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Tag: poetry

from my dictionary


       “Chardenal Dictionary (1908) 


               Max Weber




a few indiscriminate selections, not 

even in alphabetical order


      pity: love, but without the admiration 

      art: the product of deftness applied to an intricacy  

      to conceive:

           a) to think of

           b) to make happen


      poetry: the conjunction of Beauty and Truth,

              a bridge between language and music

       courtesy: a prelude to poetry

       prelude: what comes before 


      nucleus accumbens: the brain’s pleasure centre

      religion: the institutionalization of faith

R ! chard





Puccini on poets


                   “Cigarette La Bohême (1879) 

                             Théophile Steinlen


with a friend today over lunch I told 
her that we’d watched, my mom and 
I and a mutual friend, La Bohème“,  
an Australian production of it, Baz 
Luhrmann directing, a man we both 
knew, at my place last Sunday, we 
were all wowed by it, I extrapolated 

the only opera I’ve ever seen, she 
said, was La Bohème

where did you see it, I asked, and 

with my first husband, she replied,
in Vienna 

was it wonderful, I inquired  

it was, she answered, I had on a 
long dress, my husband was in 
coat and, essentially, tails, we 
walked up a very long staircase, 
I  remember

coincidentally, the first time I’d 
seen “La Bohème was also in 
Vienna, I can’t remember the 
staircase, couldn’t remember what  
I wore, can’t even remember where 
I was sitting, what I remember, as
though through a telescope, darkly,  
was Mimi and Rodolphe looking for   
the key she’d lost, on their knees   
on the floor, in the dark cause her  
candle ‘d gone out, he’d put his out
surreptitiously too to  join her 

your little hand is so cold, he sings,
when he, unforgettably, finds it 

in this production, Rodolphe has  
found the key but conceals it 
from Mimi until she sees it in his 
eyes, he pretends to return it but 
instead manages to hold her 

your little hand is so cold, he 
sings, again unforgettably

there’s nothing to fear, he 
continues, the moon is out, let’s
get to know each other

who am I, he asks, to start the 
conversation, I am a poet, he 
declares, and proceeds to tell 
us what it is to be a poet 

you’ll be utterly enchanted

tell me about a world, I ask,  
without poets, tell me about  
a world without poetry 

where would we be without 
dreamers, I wonder, where would 
we be without dreams

watch here, and wonder


what is a poet


                            Flowers In a Brown Vase (1904)

                                            Odilon Redon


if I imagine myself to be a poetwhat 
is a poet, I have to ask, or, more 
accurately, what do I imagine a poet 
to be

cause this is a two-way street, I am
defined by the word I inhabit, but I 
define the word as well, redefining 
it, essentially, to fit my etymological 

my moral purpose I leave to myself,
in a completely other ideological

if I can

a poet then is one who writes, paints,
composes, manifests, in a word, 
creates, poems

what is a poem

a poem is where beauty and truth 
combine to create harmony, 
coalescence, to the point of one’s
admiration, enchantment, wonder, 
enlightenment, in incremental steps 
leading to very transcendence, the 
feeling that something has moved 
in your heart

just a bouquet of flowers will do it,
for instance

that’s what I think


songs of some birds‏

untitled-1939-1.jpg!BlogPablo Picasso - "Untitled" (1939)

Untitled (1939)

Pablo Picasso


having wondered only recently about
bird song, whale song
, can these be
considered singing when they are
essentially language, we think, and
not codified, technically constricted,
I see pertinently appear a study
suggesting birds follow a pentatonic
scale, our own musical basis,
harmonics between birds and
humans are apparently identical

this suggests that harmonics in
nature are as fundamental as
mathematics, we have somehow,
humans, diverged from what we
think of as singing, left rhythm
and tonality from our conversation
to produce uninflected prose and
monotony, language at the level
of atonal, arhythmic expression,
for better or for worse, corruption,
or refinement, evolution

I wonder, again, if prose is not
bad poetry, or has poetry evolved
into prose

should we feel shame or ingenuity,
do birds have their own divergent
degrees of poetry, do some, most
maybe, veer also towards the less
exacting prose

do some birds not sing, in other
words, or only sometimes maybe,
when mating, for instance,
something like how we croon
when we’re dating, put on our
very best airs


“Ambush at Five O’clock” – Stephen Dunn‏

from the New Yorker, February 3, 2014

Ambush at Five O’clock

We were by the hedge that separates our properties
when I asked our neighbors about their souls.
I said it with a smile, the way one asks such a thing.
They were somewhat like us, I thought, more
than middle-aged, less dull than most.
Yet they seemed to have no interest
in disputation, our favorite game,
or any of the great national pastimes
like gossip and stories of misfortunes
about people they disliked.

In spite of these differences, kindred
was a word we often felt and used.
The man was shy, though came to life
when he spotted an uncommon bird,
and the woman lively, sometimes even funny
about barometer readings and sudden dips
in pressure, the general state of things.
We liked their affection for each other
and for dogs. We went to their house;
they came to ours.

After I asked about their souls
they laughed and stumbled towards an answer,
then gave up, turned the question back
to me. And because I felt mine always was
in jeopardy I said it went to the movies
and hasn’t been seen since. I said gobbledy
and I said gook. I found myself needing
to fool around, avoid, stay away from myself.

But my wife said her soul suffered from neglect,
that she herself was often neglectful
of important things, but so was I.
Then she started to cry. What’s the matter? I asked.
What brought this on? She didn’t answer.
I felt ambushed, publicly insensitive
about something, whatever it was.

It was a dusky five o’clock, that time
in between one thing and another.
Our neighbors retreated to their home,
but the women returned
and without a word put her arms
around my wife as if a woman weeping
indicated something already understood
among women, that needn’t be voiced.
They held each other, rocked back and forth,

and I thought Jesus Christ, am I guilty again
of one of those small errors
I’ve repeated until it became large?
what about me? I thought. What about
the sadness of being stupid?
Why doesn’t her husband return
with maybe a beer and a knowing nod?

Stephen Dunn


poetry is a conversation, of course, a poet
has with all the other poets who’ve come
before him, her, here Dunn is evidently
channelling Robert Browning, “This is
my last Duchess”,
Browning writes,
“painted on the wall / Looking as though
she were alive.”,
from his My Last
a poem I’ve never forgotten,
wherein the speaker discusses the
portrait of his earlier wife, one he’d
summarily purportedly got rid of

Robert Browning had learned his craft,
the dramatic monologue, from, of course,
Shakespeare, down to even its dramatic

Elizabeth meanwhile had been inspired
rather by Shakespeare’s sonnets, by his
thee, thy, thine, and thou’s

in Dunn the Browningian drama is
significantly less dour, nobody out and
out dies, though the dilemma is never
not existential, however less morally
compromised, less psychologically
and tragically fraught

neither does Dunn rhyme

but that just sends us back to Homer
of course, less epic, more, maybe,
middle class, very, and distinctively,
XXlst Century

but that’s how you read between the
lines, the verses, in this case, and
thus across the centuries

poetry is a conversation


Apollo Appleseed

a friend of mine, Apollo, having
appropriated that name already
to launch a, not unpromising,
career as an artist, had never
to date considered a surname
for what I called his nom de
, his brush name

but in a farfelu moment, French
for having lost one’s head – my
head, not his, having surrendered
immediately to his fantasy – he’d
happened upon “Appleseed” as
maybe a fitting, and to be
considered, apposition, addition,
to his presently truncated name,
I jumped on it

he later called the phenomenon,
at a loss for provenance, an
inspiration, to which I forthwith
concurred, Apollo Appleseed,
can you dig it, I told him he now
had to live up to it

inspiration is always the source
of poetry, I said, poetry is what
we all live for, to make our lives

it involves following our inspirations,
however fanciful, however out there,
people have built lives around art,
literature, dreams, madeleines, for
goodness’ sake, fording oceans,
climbing mountains, and have
become not to be forgotten, it’s the
magic that counts, ever the aim of

when inspiration strikes it is ever
charged with possibility, perspicacity,
delight, it is not a negative function

when inspiration strikes it is time
to stand and deliver, it knows the
ineluctable way, the one that’s in
your heart

you too can plant apple trees across
the land, of your own potentialities, if
only you dare follow even one of your


psst: you’ll have to forgive my ardour,
it’s been my Johnny Appleseed

and don’t forget to click

blog alert: “Wild & Precious Life”

wherein Wild & Precious Lifedescribes herself 

     “My love for poetry is simple but at the same time, hard to
      explain. I was drawn to it from an early age however, with
      questionable motives. In my young eyes, the appreciation
      of poetry personified sophistication, poise and intelligence.
      And so I became that nine year old reciting lines from Dylan
      Thomas poems even though I had yet to live enough life to
      truly understand the deeper themes. But I continued my
      poetry admiration, convinced that I looked wise beyond
      my years. Believe me,  the irony of it is not lost on me now……
      And then those life experiences that one needs to truly
      understand poetry came knocking, and at times pounding
      on my door. Some were welcomed but many were not, but
      with them came my true love of poetry.
      I now read poetry for a simple and unequivocal reason – it
      makes me feel connected to something tangible but at the
      same time larger than myself. When I am sad, overwhelmed,
      lost, lovelorn, confused, I turn to it. I’ll read a beautiful
      composition of words and suddenly realize that I am not
      the first or last person to feel such things and that calms me,
      gives me hope and makes me feel gratitude.
      That having been said, this website is a simple collection of
      beautiful words. They are poems, quotes, lyrics and excerpts
      that have resonated with me. They are words that have made
      me smile, laugh, cry and sometimes simply take pause. I hope
      you enjoy the website, lovingly titled [Wild & Precious Life] –
      the closing lines of [Mary Oliver’s The Summer Day]: 
                  Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
                            Tell me, what is it you plan to do
                  with your one wild and precious life?
what I needed to reply
      coming from a small town in the middle of
      nowhere, I aspired even then to discover
      what the rest of the world was thinking,
      admired, why had literary giants become
      legends, even archetypes, what were the
      poetry ever however seemed especially
      sterile, odes, for goodness’ sake, on 
      Grecian urns, I ask you, I, a budding
      person before the unfolding world
      abstract art too was pretty questionable, 
      though I persisted, diligently probing 
      afield for convincing, manifest, arguments,
      the world couldn’t be so wrong
      until here and there a bud would blossom,
      I now read poetry just to find out what
      other hearts are thinking    
      some say quite wonderful things   
      ever the best 
      psst:  I’ve subscribed, by the way, to your 
              Wild and Precious adventure
               many thanks

XXXVl. When we met first and loved, I did not build – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XXXVl. When we met first and loved, I did not build

When we met first and loved, I did not build
Upon the event with marble. Could it mean
To last, a love set pendulous between
Sorrow and sorrow? Nay, I rather thrilled,
Distrusting every light that seemed to gild
The onward path, and feared to overlean
A finger even. And, though I have grown serene
And strong since then, I think that God has willed
A still renewable fear . . .O love, O troth
Lest these enclaspèd hands should never hold,
This mutual kiss drop down between us both
As an unowned thing, once the lips being cold.
And Love, be false! if he, to keep one oath,
Must lose one joy, by his life’s star foretold

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


some poems cross the line of scrutability,
the line of even credibility sometimes,
being too cute for their own artful ever
nevertheless intentions, too abstruse,
clever, for their own too weighted words,
having let artifice overwhelm whatever

the beginning here is straightforward,
Elizabeth hasn’t cast her dreams in
“marble”, she hasn’t engraved her
illusions in stone, she dutifully allows
for disappointment in the promise of
fulfilment that lies between what has
lain before for her and what lies ahead
be this promise not fulfilled, or
eventually, in any case, forthwith
thwarted, as inexorably it must, for
she is, they are, we all are, inescapably
mortal, we come to the end, ineluctably,
of all our projected dreams

but the danger of breaking, however
inadvertently, so magical a spell,
prevents her from moving even a
finger, as though a breath, a bristle,
a brush, could threaten its tenuous,
as she would have it, enchantment

and haven’t we all been there, I
remember the death of a possible love
in the momentary merely, and utterly
arbitrary, obstruction of our charged
line of sight, a sure sign of discordance,
a clear and irrevocable omen

but should their own conjunction not
hold, “This mutual kiss drop down
between us both”,
she enjoins, allow
it to take hold as an independent, an
“unowned”, thing, a tribute ever to the
ineradicability of the moment, she urges,
even beyond their “lips being cold”, which
is to say, each beyond their, indomitably
separated, extraterrestrial existences

but why “drop down” instead of “raise”,
[t]his mutual kiss …. between us”, one
incidentally wonders, shouldn’t a kiss
move up

“Love”, she then continues, “be false”,
out of, it seems, nowhere, do not hold
your promise of forever, she says, should
her suitor’s “oath” in any way betray his

hn, I asked, where did that come from

what are you talking about here, Elizabeth,
I pondered, which “oath” is to be kept, and
what “joy” is being threatened, you’ll have
to be more specific, dear

and how, furthermore, does this statement
follow from your otherwise reasonably
consecutive text

your love, I’m afraid, is a literary muddle in
this sorry construction, you’re generally,
though always metaphorically intricate,
more penetrable than this, you’ve let your
literary impulse trump your logic on this
one, Elizabeth, we’re not getting it

a poem must be, by definition, coherent, I
think, otherwise it’s nothing but hogwash,
doing damage to the very idea of poetry,
an affront, in the instance, indeed a

for poetry, to my mind, is sacred

then again maybe I’m being too ardent,
too harsh, too inflexible

and, for that matter, what, indeed, is

you define it

you be, for you are, the judge


XXXlll. Yes, call me by my pet-name! let me hear – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XXXlll. Yes, call me by my pet-name! let me hear

Yes, call me by my pet-name! let me hear
The name I used to run at, when a child,
From innocent play, and leave the cow-slips piled,
To glance up in some face that proved me dear
With the look of its eyes. I miss the clear
Fond voices which, being drawn and reconciled
Into the music of Heaven’s undefiled,
Call me no longer. Silence on the bier,
While I call God – call God! – So let thy mouth
Be heir to those who are now exanimate.
Gather the north flowers to complete the south,
And catch the early love up in the late.
Yes, call me by that name, – and I, in truth,
With the same heart, will answer and not wait.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


Elizabeth Barrett Browning introduces
immediacy here in the very first beat by
making her metre trochaic – dum, da –
instead of iambic – da, dum – we’re in
the midst of already the conversation,
where Browning, Robert, had called
Elizabeth by a nickname, probably,
I would think, his “Portuguese”, the
“Portuguese” of these very poems,
and she peremptorily corners us, him

then, despite her insecurities, she
commands, as I’d earlier, maybe
somewhat sardonically, implied,
but we all have, don’t we, our
idiosyncratic peculiarities

“call me by my pet-name”, she insists,
like those who loved me used to do
when I was young, and that I ran to
when they called so that I could
beside them “glance” at the reflection
in their eyes of my very indeterminate
for me validity

but whose “voices” now, sadly, have
become “the music of” a perfect
“Heaven”, which is to say, where those
who have been there retired, “drawn
and reconciled”,
are “undefiled”

only “Silence on the bier”, no reply, no
sound at all, from even the divinity she

“So let thy mouth / Be heir”, she charges,
as she is wont to do when she isn’t fretting,
be their counterpart, your “north” their
“south” flowers, their “early” your “late[r]

“and I, in truth, / With the same heart”, as
when I left so hurriedly my “cow-slips”
“will answer and not wait” to fly at your

and all in only fifteen lines, to my,
hopefully helpful, several, with each
of hers sporting rich and resonant
even rhyme, which probably went
nevertheless mostly at first glance
unnoticed, to my fewer maybe, and
more insidiously covert ones

wherein lies, of course, the artistry,
the buttons don’t intrude on the
fabric, the garment’s pristine
symmetry, the poem’s potent



XXXl. Thou comest! all is said without a word – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XXXl. Thou comest! all is said without a word

Thou comest! all is said without a word.
I sit beneath thy looks, as children do
In the noon-sun, with souls that tremble through
Their happy eyelids from an unaverred
Yet prodigal inward joy. Behold, I erred
In that last doubt! and yet I cannot rue
The sin most, but the occasion – that we two
Should for a moment stand unministered
By a mutual presence. Ah, keep near and close,
Thou dovelike help! and, when my fears would rise,
With thy broad heart serenely interpose:
Brood down with thy divine sufficiencies
These thoughts which tremble when bereft of those,
Like callow birds left desert to the skies.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


it is a natural instinct nearly to read such
a poem in iambic pentameter, until you get
to the end of the verse, pause, and then do
the same thing with the next line, applying
a rhythm to each phrase, much like toneless
singing, after all, one surmises, it’s a poem,
words without the tune, it has a beat

but the beat in Elizabeth Barrett Browning‘s
poems, though staunch, is steeped in the
less evidently accented constructions of
prose, looser and less regimented, for

like Beethoven, Elizabeth Barrett Browning
is breaking out of the Classical mode and
introducing the overflowing elements of
the Romantic personality, personal
expression dominating form the better
to reflect a new cultural reality

it’s interesting to note that Beethoven as
well found the key to representing that
new revolutionary spirit through the
manipulation of beat, both achieving
thereby the very pinnacle of consummate
artistry, icons of their, however great their
own personally chronologically distant,

but read the poem as though it were an
everyday sentence, the poetry will be clear,
beautiful, even wondrous, the rhythms not
immediately apparent though always
present and profoundly sure

both music and poetry would attempt
to sound like real life, to speak more
intimately and therefore truthfully,
while others will attempt to make
poetry out of mere prose, watch me,
we live in different times

about the poem, compare you are
the wind beneath my wings
for a
not dissimilar sentiment, watch
Patti Labelle make powerhouse
poetry out of mere prose


psst: more about wings