Cleaning out my desk today, I came upon a stack of poems printed on loose sheets that had slipped under the paper I used to line a drawer. They aren’t old favorites, so I feel like I’m discovering them again for the first time. Here’s one of the more delightful.
Archive for the ‘Poems’ Category
I don’t know what it is about this poem that strikes me — I’m not even sure I particularly agree with it. But something about it rings such a beautiful note. And — truth and beauty, right, Keats?
THE MORE LOVING ONE
by W.H. Auden
Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.
How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.
Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.
Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.
It’s been awhile since poetry was on so prominent a national stage. And with due respect to Elizabeth Alexander (to her credit, few occasional poems, especially those that speak directly to the occasion, are all that glorious), she was no Robert Frost. At JFK’s inauguration, Frost intended to read Dedication but, blinded by the glare, was unable to see his notes. Instead, he recited by heart an older poem, written in 1942.
THE GIFT OUTRIGHT
The land was ours before we were the land’s.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England’s, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.
The publishers’ note in the last pages of Delights & Shadows, which is put out by Copper Canyon Press, is so lovely and inspiring — in particular, its ultimate phrase. Here it is in full:
The Chinese character for poetry is made up of two parts: “word” and “temple.” It also serves as pressmark for Copper Canyon Press. Founded in 1972, Copper Canyon Press remains dedicated to publishing poetry exclusively, from Nobel laureates to new and emerging authors. The Press thrives with the generous patronage of readers, writers, booksellers, librarians, teachers, students, and funders — everyone who shares the conviction that poetry invigorates the language and sharpens our appreciation of the world.
Bolded typeface inserted by yours truly.
Yesterday evening I curled up — happily under covers and the little light from my bedside lamp — to peek through some more of Ted Kooser’s Delights & Shadows. The collection was a gift from my seventh grade English teacher and his wife when I had lunch with them in Honolulu in the spring, and I’ve been slowly getting to know it since. Nearly all his poems (more of which will probably make their appearance here) have that clear, crisp, vivid writing that I love, but last night I discovered The Early Bird, which is the most striking thus far and kept me turning back to reread its thirteen lines.