Showing posts with label Poetry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Poetry. Show all posts

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day: Thanking All Who Serve

Veteran's Day is a day honoring all veterans in the United States. This day coincides with other holidays around the world commemorating Armistice Day -- the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I, which took place on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Red poppies became a symbol representing veterans because of the poem In Flanders Fields written by Canadian military physician Colonel John McCrae.  Worn by veterans around the world, in the United States the poppy became the official memorial flower representing veterans in 1922. Have you seen red poppies worn and sold on Veteran's Day? They are sold to honor those who serve, but also to collect monies to assist veterans returning from war and their families. So don't forget to wear your red poppy today to honor those who have served.


In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


Today is a day of remembrance and thankfulness in my family. My husband's father and his beloved uncle were both WWII veterans, and his son and our daughter-in-law are also veterans. Today, we thank our loved ones, as well as all those who have served and still serve.

Thank you.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Poetry: Walt Whitman, Song of Myself II

Poet Walt Whitman
May 31, 1819 - March 25, 1892

Song of Myself


Houses and rooms are full of perfumes.... the shelves
are crowded with perfumes,
I breathe the fragrance myself, and know it and like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.

The atmosphere is not a perfume.... it has no taste
of the distillation.... it is odorless,
It is for my mouth forever.... I am in love with it,
I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked,
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.

The smoke of my own breath,
Echoes, ripples, and buzzed whispers.... loveroot, silkthread,
crotch and vine,
My respiration and inspiration.... the beating of my heart....
the passing of blood and air through my lungs,
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore
and darkcolored sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn,
The sound of the belched words of my voice.... words loosed
to the eddies of the wind,

A few light kisses.... a few embraces.... reaching around of arms,
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag,
The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along
the fields and hill-sides,
The feeling of health.... the full-noon trill.... the song of me
rising from bed and meeting the sun.

Have you reckoned a thousand acres much? Have you reckoned
the earth much?
Have you practiced so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin
of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun.... there are
millions of suns left,
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand.... nor
look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres
in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.


Poetry by Walt Whitman: Poem taken from Leaves of Grass (1855, Kindle edition) (Other editions of Leaves of Grass vary including last  one in 1891), Drum Taps (1865), Sequel to Drum Taps (1865), Good Bye, My Fancy (1891)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Review: Empire by Xochiquetzal Candelaria

Using both lyrical and narrative forms, these concise verses explore a family history set against the larger backdrop of Mexican history, immigration, and landscapes of the Southwest. The poet's delicate touch lends these poems an organic quality that allows her to address both the personal and the political with equal grace. Straightforward without being simplistic or reductive, these poems manage to be intimate without seeming self-important.

This distinctive collection ranges from the frighteningly whimsical image of Cortés dancing gleefully around a cannon to the haunting and poignant discovery of a dead refugee boy seemingly buried within the poet herself. The blending of styles works to blur the lines between subjects, creating a textured narrative full of both imagination and nuance.

Ultimately, Empire situates individual experience in the wider social context, highlighting the power of poetry as song, performance, testimony, and witness. Addressing themes such as war, family, poverty, gender, race, and migration, Candelaria gives us a dialogue between historical and personal narratives, as well as discreet "conversations" between content and form.
The beauty of Empire lies in the frankness with which Calendaria explores the complex history of a family and its past and present through poetry. It is very much a personal and intimate piece, and yet it encompasses much more by linking those personal experiences to historical events, and placing them in a political and social context.

As the gorgeous summary above explains, Xochiquetzal Candelaria uses both the narrative and lyrical forms of verse throughout her works. The book is divided in three parts and has a total of 64 pages and, yet by the end, the reader has a sense of having read much more.

In Part I of the book, the first lines of her poem Migration was the first poem to snag my attention:
"The white blue of daylight shrinks to a rip, and the geese seem to slip through but don't." 
And then later on there's a line that stayed with me:
"If I can say anything, I'll say I descended from a migrant bird." 
Two pages later I found Cortés and Cannon and was hooked. The strong imagery in this poem makes visualizing that amusing and celebratory moment more horrific by the almost tender momentary sense of connection Calendaria weaves in between Cortés and the Totonacs.

Throughout, there are works that focus on more than the history or the sociopolitical. All of Candelaria's poems are personal, but there are some that touch on deeply personal subjects that reach the reader -- at least they reached this reader.  Of those, I loved Empire #1: Five and Dime Store 1949, Empire #2: Poet, Empire #3: Marriage, and Empire #4: Mirror. I read and re-read Empire #2 - Poet at least ten times, and I know I'll read it again.

Empire is a book that I recommend highly, not for one read or even two -- take your time, think, savor and enjoy. I'll leave you with an excerpt and one complete poem.


Empire #4: Mirror

The sun's reflection in a bucket of water just before
a sparrow plunges headfirst, its thirst breaking the light into bits

Hephaestus knew this was enough. That we wouldn't like
our noses, those bumps along the chin, thin spear of hair calling us

windows, crevasses along the eyes. Why repeat them?
Did he think upon reflection we wouldn't select?

Excerpt, page 54


The Irises

Their green sepals begin like mouths, forming the word
okay, turning over at the tips to say
yes, then oh yes.
Three deep purple petals smoldering give way
to three more giving way.
Fire breaks through as a seam in the center.
These are messengers remembering that to speak
is to bloom and to bloom
is to sing and sing and sing.

About the Author: Xochiquetzal Candelaria shares her first name with the Aztec goddess of love. She was raised in San Juan Bautista, California and holds degrees from UC Berkeley and New York University and is a tenured faculty member at San Francisco City College. Her work has appeared in The Nation, New England Review, Gulf Coast, Seneca Review and other magazines, as well as the online journal, Solo Ella. She was the winner of the 2006 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize, the Louisiana Literature Prize for Poetry, and the Gulf Coast Poetry Prize. In 2009, Candelaria received an individual literature fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Category: Poetry
Series: Camino del Sol - A Latino and Latina Literary Series
Published by/Release Date: The University of Arizona Press - February 24, 2011
Source: The University of Arizona Press
Grade: A

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Poetry: John Donne - The Good-Morrow

John Donne
January 21, 1572 - March 31, 1631

John Donne was an English poet, priest and a major representative of the Elizabethan era's metaphysical poets. He left behind a large body of works known for their sensual and realistic style. They include sonnets, religious poems, love poetry, epigrams, elegies, songs, satires, Latin translations and sermons.

Among his works are the much admired Divine Poems which include the Holy Sonnets. As a matter of fact I've featured the last lines of Holy Sonnets No. 14 at the very bottom of my blog for a while now as it is a favorite line. Here it is:
"Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me."
However, apart from the religious, as mentioned above Donne also left behind sensual, erotic works and yes... some love poetry that I enjoy as well. Among these other works are his Marriage Songs or Epithalamions. Of those, today I'll recommend reading the very appropriate An Epithalamion, Or Marriage Song on The Lady Elizabeth and Count Palatine Being Married on St. Valentine's Day.

From his elegies, Elegy XIX: To His Mistress Going to Bed is one of his most erotic pieces. His use of metaphors and subject matter in this elegy have been analyzed often, as well as highly criticized throughout the centuries. I could and would do a post on this elegy but today is not that time. There is just so much to discuss: the use of imperatives, the mistress and the lover, the metaphors, allusions to religion and sex in the same piece during Elizabethan times, etc., but for now just read lines 25 - 32 for a taste of this elegy.

"License my roving hands, and let them go,
Behind, before, above, between, below.

O my America! my new-found-land,
my kingdom, safeliest when with one man man'd,
My mine of precious stone: my emperie,
How blest am I in this discovering thee!
To enter in these bonds, is to be free;
Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.

Having given you a taste of the religious and the erotic, it is time for some romance. Donne also wrote love poetry. Tomorrow is Valentine's Day and since I've been reading different types of poetry or poetry-related essays lately, today I would like to leave you with a beautiful Elizabethan love poem by John Donne, The Good-Morrow. Enjoy!


The Good-Morrow

I WONDER by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved ? were we not wean'd till then?
But suck'd on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers' den?
'Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be;
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, 'twas but a dream of thee.

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone;
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown;
Let us possess one world; each hath one, and is one.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mix'd equally;
If our two loves be one, or thou and I
Love so alike that none can slacken, none can die.

by John Donne


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Poetry: Robert Frost, November & A Walk

In 1992, I visited Robert Frost's farm in Derry, New Hampshire during an uncommonly cold and stormy August day. I remember thinking that it was the perfect day to trek through the trails that Frost walked. Autumn hit early that year while my husband and I drove through New England and witnessed nature and Fall in all its splendor, especially up north by beautiful Vermont.

Today we're experiencing a typical November day. It's very windy and there are storm clouds one minute and sun patches the next. Last night's rain storms washed away a lot of the leaves and all I can see out of my front window are a few yellow leaves hanging from the branches of giant trees. Days like these always make me reach for Robert Frost.

My November Guest

My Sorrow, when she's here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She's glad the birds are gone away,
She's glad her simple worsted gray
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.


A Late Walk

When I go up through the mowing field,
The headless aftermath,
Smooth-laid like thatch with the heavy dew,
Half closes the garden path.

And when I come to the garden ground,
The whir of sober birds
Up from the tangle of withered weeds
Is sadder than any words.

A tree beside the wall stands bare,
But a leaf that lingered brown,
Disturbed, I doubt not, by my thought,
Comes softly rattling down.

I end not far from my going forth,
By picking the faded blue
Of the last remaining aster flower
To carry again to you.

Taken from: The Poetry of Robert Frost: The collected poems, complete and unabridged edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Part I - A Boy's Will: 1913

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Poetry: Love Sonnets by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett-Browning (March 6, 1806 – June 29, 1861) was one of the most prominent English poets of the Victorian era. She was contemporary to such well-known poets as Alfred Lord Tennyson, William Woodsworth and the man who would later become her husband Robert Browning.

Elizabeth was born in County Durham, England. She was allowed to attend lessons with her brother's tutors and later became a highly educated woman, mostly through her own efforts. At age 20 her health was weakened by an undiagnosed illness of the lungs that quickly made her an invalid and plagued her for the rest of her life -- an illness that led to a life-long addiction to opiates.

Her early works were published from 1820 - 1844, beginning with The Battle of Marathon: A Poem and ending with Poems, a highly acclaimed and well-received book of poetry published in Britain and the United States.  Later in life, Elizabeth's writing was influenced by social issues affecting her times, including women's roles in Victorian society. This influence can be found in Casa Guidi Widows (1848-1851) and Poems Before Congress (1860) where she took a stand against social injustice, including slavery, child labor, and anti-government subversive movements in Italy. Her poetry writing style influenced American poets Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickinson.

Though Elizabeth was an accomplished poet and had what was considered a good body of work before she met Robert Browning, and she later wrote socially conscious works, including her well-known verse novel, Aurora Leigh (1857), she is best remembered for "Sonnets from the Portuguese" (1850). These are a series of love sonnets Elizabeth wrote while Robert courted her. 

Today I've decided to share two of these sonnets with you. These are both popular, well-known and beloved by many (especially Sonnet No. 43). I hope you enjoy them.

Sonnet No. 14: "If thou must love me, let it be for nought"

If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love's sake only. Do not say
"I love her for her smile... her look... her way
Of speaking gently, for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of ease on such a day"
For these things in themselves, Belovèd, may
Be changed, or change for thee, and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheek dry,
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou may'st love on, through love's eternity.


Sonnet No. 43: "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways."

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.