Archive for the ‘Poetry forms’ Category

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

We Are Seven

A simple Child,
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?

I met a little cottage Girl:
She was eight years old, she said;
Her hair was thick with many a curl
That clustered round her head.

She had a rustic, woodland air,
And she was wildly clad:
Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
— Her beauty made me glad.

Sisters and brothers, little Maid,
How many may you be?
How many? Seven in all, she said,
And wondering looked at me.

And where are they? I pray you tell.
She answered, Seven are we;
And two of us at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea.

Two of us in the church-yard lie,
My sister and my brother;
And, in the church-yard cottage, I
Dwell near them with my mother.

You say that two at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea,
Yet ye are seven! — I pray you tell,
Sweet Maid, how this may be.

Then did the little Maid reply,
Seven boys and girls are we;
Two of us in the church-yard lie,
Beneath the church-yard tree.

You run about, my little Maid,
Your limbs they are alive;
If two are in the church-yard laid,
Then ye are only five.

Their graves are green, they may be seen,
The little Maid replied,
“Twelve steps or more from my mother’s door,
And they are side by side.

“My stockings there I often knit,
My kerchief there I hem;
And there upon the ground I sit,
And sing a song to them.

“And often after sunset, Sir,
When it is light and fair,
I take my little porringer,
And eat my supper there.

“The first that died was sister Jane;
In bed she moaning lay,
Till God released her of her pain;
And then she went away.

“So in the churchyard she was laid;
And, when the grass was dry,
Together round her grave we played,
My brother John and I.

And when the ground was white with snow,
And I could run and slide,
My brother John was forced to go,
And he lies by her side.

How many are you then, said I,
If they two are in heaven?
Quick was the little Maid’s reply,
O Master! we are seven.

But they are dead; those two are dead!
Their spirits are in heaven!
‘Twas throwing words away; for still
The little Maid would have her will,
And said, Nay, we are seven!

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Donald Justice (1925-2004) won the Pulitzer for his book of "Selected Poems"

One of my teachers at Vermont College of Fine Arts was taught by Donald Justice at the University of Iowa in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He told her when writing a poem to imagine panning in on the subject matter with a movie camera. Decide what people are in that scene, what objects, what sights, what sounds? It helps place the words in context.

I attended a reading by Justice in the late 80s where he was asked about the difficulties of rhyming and writing in forms. He laughed and said it was more difficult for him not to rhyme and not to use forms. I’ve included two of his poems below. The second is a villanelle.

Another American poet, Mark Strand (born 1934), said about Justice, “From the very beginning Justice has fashioned his poems, honed them down, freed them of rhetorical excess and the weight (however gracefully sustained) of an elaborate diction. His self-indulgence, then, has been with the possibilities of plain statement. His refusal to adopt any other mode but that which his subject demands — minimal, narcissist, negating — has nourished him.”

The Evening of the Mind

Now comes the evening of the mind.
Here are the fireflies twitching in the blood;
Here is the shadow moving down the page
Where you sit reading by the garden wall.
Now the dwarf peach trees, nailed to their trellises,
Shudder and droop. Your know their voices now,
Faintly the martyred peaches crying out
Your name, the name nobody knows but you.
It is the aura and the coming on.
It is the thing descending, circling, here.
And now it puts a claw out and you take it.
Thankfully in your lap you take it, so.

You said you would not go away again,
You did not want to go away—and yet,
It is as if you stood out on the dock
Watching a little boat drift out
Beyond the sawgrass shallows, the dead fish . . .
And you were in it, skimming past old snags,
Beyond, beyond, under a brazen sky
As soundless as a gong before it’s struck—
Suspended how?—and now they strike it, now
The ether dream of five-years-old repeats, repeats,
And you must wake again to your own blood
And empty spaces in the throat.

In Memory of the Unknown Poet, Robert Boardman Vaughn

But the essential advantage for a poet is not to have a beautiful world with which to deal: it is to be able to see beneath both beauty and ugliness; to see the boredom, and the horror, and the glory. T.S. Eliot

It was his story. It would always be his story.
It followed him; it overtook him finally—
The boredom, and the horror, and the glory.

Probably at the end he was not yet sorry,
Even as the boots were brutalizing him in the alley.
It was his story. It would always be his story,

Blown on a blue horn, full of sound and fury,
But signifying, O signifying magnificently
The boredom, and the horror, and the glory.

I picture the snow as falling without hurry
To cover the cobbles and the toppled ashcans completely.
It was his story. It would always be his story.

Lately he had wandered between St. Mark’s Place and the Bowery,
Already half a spirit, mumbling and muttering sadly.
O the boredom, and the horror, and the glory.

All done now. But I remember the fiery
Hypnotic eye and the raised voice blazing with poetry.
It was his story and would always be his story—
The boredom, and the horror, and the glory

Other Pulitzer finalists in 1980 were Dave Smith for his book Goshawk, Antelop and Richard Hugo’s Selected Poems.

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Karl Shapiro (1913-2000) won the Pulitzer for his book: V-Letter and Other Poems

The Voyage

The ship of my body has danced in the dance of the storm
And pierced to the center the heavy embrace of the tide;
It has plunged to the bottomless trough with the knife of its form
And leapt with the prow of its motion elate from the bride.

And now in the dawn I am salt with the taste of the wave,
Which lies with itself and suspires, her beauty alseep,
And I peer at the fishes with jaws that devour and rave
And hunt in her dream for the wrack of our hands in the deep.

But the wind is the odor of love that awakes in the sun
The stream of our voyage that lies on the belt of the seas,
And I gather and breathe in the rays of the darkness undone,
And drift in her silence of morning and sail at my ease,

Where sponges and rubbery seaweeds and flowers of hair
Uprooted abound in the water and choke in the air.

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Robert Frost (1874-1963) won the Pulitzer for his book: A Further Range


I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth–
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth–
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?–
If design govern in a thing so small.

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Robert Hillyer (1895-1961) won the Pulitzer for his book of Collected Verse

[Long after both of us are scattered dust]

Long after both of us are scattered dust,
And alien souls, perchance, shall read of thee,
Guessing the passions that have crushed from me
These poor confessions of my love and trust;
Ah, well I know how heartless they will be,
For some will laugh, and others, more unjust,
Whose minds know not of love, but only lust,
Will stain the vesture of our memory.

And yet a few there may be who will feel
My true devotion and my deep desires,
And know that these unhappy lines reveal
Only new images in changeless fires;
And they, indeed, will linger with a sigh
To think that beauty such as thine must die.

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Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869-1935) won the Pulitzer for his book Tristram

The Clerks


I did not think that I should find them there
When I came back again; but there they stood,
As in the days they dreamed of when young blood
Was in their cheeks and women called them fair.
Be sure, they met me with an ancient air,—
And yes, there was a shop-worn brotherhood
About them; but the men were just as good,
And just as human as they ever were.

And you that ache so much to be sublime,
And you that feed yourselves with your descent,
What comes of all your Visions and your fears?
Poets and kings are but the clerks of Time,
Tiering the same dull webs of discontent,
Clipping the same sad alnage of the years.

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Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869-1935) Portrait by Lilla Cabot Perry, 1916. Robinson won the Pulitzer for his book of Collected Poems.


I cannot find my way: there is no star
In all the shrouded heavens anywhere;
And there is not a whisper in the air
Of any living voice but one so far
That I can hear it only as a bar
Of lost, imperial music, played when fair
And angel fingers wove, and unaware,
Dead leaves to garlands where no roses are.

No, there is not a glimmer, nor a call,
For one that welcomes, welcomes when he fears,
The black and awful chaos of the night;
For through it all—above, beyond it all—
I know the far-sent message of the years,
I feel the coming glory of the Light.

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My Mother’s Pillow

My mother sleeps with the Bible open on her pillow;
she reads herself to sleep and wakens startled.
She listens for her heart: each breath is shallow.

For years her hands were quick with thread and needle.
She used to sew all night when we were little;
now she sleeps with the Bible on her pillow

and believes that Jesus understands her sorrow:
her children grown, their father frail and brittle;
she stitches in her heart, her breathing shallow.

Once she even slept fast,rushed tomorrow
mornings full of sunlight, sons and daughters.
Now she sleeps alone with the Bible on her pillow

and wakes alone and feels the house is hollow,
though my father in his blue room stirs and mutters;
she listens to him breathe: each breath is shallow.

I flutter down the darkened hallway, shadow
between their dreams, my mother and my father,
asleep in rooms I pass, my breathing shallow.
I leave the Bible open on her pillow.
by Cecilia Woloch

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Sonnet XVII

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way
than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

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What will suffice for a true-love knot? Even the rain?
But he has bought grief’s lottery, bought even the rain.

“our glosses / wanting in this world” “Can you remember?”
Anyone! “when we thought / the poets taught” even the rain?

After we died–That was it!–God left us in the dark.
And as we forgot the dark, we forgot even the rain.

Drought was over. Where was I? Drinks were on the house.
For mixers, my love, you’d poured–what?–even the rain.

Of this pear-shaped orange’s perfumed twist, I will say:
Extract Vermouth from the bergamot, even the rain.

How did the Enemy love you–with earth? air? and fire?
He held just one thing back till he got even: the rain.

This is God’s site for a new house of executions?
You swear by the Bible, Despot, even the rain?

After the bones–those flowers–this was found in the urn:
The lost river, ashes from the ghat, even the rain.

What was I to prophesy if not the end of the world?
A salt pillar for the lonely lot, even the rain.

How the air raged, desperate, streaming the earth with flames–
to help burn down my house, Fire sought even the rain.

He would raze the mountains, he would level the waves,
he would, to smooth his epic plot, even the rain.

New York belongs at daybreak to only me, just me–
to make this claim Memory’s brought even the rain.

They’ve found the knife that killed you, but whose prints are these?
No one has such small hands, Shahid, not even the rain.
A Ghazal by Agha Shahid Ali

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