The rare exotic smells divinely;
And knightly men who stride along,
The role heroic carry finely.
But then, upon the other hand,
Our minds have got a way of running
To things that aren't quite so grand,
Which, maybe, we are best in shunning.
For some of us still like to see
The poor man in his dwelling narrow,
The hollyhock, the bumblebee,
The meadow lark, and chirping sparrow.
We like the man who soars and sings
With high and lofty inspiration;
But he who sings of common things
Shall always share our admiration.
Robert William Service |
Heigh ho! to sleep I vainly try;
Since twelve I haven't closed an eye,
And now it's three, and as I lie,
From Notre Dame to St.
The bells of Paris chime to me;
"You're young," they say, "and strong and free.
I do not turn with sighs and groans
To ease my limbs, to rest my bones,
As if my bed were stuffed with stones,
No peevish murmur tips my tongue --
Ah no! for every sound upflung
Says: "Lad, you're free and strong and young.
And so beneath the sheet's caress
My body purrs with happiness;
Joy bubbles in my veins.
My very blood that leaps along
Is chiming in a joyous song,
Because I'm young and free and strong.
Maybe it is the springtide.
I am so happy I am afraid.
The sense of living fills me with exultation.
I want to sing,
to dance; I am dithyrambic with delight.
I think the moon must be to blame:
It fills the room with fairy flame;
It paints the wall, it seems to pour
A dappled flood upon the floor.
I rise and through the window stare .
Ye gods! how marvelously fair!
From Montrouge to the Martyr's Hill,
A silver city rapt and still;
Dim, drowsy deeps of opal haze,
And spire and dome in diamond blaze;
The little lisping leaves of spring
Like sequins softly glimmering;
Each roof a plaque of argent sheen,
A gauzy gulf the space between;
Each chimney-top a thing of grace,
Where merry moonbeams prank and chase;
And all that sordid was and mean,
Just Beauty, deathless and serene.
O magic city of a dream!
From glory unto glory gleam;
And I will gaze and pity those
Who on their pillows drowse and doze .
And as I've nothing else to do,
Of tea I'll make a rousing brew,
And coax my pipes until they croon,
And chant a ditty to the moon.
There! my tea is black and strong.
Inspiration comes with
Now for the moon.
The moon peeped out behind the hill
As yellow as an apricot;
Then up and up it climbed until
Into the sky it fairly got;
The sky was vast and violet;
The poor moon seemed to faint in fright,
And pale it grew and paler yet,
Like fine old silver, rinsed and bright.
And yet it climbed so bravely on
Until it mounted heaven-high;
Then earthward it serenely shone,
A silver sovereign of the sky,
A bland sultana of the night,
Surveying realms of lily light.
Emanuel Xavier |
It rained the day they buried Tito Puente
The eyes of drug dealers following me
as I walked through the streets
past shivering prostitutes
women of every sex
young boys full of piss
and lampposts like ghosts in the night
past Jimmy the hustler boy
with the really big dick
cracked out on the sidewalk
wrapped in a blanket donated by the trick
that also gave him genital herpes
and Fruit Loops for breakfast
past the hospital where Tio Cesar
got his intestines taken out
in exchange for a plastic bag
where he now shits and pisses
the 40’s he consumed for 50 years
past 3 of the thugs
who sexually assaulted those women
at Central Park
during the Puerto Rican Day parade
lost in their machismo,
marijuana and Mira mami’s
‘cause boricuas do it better
Tito’s rambunctious and unruly rhythms never touched them
never inspired them to rise above the ghetto
and, like La Bruja said, “Ghet Over It!”
his timbales never echoed
in the salsa of their souls
though they had probably danced
to his cha-cha-cha
they never listened to the message
between the beats
urging them to follow their hearts
On a train back to Brooklyn
feeling dispossessed and dreamless
I look up to read one of those
Poetry In Motion ads
sharing a car with somebody sleeping
that inspiration is everywhere these days
& though the Mambo King’s body
may be six-feet under
his laughter and legend will live forever
The next morning
I heard the crow crowing, “Oye Como Va”
his song was the sunlight in my universe
& I could feel Tito’s smile
shining down on me
Amy Lowell |
Some men there are who find in nature all
Their inspiration, hers the sympathy
Which spurs them on to any great endeavor,
To them the fields and woods are closest friends,
And they hold dear communion with the hills;
The voice of waters soothes them with its fall,
And the great winds bring healing in their sound.
To them a city is a prison house
Where pent up human forces labour and strive,
Where beauty dwells not, driven forth by man;
But where in winter they must live until
Summer gives back the spaces of the hills.
To me it is not so.
I love the earth
And all the gifts of her so lavish hand:
Sunshine and flowers, rivers and rushing winds,
Thick branches swaying in a winter storm,
And moonlight playing in a boat's wide wake;
But more than these, and much, ah, how much more,
I love the very human heart of man.
Above me spreads the hot, blue mid-day sky,
Far down the hillside lies the sleeping lake
Lazily reflecting back the sun,
And scarcely ruffled by the little breeze
Which wanders idly through the nodding ferns.
The blue crest of the distant mountain, tops
The green crest of the hill on which I sit;
And it is summer, glorious, deep-toned summer,
The very crown of nature's changing year
When all her surging life is at its full.
To me alone it is a time of pause,
A void and silent space between two worlds,
When inspiration lags, and feeling sleeps,
Gathering strength for efforts yet to come.
For life alone is creator of life,
And closest contact with the human world
Is like a lantern shining in the night
To light me to a knowledge of myself.
I love the vivid life of winter months
In constant intercourse with human minds,
When every new experience is gain
And on all sides we feel the great world's heart;
The pulse and throb of life which makes us men!
John Ashbery |
The first of the undecoded messages read: "Popeye sits
From that shoebox of an apartment,
From livid curtain's hue, a tangram emerges: a country.
Meanwhile the Sea Hag was relaxing on a green couch: "How
To spend one's vacation en la casa de Popeye," she
Her cleft chin's solitary hair.
She remembered spinach
And was going to ask Wimpy if he had bought any spinach.
"M'love," he intercepted, "the plains are decked out
Today, and it shall be as you wish.
" He scratched
The part of his head under his hat.
Seemed to grow smaller.
"But what if no pleasant
Inspiration plunge us now to the stars? For this is my
Suddenly they remembered how it was cheaper in the country.
Wimpy was thoughtfully cutting open a number 2 can of spinach
When the door opened and Swee'pea crept in.
But Swee'pea looked morose.
A note was pinned to his bib.
And tears are unavailing," it read.
Be but remembered space, toxic or salubrious, whole or
Olive came hurtling through the window; its geraniums scratched
Her long thigh.
"I have news!" she gasped.
"Popeye, forced as
you know to flee the country
One musty gusty evening, by the schemes of his wizened,
duplicate father, jealous of the apartment
And all that it contains, myself and spinach
In particular, heaves bolts of loving thunder
At his own astonished becoming, rupturing the pleasant
Arpeggio of our years.
No more shall pleasant
Rays of the sun refresh your sense of growing old, nor the
Tree-trunks and mossy foliage, only immaculate darkness and
She grabbed Swee'pea.
"I'm taking the brat to the country.
"But you can't do that--he hasn't even finished his spinach,"
Urged the Sea Hag, looking fearfully around at the apartment.
But Olive was already out of earshot.
Now the apartment
Succumbed to a strange new hush.
"Actually it's quite pleasant
Here," thought the Sea Hag.
"If this is all we need fear from
Then I don't mind so much.
Perhaps we could invite Alice the Goon
One dug pensively--"but Wimpy is such a country
Bumpkin, always burping like that.
" Minute at first, the thunder
Soon filled the apartment.
It was domestic thunder,
The color of spinach.
Popeye chuckled and scratched
His balls: it sure was pleasant to spend a day in the country.