Sunday, March 20, 2011

On this first day of spring

Chickadee in spring trees

A bird the color of the tree and trees
The grays and browns and bits of black
As though the tree itself had chirped
Let loose a bit of itself to hop
about and discover flight

I saw a chickadee this morning in some still bare trees and was captivated by its marvelous spirit.  I wrote these lines I'm sharing now.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Beat it Back with Beauty

by Jaye Freyer

Beat it back with Beauty
Be an architect of something brighter
In the choice between being the singer
Of the song and the song ~ be the singer
Lift the fragile greens from the water
Let the beetle rest a moment on your finger 
With each breath you take give life a chance
Be a bridge, a harbinger

First Spring Flowers in Garth Woods yesterday March 5th
Margaret asks for a poem to brighten a rainy day.  Not sure this will do it but I wrote it on a rainy day when I was also reacting to the intense negativity that was saturating the day to day world.  In a moment of equally intense naivete I thought if we could each just turn the negative to a positive, instead of throwing stones use them to build bridges or shelters, lend our shoulder to a solution - a year later these eight lines still echo with a bit of brightness for me, so perhaps they will for you too.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Lost and Found

by Wislawa Szymborska
from her book Could Have (1972)

I lost a few goddesses while moving south to north
and also some gods while moving east to west.
I let several stars go out for good, they can't be traced.
An island or two sunk on me, they're lost at sea.
I'm not even sure exactly where I left my claws,
who's got my fur coat, who's living in my shell.
My siblings died the day I left for dry land
and only one small bone recalls that anniversary in me.
I've shed my skin, squandered vertebrae and legs,
taken leave of my senses time and again.
I've long since closed my third eye to all that,
washed my fins of it and shrugged my branches.

Gone, lost, scattered to the four winds. It still surprises me
how little now remains, one first person sing., temporarily
declined in human form, just now making such a fuss
about a blue umbrella left on a bus.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


by Wislawa Szymborska

So much world all at once – how it rustles and bustles!
Moraines and morays and morasses and mussels,
the flame, the flamingo, the flounder, the feather –
how to line them all up, how to put them together?
All the thickets and crickets and creepers and creeks!
The beeches and leeches alone could take weeks.
Chinchillas, gorillas, and sarsaparillas –
thanks do much, but all this excess of kindness could kill us.
Where’s the jar for this burgeoning burdock, brooks’ babble,
rooks’ squabble, snakes’ squiggle, abundance, and trouble?
How to plug up the gold mines and pin down the fox,
How to cope with the lynx, bobolinks, streptococs!
Take dioxide: a lightweight, but mighty in deeds:
what about octopodes, what about centipedes?
I could look into prices, but don’t have the nerve:
These are products I just can’t afford, don’t deserve.
Isn’t sunset a little too much for two eyes
that, who knows, may not open to see the sun rise?
I am just passing through, it’s a five-minute stop.
I won’t catch what is distant: what’s too close, I’ll mix up.
While trying to plumb what the void's inner sense is,
I'm bound to pass by all these poppies and pansies.
What a loss when you think how much effort was spent
perfecting this petal, this pistil, this scent
for the one-time appearance, which is all they're allowed,
so aloofly precise and so fragilely proud.

(translated from Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak      
 and Clare Cavanagh)        

You will like this article from the New York Times (March 16, 2002), a review of a poetry event at Cooper Union celebrating Polish poets.  Not only does it give a helpful pronunciation of Ms. Szymborska's name (vee-SWAHV-ahh shimm-BOR-skah), it also includes this terrific assessment by the reviewer, Sarah Boxer:

The thrill of the night was Ms. Szymborska's poem 'Birthday,' which Ms. Czyzewska [a Polish actress] recited in Polish with great trilling rrr's. It's safe to say that more than half the room had no idea what she was saying, but they were won over by the sloshing, comical meter, which sounded something like a loud washing machine speaking in Dr. Seuss's relentless rhythms.

Find this poem and many others by Wislawa Szymborska at SUNY Buffalo's InfoPoland (Information about Poland on the Web).  See the posting for Under A Certain Little Star below for more links to Szymborska's work as well as biographical information and reviews.

Under a Certain Little Star

by Wislawa Szymborska

My apologies to chance for calling it necessity.
My apologies to necessity in case I'm mistaken.
Don't be angry, happiness, that I take you for my own.
May the dead forgive me that their memory's but a flicker.
My apologies to time for the quantity of world overlooked per second.
My apologies to an old love for treating a new one as the first.
Forgive me, far-off wars, for carrying my flowers home.
Forgive me, open wounds, for pricking my finger.
My apologies for the minuet record, to those calling out from the abyss.
My apologies to those in train stations for sleeping soundly at five in the morning.
Pardon me, hounded hope, for laughing sometimes.
Pardon me, deserts, for not rushing in with a spoonful of water.
And you, O hawk, the same bird for years in the same cage,
staring, motionless, always at the same spot,
absolve me even if you happen to be stuffed.
My apologies to the tree felled for four table legs.
My apologies to large questions for small answers.
Truth, do not pay me too much attention.
Solemnity, be magnanimous toward me.
Bear with me, O mystery of being, for pulling threads from your veil.
Soul, don't blame me that I've got you so seldom.
My apologies to everything that I can't be everywhere.
My apologies to all for not knowing how to be every man and woman.
I know that as long as I live nothing can excuse me,
since I am my own obstacle.
Do not hold it against me, O speech, that I borrow weighty words,
and then labor to make them light.

(translated by Joanna Trzeciak)
Find more poems and the biography of Wislawa Szymborska at

view with a grain of sand
I've been in love with Wislawa Szymborska's work for several years.  I'm bringing this to the blog for Stephanie who asked for a poet to read.  Szymborska's not only easy to read but easily one of the best poets today.  She won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996 and her book view with a grain of sand, can be found in most bookstores. 

Here is a link to the review for view with a grain of sand, Szymborska's 'View': Small Truths Sharply Etched, by Adam Gopnik for NPR.  Also, here is an ArtsBeat blog post in the New York Times by Barry Gewen called A Poem for the Pentagon, that includes ~

I’m not much for modern poetry, but I like Szymborska because of her compassion, her humility and her warm good humor. What’s more, you don’t need a Ph.D. in literature to understand her. Once I was comparing notes with a friend much more literary than I about modern poets we enjoyed reading: Philip Larkin, of course, and then we both said, simultaneously, “Szymborska.” [read more]

I Am Myself Three Selves at Least

by Jennifer Sweeney

I am, myself, three selves at least,
the one who sweeps the brittle
bees, who saves the broken plates

and bowls, who counts to ten,
who tends the shoals,
who steeps the morning’s Assam leaves

and when day is wrung
tightens clock springs.
And yes, the one who sat through youth
quiet as a tea stain, whose hand

went up and knees went down,
whose party dresses soaked with rain,
who dug up bones
of snakes and mice

and stashed them inside baby jars—
who did not eat,
but did not starve.
And the self who twists the fallen

dogwood sticks into her hair,
who knows the trick of grief
is there is nothing such as sin

and neither good to part
the air, whom autumn claims
skin by skin.

Copyright © 2009 by Jennifer K. Sweeney.  Selected from How to Live on Bread and Music,
published by Perugia Press, Florence, Massachusetts.

Jennifer Sweeney
Stephanie ~ you asked for a recommendation of a poet to read.  It's a pretty hard request because there are a lot of good ones both current and former - but I bring this poem by Jennifer Sweeney to the blog because I think you will like it and all the other poems in her book.

Jennifer Sweeney won a pretty significant award last year (2009 James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets) and when you read her work you'll see why.  She has an original voice and knows how to craft memorable poems.  This is the second poem I've put up from Perugia Press (see Melody Gee's page), a press that has been publishing the work of women since 1997.  Please take the time to get to know both these poets and visit the Press' website to be introduced to other writers.