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Archive for October, 2008

After great pain a formal feeling comes–
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;
The stiff Heart questions–was it He that bore?
And yesterday–or centuries before?

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Wislawa Szymborska said this in her 1996 Nobel speech. Only 17 poets have won the Nobel Prize in literature since the prize was first awarded in 1901.Of those 17 poets, only two are women: Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957), a Chilean poet, won it in 1945 and Szymborska (born in 1923) won it in 1996. One of my favorite poems by Szymborska is about being a poet.

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Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

All kinds of people chase after poets,
Like screech owls after linnets.

When a child is taken from you, when a child you’ve born and loved is stolen and you know you will never see that child again, it is the only thing you think about for the rest of your life. It is on the power of this loss that Victor Hugo based his novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

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Love III

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guiltie of dust and sinne.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lack’d any’thing.
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Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
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In Praise of my Sister

My sister doesn’t write poems,
and it’s unlikely that she’ll suddenly start writing poems.
She takes after her mother, who didn’t write poems,
and also her father, who likewise didn’t write poems.
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Rebus

You work with what you are given,
the red clay of grief,
the black clay of stubbornness going on after.
Clay that tastes of care or carelessness,
clay that smells of the bottoms of rivers or dust.

Each thought is a life you have lived or failed to live,
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