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npm2013_posterApril is National Poetry Month, founded in 1996 by the American Academy of Poets. And, I have been loving it! Poetry is therapeutic, especially in this, “the cruelest month” when we have days that feel like we just haven’t shaken winter.

Twitter offers one of the best ways to experience National Poetry Month.

Every day, a stream of poetic tweets posts to #PoetryMonth, #NPM, and #NaPoMo. It’s like a poetry stock ticker! Here are some tweeps who are making Poetry Month extra special.

@POETSorg #poetsviapost
The American Academy of Poets tweets quotes, insights and poetry-related news. Even better, this month they feature postcards with advice to young poets at #poetsviapost. The whole montage of cards is also collected at the Poets Via Post Archive.

@penguinusa #penguinpoetry
Penguin is highlighting quotes by poets from Hafiz to Blake to Rilke. Users who retweet or share their favorite lines at #penguinpoetry qualify to WIN a book of poems—a new *prize and winner* each day!

@fsgbooks #LorcaNYC
Farrar Straus & Giroux tweets from Federico García Lorca’s Poet in New York to celebrate their beautiful paperback reissue of this important collection, written while Lorca was a student at Columbia in 1929-1930.

@nypl
The winners of the New York Public Library Annual Poetry Contest are being showcased throughout the month. Entries were sent to them in March, and they have posted screengrabs of winning poems (aka tweets) on their website.

@The_Rumpus
The Rumpus Poetry Month Project is publishing an original poem and tweeting it out every day of April. This is the fifth year they have celebrated Poetry Month with a previously unpublished poem of the day.

@PoetryFound @poetrymagazine
The Poetry Foundation and their accompanying Poetry Magazine are tweeting quotes and links to poems by twenty featured poets this month. Click here for the complete list of poets along with biographies.

National Poetry Month from Poets.org

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beach winter 2Spring has taken its time. I went to the beach for Easter, but it was chilly, and the sun slanted across the sand at a winter angle. Today, the winds howl and the rains pour. I think of how, on a much colder day deep with snow, Emily Dickinson consoled herself with words and images of summer.

#342 by Emily Dickinson

It will be Summer — eventually.
Ladies — with parasols —
Sauntering Gentlemen — with Canes
And little Girls — with Dolls —

Will tint the pallid landscape —
As ’twere a bright Bouquet —
Tho’ drifted deep, in Parian —
The Village lies — today —

The Lilacs — bending many a year —
Will sway with purple load —
The Bees — will not despise the tune —
Their Forefathers — have hummed —

The Wild Rose — redden in the Bog —
The Aster — on the Hill
Her everlasting fashion — set —
And Covenant Gentians — frill —

Till Summer folds her miracle —
As Women — do — their Gown —
Or Priests — adjust the Symbols —
When Sacrament — is done —

April is National Poetry Month

Emily Dickinson Bio, Poems, & More via Poetry Foundation

Emily Dickinson Museum

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my daffodils

“And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.”
—William Wordsworth

The first daffodil stems in my yard peeked out auspiciously in early March, but have not made much progress since. Frankly, I am daffodil-starved. Thankfully, I can turn to these lovely poems, so “they flash upon that inward eye.” (Also, I picked up this bright, papery cluster—just $1.49/bunch at Trader Joe’s.)

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, by William Wordsworth

in time of daffodils, by e.e. cummings

 To Daffodils, by Robert Herrick

A Collection of Spring Poems, from the Editors at Poetry Foundation

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Many candles cropI can’t bear to turn on the news and see the small coffins. Or read about the fallen hero teachers. It’s devastating, unspeakable. But, I do think about them … as my dog plays with the kindergarteners at the bus stop, as I shop in the toy store for Christmas gifts, as I hug my nephews and nieces. My heart aches for the families going through all the funerals this week.

Reading poetry is what I do when my own words fail me. Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa wrote “Rock Me Mercy” in response to the Sandy Hook tragedy. You can hear him read it via NPR. California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera wrote “Little Ones We Carry You.” Herrera is also creating a Unity Poetry Wall in Newtown and accepting poetry submissions for via email juan.herrera@ucr.edu or his Facebook page.

One of the poems I’ve found most comforting in times of grief is Christina Rossetti’s “Remember.” Below, I’ve included “1914 IV. The Dead,” by Rupert Brooke. Written during World War I, the poem refers to slightly older children—young boys, young men—lost in war. Still, it evokes that feeling of lost promise and lost innocence. “All this is ended.”

1914 IV. The Dead, by Rupert Brooke

These hearts were woven of human joys and cares,
      Washed marvellously with sorrow, swift to mirth.
The years had given them kindness. Dawn was theirs,
      And sunset, and the colours of the earth.
These had seen movement, and heard music; known
      Slumber and waking; loved; gone proudly friended;
Felt the quick stir of wonder; sat alone;
      Touched flowers and furs and cheeks. All this is ended.

There are waters blown by changing winds to laughter
And lit by the rich skies, all day. And after,
      Frost, with a gesture, stays the waves that dance
And wandering loveliness. He leaves a white
      Unbroken glory, a gathered radiance,
A width, a shining peace, under the night.

Rock Me Mercy, by Yusef Komunyakaa

Little Ones We Carry You, by Juan Felipe Herrera

solitary candle cropRemember, by Christina Rossetti

Poet Rupert Brooke, Bio & Poems via Poetry Foundation

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Tintern Abbey

Today (July 13) in 1798, William Wordsworth visited the scenic ruins of Tintern Abbey, on the banks of the River Wye, and was famously struck. The poet, on a walking tour of Wales with his sister Dorothy, spent the rest of the trail ruminating and conjuring the “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey” in his head. Indeed, he was just finishing the last 20 lines as he walked down the hill into Bristol, some four or five days later. Wordsworth immediately sat down and wrote out the 1,200 words. The poem was then rushed to the printer so that it could be included in the Lyrical Ballads, his collaboration with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, which became a seminal oeuvre of the Romantic movement.

It’s amazing to think that “Tintern Abbey” was such a last-minute addition, considering that it has become the most celebrated poem in the collection. Well, tied perhaps with Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” but certainly one of the most renown and influential examples of Romantic Poetry.

This was Wordsworth’s second visit to Tintern Abbey, as he had been there five years earlier. The beauty of the ruins and of the Welsh countryside spurred him to reflect on how much his life and his perceptions had changed. These “gleams of half-extinguished thought” on the natural sublime and on the transience of time continue to resonate. From Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Tears, Idle Tears” to Allen Ginsberg’s “Wales Visitation,” poets have followed Wordsworth’s words and his footsteps to Tintern Abbey. Ginsberg was reportedly also fueled by LSD during his visit, but he was a Beat Poet after all.

One of the most beautiful and haunting replies is Matthew Arnold’s“The Buried Life,” in which he pointedly writes of “an unspeakable desire after the knowledge of our buried life … a longing to inquire into the mystery of this heart which beats so wild, so deep in us.”

Also inspired by Wordsworth, the painter J.M.W. Turner did a series of stirring landscapes of Tintern Abbey, many of which are on view at The Tate and The British Museum, both in London. Still more than 200 years later, one of the most intimate ways to experience the beauty and the allure of Tintern Abbey is via Wordsworth’s reflection on “the still, sad music of humanity.”

Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey

Tears, Idle Tears

Allen Ginsberg Reads “Wales Visitation”

William Wordsworth: Bio, Articles, and Poems at The Poetry Foundation

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I really loved this wonderful novel! I admit I had a hard time getting into it, but once I did, I found myself so emotionally taken. I started this on a trip, which seemed fitting as the story is of a journey on the steam liner Oronsay. But I had trouble reading The Cat’s Table in short bursts. This is a book to which you must give yourself over—to read leisurely and to savor. Michael Ondaatje does not write with a melodramatic style, but, oh, did I ache for these characters.

They are such a fascinating group, collected at the ‘Cat’s Table’—the one farthest from the Captain’s table, and thus the least prestigious. The story follows an eleven-year-old boy (interestingly enough named Michael like the author who took a similar trip in his youth). Just as Ondaatje did, the young narrator is leaving Colombo, Sri Lanka to meet his mother in England. Michael, and his two young friends, scramble through the turbine room, play with the dogs in the kennel, discover a secret garden in the hold, and have adventures on the ship’s dark, mysterious decks late at night. These scenes are imbued with a childlike sense of wonder. I loved when the ship goes through the Suez Canal and how that reverberates through the story. The trek is a reverse Passage to India, with the Oronsay crossing back from Asia. Indeed, the novel evokes many of the same themes that Walt Whitman did, including East v. West, progress, and “the Past! the Past!”

We also get a glimpse at the magic of Sri Lanka, with its “chorus of insects … gecko talk. And … rope burning on the street that was always one of the first palpable smells of the day.” Though Ondaatje is not a magical realist, he certainly evokes that sense of finding magic in the ordinary, the quotidian.

As the trip progresses, we get to know the characters not only from their interactions on the Oronsay, which is a bit like a small town, but also through flash-forwards and flashbacks. (It reminded me of LOST in the way a certain scene accrues different meanings and emotions when seen via another character or the veil of time).

These shifting perspectives are not confusing, however, as Ondaatje keeps the reader grounded in the narrative. We feel the ramifications of small acts, a bit in the vein of Ian McEwan. In a flash-forward, an adult Michael reacts to seeing his wife nudge her shoulder strap as she dances with another man. “I knew there was some grace between them that we ourselves did not have anymore.”

In the end, this is a book about moments and the people who come in and out of one’s life. As Ondaatje puts it: “There is a story, always ahead of you. Barely existing. Only gradually do you attach yourself to it and feed it. You discover the carapace that will contain and test your character. You find in this way the path of your life.”

More About Michael Ondaatje via Wikipedia

Articles and Related Stories on Michael Ondaatje via The Guardian

The Walt Whitman Archive

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A few roses are starting to come in a month early this year. Though they are pink, not white, I cannot but think of that wonderful quote by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. “For if I wait … ‘till time for roses be, what glory then for me?” Here it is in the full context of the poem she wrote in honor of the early rose.

A Lay of the Early Rose

‘ . . . discordance that can accord.’
Romaunt of the Rose.

A ROSE once grew within
A garden April-green,
In her loneness, in her loneness,
And the fairer for that oneness.

A white rose delicate
On a tall bough and straight:
Early comer, early comer,
Never waiting for the summer.

Her pretty gestes did win
South winds to let her in,
In her loneness, in her loneness,
All the fairer for that oneness.

‘For if I wait,’ said she,
‘Till time for roses be,
For the moss-rose and the musk-rose,
Maiden-blush and royal-dusk rose,

‘What glory then for me
In such a company? —
Roses plenty, roses plenty
And one nightingale for twenty!

‘Nay, let me in,’ said she,
‘Before the rest are free,
In my loneness, in my loneness,
All the fairer for that oneness.

‘For I would lonely stand
Uplifting my white hand,
On a mission, on a mission,
To declare the coming vision.

‘Upon which lifted sign,
What worship will be mine?
What addressing, what caressing,
And what thanks and praise and blessing!

‘A windlike joy will rush
Through every tree and bush,
Bending softly in affection
And spontaneous benediction.

‘Insects, that only may
Live in a sunbright ray,
To my whiteness, to my whiteness,
Shall be drawn as to a brightness, —

‘And every moth and bee
Approach me reverently,
Wheeling o’er me, wheeling o’er me,
Coronals of motioned glory.

‘Three larks shall leave a cloud,
To my whiter beauty vowed,
Singing gladly all the moontide,
Never waiting for the suntide.

‘Ten nightingales shall flee
Their woods for love of me,
Singing sadly all the suntide,
Never waiting for the moontide.

‘I ween the very skies
Will look down with surprise,
When below on earth they see me
With my starry aspect dreamy.

‘And earth will call her flowers
To hasten out of doors,
By their curtsies and sweet-smelling
To give grace to my foretelling.’

So praying, did she win
South winds to let her in,
In her loneness, in her loneness,
And the fairer for that oneness.

But ah, — alas for her!
No thing did minister
To her praises, to her praises,
More than might unto a daisy’s.

No tree nor bush was seen
To boast a perfect green,
Scarcely having, scarcely having
One leaf broad enough for waving.

The little flies did crawl
Along the southern wall,
Faintly shifting, faintly shifting
Wings scarce long enough for lifting.

The lark, too high or low,
I ween, did miss her so,
With his nest down in the gorses,
And his song in the star-courses.

The nightingale did please
To loiter beyond seas:
Guess him in the Happy Islands,
Learning music from the silence!

Only the bee, forsooth,
Came in the place of both,
Doing honor, doing honor
To the honey-dews upon her.

The skies looked coldly down
As on a royal crown;
Then with drop for drop, at leisure,
They began to rain for pleasure.

Whereat the earth did seem
To waken from a dream,
Winter-frozen, winter-frozen,
Her unquiet eyes unclosing —

Said to the Rose, ‘Ha, snow!
And art thou fallen so?
Thou, who wast enthroned stately
All along my mountains lately?

‘Holla, thou world-wide snow!
And art thou wasted so,
With a little bough to catch thee,
And a little bee to watch thee?’

— Poor Rose, to be misknown!
Would she had ne’er been blown,
In her loneness, in her loneness,
All the sadder for that oneness!

Some word she tried to say,
Some no . . . ah, wellaway!
But the passion did o’ercome her,
And the fair frail leaves dropped from her.

— Dropped from her fair and mute,
Close to a poet’s foot,
Who beheld them, smiling slowly,
As at something sad yet holy, —

Said, ‘Verily and thus
It chances too with us
Poets, singing sweetest snatches
While that deaf men keep the watches:

‘Vaunting to come before
Our own age evermore,
In a loneness, in a loneness,
And the nobler for that oneness.

‘Holy in voice and heart,
To high ends, set apart:
All unmated, all unmated,
Just because so consecrated.

‘But if alone we be,
Where is our empery?
And if none can reach our stature,
Who can mete our lofty nature?

‘What bell will yield a tone,
Swung in the air alone?
If no brazen clapper bringing,
Who can hear the chimed ringing?

‘What angel but would seem
To sensual eyes, ghost-dim?
And without assimilation
Vain is interpenetration.

‘And thus, what can we do,
Poor rose and poet too,
Who both antedate our mission
In an unprepared season?

‘Drop, leaf! be silent, song!
Cold things we come among:
We must warm them, we must warm them,
Ere we ever hope to charm them.

‘Howbeit’ (here his face
Lightened around the place,
So to mark the outward turning
Of its spirit’s inward burning.)

‘Something it is, to hold
In God’s worlds manifold,
First revealed to creature-duty,
Some new form of his mild Beauty.

‘Whether that form respect
The sense or intellect,
Holy be, in mood or meadow,
The Chief Beauty’s sign and shadow!

‘Holy, in me and thee,
Rose fallen from the tree, —
Though the world stand dumb around us,
All unable to expound us.

‘Though none us deign to bless,
Blessed are we, natheless;
Blessed still and consecrated
In that, rose, we were created.

‘Oh, shame to poet’s lays
Sung for the dole of praise, —
Hoarsely sung upon the highway
With that obolum da mihi!

‘Shame, shame to poet’s soul
Pining for such a dole,
When Heaven-chosen to inherit
The high throne of a chief spirit!

Sit still upon your thrones,
O ye poetic ones!
And if, sooth, the world decry you,
Let it pass unchallenged by you.

‘Ye to yourselves suffice,
Without its flatteries.
Self-contentedly approve you
Unto HIM who sits above you, —

‘In prayers, that upward mount
Like to a fair-sunned fount
Which, in gushing back upon you,
Hath an upper music won you, —

‘In faith — that still perceives
No rose can shed her leaves,
Far less, poet fall from mission,
With an unfulfilled fruition, —

‘In hope, that apprehends
An end beyond these ends,
And great uses rendered duly
By the meanest song sung truly, —

‘In thanks, for all the good
By poets understood,
For the sound of seraphs moving
Down the hidden depths of loving, —

‘For sights of things away
Through fissures of the clay,
Promised things which shall be given
And sung over, up in Heaven, —

‘For life, so lovely-vain,
For death, which breaks the chain,
For this sense of present sweetness,
And this yearning to completeness!’

More on Elizabeth Barrett Browning at Poetry Foundation

More on Elizabeth Barrett Browning at Poets. Org

The Browning Society–promotes appreciation and awareness of the two poets

Casa Guidi–the Brownings house in Rome

The Armstrong Browning Library–for the research and study of the Brownings and Victorian poets

Post-Poetry Month Withdrawal

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