Category Archives: Poetry

A Monday Morning Poem

Because we’ve been talking about poetry over at The Classics Club this month, I felt the need to share this one. I subscribe to The Writer’s Almanac daily email, and this was the poem of the day for today. It’s just so right. I have a 10-year-old who recently told me that books are her best friend, and this guy totally gets that.

For My Son, Reading Harry Potter

by Michael Blumenthal

How lovely, to be lost
as you are now
in someone else’s thoughts
an imagined world
of witchcraft, wizardry and clans
that takes you in so utterly
all the ceaseless background noise
of life’s insistent pull and drag soon fades
and you are left, a young boy
captured in attention’s undivided daze,
as I was once
when books defined a world
no trouble could yet penetrate
or others spoil, or regret stain,
when, between covers, under covers,
all is safe and sure
and each Odysseus makes it home again
and every transformation is to bird or bush
or to a star atwinkle in some firmament of light,
or to a club that lets you, and all others, in.
Oh, how I wish for you
that life may let you turn and turn
these pages, in whose spell
time is frozen, as is pain and fright and loss
before you’re destined to be lost again
in that disordered and distressing book
your life will write for you and cannot change.

Aimless Love by Billy Collins

aimless-loveI don’t often review poetry here, not because I don’t read poetry but more because I tend to dip in and out of it, reading a little here and a little there as I come across it. I don’t usually sit down to read a volume of poetry in its entirety (does anyone?), even though I do have my favorites poets. Billy Collins is definitely one of them.

Collins’ style is lyrical but also tangible. He uses imagery to convey everyday experiences in a way that feels like he is speaking directly to you. He uses the technique of asking questions to engage the reader, to draw them in and get them to share his world view and his sense of wonder. His writing is clever and touching and frequently hilarious, as he often uses irony to convey humor. If you’ve never heard him read his poetry aloud, it’s definitely worth going to YouTube and watching videos of him. Hearing him read his own work (with a deadpan delivery) reveals layers that might not always be evident from reading it in print.

This is Collins’ first volume of poetry in 12 years, and in it he includes older stuff from previous collections alongside new poems. It contains some of my favorites of his–The Lanyard, Litany–as well as many I had never read before but nonetheless enjoyed. Baby Listening and Bathtub Families both showcase Collins’ love for playing with language, with the meaning and nuance behind words. He also writes about the business of writing, of what it means to be a poet trying to create something new in the shadow of the rich history of all the literature that has already been written (The Trouble with Poetry, If This Were a Job I’d Be Fired).

If you’ve never read Collins before, Aimless Love is a great place to start, and if you’re already a fan, you’ll find plenty of new stuff to enjoy here. Highly recommended.

Envoy

Go, little book,
out of this house and into the world,

carriage made of paper rolling toward town
bearing a single passenger
beyond the reach of this jittery pen
and far from the desk and the nosy gooseneck lamp.

It is time to decamp,
put on a jacket and venture outside,
time to be regarded by other eyes,
bound to be held in foreign hands.

So off you go, infants of the brain,
with a wave and some bits of fatherly advice:

stay out as late as you like,
don’t bother to call or write,
and talk to as many strangers as you can.

Thanks so much to Random House and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book and giving me a chance to share my review.

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Poem In Your Pocket Day

Today is Poem in Your Pocket Day, part of the National Poetry Month celebrations.  From poets.org:

The idea is simple: select a poem you love during National Poetry Month then carry it with you to share with co-workers, family, and friends. You can also share your poem selection on Twitter by using the hashtag #pocketpoem.

To celebrate, I’m posting one of my favorite poems by Pablo Neruda.  If you like this poem, you should also check out some of his other odes to unusual subjects–Ode to An Artichoke is another great one.

Ode to My Socks

Mara Mori brought me
a pair of socks
which she knitted herself
with her sheepherder’s hands,
two socks as soft as rabbits.
I slipped my feet into them
as if they were two cases
knitted with threads of twilight and goatskin,
Violent socks,
my feet were two fish made of wool,
two long sharks
sea blue, shot through
by one golden thread,
two immense blackbirds,
two cannons,
my feet were honored in this way
by these heavenly socks.
They were so handsome for the first time
my feet seemed to me unacceptable
like two decrepit firemen,
firemen unworthy of that woven fire,
of those glowing socks.

Nevertheless, I resisted the sharp temptation
to save them somewhere as schoolboys
keep fireflies,
as learned men collect
sacred texts,
I resisted the mad impulse to put them
in a golden cage and each day give them
birdseed and pieces of pink melon.
Like explorers in the jungle
who hand over the very rare green deer
to the spit and eat it with remorse,
I stretched out my feet and pulled on
the magnificent socks and then my shoes.

The moral of my ode is this:
beauty is twice beauty
and what is good is doubly good
when it is a matter of two socks
made of wool in winter.

Pablo Neruda

The Lanyard by Billy Collins

Billy Collins is one of my very favorite poets, and his poem “The Lanyard” never fails to make me laugh and get teary-eyed and generally charm me completely.  It’s fine to read on paper, but to get the real impact it’s best to hear him read it aloud.  Thinking of my mom today.

The Lanyard – Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now, is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.