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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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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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Has anyone else been dragging a bit this week? Perhaps it’s the five straight days of grey Dickensian mizzle, but also, I am missing the fanfare of Poetry Month. It seemed that every morning there was something fun on twitter or in the news about poets and poetry. (OK, there still is if you follow the #poetry and #poem hashtags, but last month’s pop was exponential.)

One thing I learned is that reading (and writing) poetry is good for the brain. Not a revelation, but still gratifying to hear that the time I spend idling about poetry websites can be chalked off as mind-sharpening. Writer Alan Heathcock also argued that poetry is important for one’s mental health in a piece for NPR’s All Things Considered.

So if you too are suffering from Post-Poetry Month depression, here are some ways to put some poem in your routine. The USPS has just issued Forever stamps that honor ten American poets: Elizabeth Bishop, Joseph Brodsky, Gwendolyn Brooks, E. E. Cummings, Robert Hayden, Denise Levertov, Sylvia Plath, Theodore Roethke, Wallace Stevens, and William Carlos Williams. So now we can all be a little bit inspired when we mail our letters, or at least when we pay the electric bill.

Three of my favorite websites offer a poem-of the day:

Poetry Foundation
Poets.Org
The Writer’s Almanac

All three also have wonderful twitter feeds. Also on Twitter, there is a delightful tweep called @Pomesallsizes, who samples poets ranging from Charles Bukowski to Rainer Maria Rilke. Last Tuesday featured a translation of “Venice in Winter,” by Bakhyt Shkurullaevich Kenzjejev—a Kazakhi poet whom I’d never read.

Finally, the Poetry Foundation offers an amazing free mobile app with an extensive searchable database, as well as a very cool, interactive, spinning poetry roulette that clusters poems via themes like love, youth, frustration, joy, and grief. After all, in the words of Gwendolyn Brooks, “poetry is life distilled.”

USPS just issued Poets “forever’ stamps.

‘A Mad Obsession’: Poetry on the Brain

A Poem A Day: Portable, Peaceful, and Perfect

Poetry Foundation

Poets.Org

The Writer’s Almanac

@Pomesallsizes on Twitter

Poetry Mobile App for iPhone and Android

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There is one story and one story only
That will prove worth your telling,
Whether are learned bard or gifted child;
To it all lines or lesser gauds belong
That startle with their shining
Such common stories as they stray into.

Is it of trees you tell, their months and virtues,
Or strange beasts that beset you,
Of birds that croak at you the Triple will?
Or of the Zodiac and how slow it turns
Below the Boreal Crown,
Prison of all true kings that ever reigned?

Water to water, ark again to ark,
From woman back to woman:
So each new victim treads unfalteringly
The never altered circuit of his fate,
Bringing twelve peers as witness
Both to his starry rise and starry fall.

Or is it of the Virgin’s silver beauty,
All fish below the thighs?
She in her left hand bears a leafy quince;
When, with her right she crooks a finger smiling,
How may the King hold back?
Royally then he barters life for love.

Or of the undying snake from chaos hatched,
Whose coils contain the ocean,
Into whose chops with naked sword he springs,
Then in black water, tangled by the reeds,
Battles three days and nights,
To be spewed up beside her scalloped shore?

Much snow is falling, winds roar hollowly,
The owl hoots from the elder,
Fear in your heart cries to the loving-cup:
Sorrow to sorrow as the sparks fly upward.
The log groans and confesses
There is one story and one story only.

Dwell on her graciousness, dwell on her smiling,
Do not forget what flowers
The great boar trampled down in ivy time.
Her brow was creamy as the crested wave,
Her sea-blue eyes were wild
But nothing promised that is not performed.

Robert Graves–Poems, Articles, and More

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My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

Robert Frost and his apple orchards

Robert Frost bio, poems & more at Poets.org

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I cried over beautiful things knowing no beautiful thing
lasts.

The field of cornflower yellow is a scarf at the neck of the
copper sunburned woman, the mother of the year, the
taker of seeds.

The northwest wind comes and the yellow is torn full of
holes, new beautiful things come in the first spit of
snow on the northwest wind, and the old things go,
not one lasts.

Originally Published in Poetry Magazine October 1918

Carl Sandburg Biography, Poems, & Articles

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