Meeting Point

by Louis MacNeice

Meeting PointTime was away and somewhere else,

There were two glasses and two chairs

And two people with the one pulse

(Somebody stopped the moving stairs):

Time was away and somewhere else,
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And they were neither up nor down;

The stream’s music did not stop,

Flowing through heather, limpid brown,

Although they sat in a coffee shop

And they were neither up nor down.
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The bell was silent in the air

Holding its inverted poise –

Between the clang and clang a flower,

A brazen calyx of no noise:

The bell was silent in the air.
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The camels crossed the miles of sand

That stretched around the cups and plates;

The desert was their own, they planned

To portion out the stars and dates:

The camels crossed the miles of sand.
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Time was away and somewhere else.

The waiter did not come, the clock

Forgot them and the radio waltz

Came out like water from a rock:

Time was away and somewhere else.
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Her fingers flicked away the ash

That bloomed again in tropic trees:

Not caring if the markets crash

When they had forests such as these,

Her fingers flicked away the ash.
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God or whatever means the Good

Be praised that time can stop like this,

That what the heart has understood

Can verify in the body’s peace

God or whatever means the Good.
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Time was away and she was here

And life no longer what it was,

The bell was silent in the air

And all the room a glow because

Time was away and she was here.

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The Love of Travellers (Doris, Sandra and Sheryl)

Angela Jackson

The Love of TravellersAt the rest stop on the way to Mississippi

we found the butterfly mired in the oil slick;

its wings thick

and blunted. One of us, tender in the finger tips,

smoothed with a tissue the oil

that came off only a little;

the oil-smeared wings like lips colored with lipstick

blotted before a kiss.

So delicate the cleansing of the wings

I thought the color soft as watercolors would wash off

under the method of her mercy for something so slight

and graceful, injured, beyond the love of travellers.
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It was torn then, even after her kindest work,

the almost-moth exquisite charity could not mend

what weighted the wing, melded with it,

then ruptured it in release.

The body of the thing lifted out of its place

between the washed wings.

Imagine the agony of a self separated by gentlest repair.

“Should we kill it?” One of us said. And I said yes.

But none of us had the nerve.

We walked away, the last of the oil welding the butterfly

to the wood of the picnic table.

The wings stuck out and quivered when wind went by.

Whoever found it must have marveled at this.

And loved it for what it was and

had been.

I think, meticulous mercy is the work of travellers,

and leaving things as they are

punishment or reward.
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I have died for the smallest things.

Nothing washes off.

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While Waiting for the Bus

Eliot Khalil Wilson

While Waiting for the BusUnder the eaves of the gas-mart—swallows

fall into the day, wheel before the headless

grooms of the formal wear shop, angle low

as my shoes, then comet up, sheer, careless

of traffic, all that is grounded or down.

A flight of leaf-blown cursives, blue coats

over dashing white, the red-rift of dawn

painted upon their crowns and busy throats.

I must learn to keep them with me, to hold,

somehow, their accomplished joy when I’m gone

to the city where I am mostly old

and their song, under the noise of hours, is done.

But now, auto exhaust cripples the air

as my grey somnambulant bus draws near.

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Power and Tenderness: Robert Penn Warren on Democracy, Art, and the Integrity of the Self

Power and Tenderness“[Art] is the process by which, in imagining itself and the relation of individuals to one another and to it, a society comes to understand itself, and by understanding, discover its possibilities of growth.”

BY MARIA POPOVA

“The poets (by which I mean all artists),” James Baldwin wrote in his exquisite 1962 meditation on the artist’s role in society, “are finally the only people who know the truth about us. Soldiers don’t. Statesmen don’t. Priests don’t. Union leaders don’t. Only poets.”
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More than a decade later, the Pulitzer-winning poet, novelist, and literary critic Robert Penn Warren (April 24, 1905–September 15, 1989) enriched and affirmed this notion when he was selected to deliver the annual Jefferson Lecture, founded by the National Endowment for the Humanities as “the highest honor the federal government confers for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.” Warren’s lecture was eventually adapted into the slim, potent 1975 book Democracy and Poetry (public library) — an insightful, ennobling, and increasingly timely perspective as we turn to poetry as protest and redemption.
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Black Postcards

by Tomas Tranströmer

Black PostcardsThe calendar is full, future unknown.

The cable hums the folk song from no country.

Falling snow on the lead-still sea. Shadows

wrestle on the dock.
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In the middle of life it happens that death comes 

and takes your measurements. This visit 

is forgotten and life goes on. But the suit is 

sewn in silence.

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The Lyric LangPo Alarm: Rae Armantrout

by Daniel Evans PritchardThe Lyric LangPo AlarmRae Armantrout’s poetry is informed by two key sources: first, the radical poetics of 1960s San Francisco; second, the terse verse forms of William Carlos Williams, whose poetry she first encountered in her teens. These are the guiding wires of her poetry, leaving plenty of space for her to maneuver. Armantrout’s poems place public and private languages in contact, or conflict, to reveal secondary and hidden meanings, the infiltration of economic jargon into interior vocabularies, and the failure of language to fully encapsulate our inner states. Her poetry is duplicitous in the best sense of the word: intelligent in its ability to contain opposing forces.
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Wants

Philip Larkin

Philip_Larkin-3 copyBeyond all this, the wish to be alone:

However the sky grows dark with invitation-cards

However we follow the printed directions of sex

However the family is photographed under the flag-staff –

Beyond all this, the wish to be alone.
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Beneath it all, the desire for oblivion runs:

Despite the artful tensions of the calendar,

The life insurance, the tabled fertility rites,

The costly aversion of the eyes away from death –

Beneath it all, the desire for oblivion runs.

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THE BELLE AND THE BARD

MAIA SILBER

THE BELLE AND THE BARDThe First Folio held court in Amherst, MA, late last spring, when purple graduation balloons hovered over the green hills of the college and minivans lined its streets. For the younger siblings, the town offered cotton candy and carnival games; for the parents, a visit from Shakespeare himself. The famous book was displayed in a gallery in the Mead Art Museum, splayed open on a pedestal in the center of the room. Visitors huddled around its pages, whispering their s’s asf’s.
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Just down the road, travelers made pilgrimage to another literary landmark, the home of a poet whose works survived her death in hand-sewn packets, stored in a bedroom drawer. That day, the small town played host to two writers whose legacies loom larger than life: Emily Dickinson and William Shakespeare, the Belle of Amherst and the Bard.
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No writer could have predicted such future fame, but if we take his sonnets as his word, then Shakespeare expected at least a bit of it. “Not marble, nor the gilded monuments / Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme,” he wrote. The reality merely surpassed his expectations; his rhyme, as recorded in the First Folio, has become a monument in more than metaphor. Dickinson, on the other hand, declared herself in poetry a “nobody,” and called fame “the one that does not stay.”
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Yet fame did stay, for both writers. It stayed for the playwright who recorded so little of his life that he left centuries of readers searching for proof of his authorship—and even his existence—and for the poet whose stores of letters and manuscripts beguile some of us even more.

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The Pupil

Donald Justice

The PupilPicture me,the shy pupil at the door,

One small, tight fist clutching the dread Czerny.

Back then time was still harmony, not money,

And I could spend a whole week practicing for

That moment on the threshold.

                                               Then to take courage,

And enter, and pass among mysterious scents,

And sit quite straight, and with a frail confidence

Assault the keyboard with a childish flourish!
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Only to lose my place, or forget the key,

And almost doubt the very metronome

(Outside, the traffic, the laborers going home),

And still to bear on across Chopin or Brahms,

Stupid and wild with love equally for the storms

Of C# minor and the calms of C.

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READING EMILY DICKINSON: Returning to the archives

BY STEPHEN AKEY

emily-dickinsonScholars have been laboring for more than a century to transform Emily Dickinson’s faint pencil jottings on envelopes, letters, and sewn sheets into accurate and readable editions of some or all of her 1,800 poems. Recently, there has been a counter movement to return Dickinson’s verse to something like the textual fluidity of its original state, which in practice is rather like returning nonspecialists to the state of dazed incomprehension experienced by the small circle of her earliest readers. The online Emily Dickinson Archive, which reproduces the manuscripts with all their wayward calligraphy and unresolved word choices, is a necessary and laudable enterprise, but the last thing it does is make her poetry more accessible. You thought it was hard reading Emily Dickinson before? It just got harder.
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There are reasons to believe that the effort to present Dickinson’s poetry in its original handwritten intimacy is misguided, starting with the belief (mine, admittedly) that she would have loved to be published, notwithstanding her demurral to the writer and editor Thomas Wentworth Higginson that publication was as foreign to her thought “as Firmament to Fin.” Writers, generally speaking, are whores for publication, and when they don’t get published, or don’t get published in the form they’d like, they’ll tell anyone anything to salvage their pride. If Higginson had even half understood her, Dickinson might have had very different things to say about the “foreignness” of publication. When she complained to him about the appearance of “A narrow Fellow in the Grass” in the Springfield Republican (one of only ten poems to be published in her lifetime), her complaint wasn’t that the rectilinear impersonality of newsprint had violated the spirit of her poetry. Her complaint was that the editors had botched the punctuation. The poem was “robbed” of her, she told Higginson (meaning that she hadn’t authorized it), but what especially bothered her was that it was “defeated too of the third line by the punctuation” — a misplaced question mark, as it happens, which makes a hash of that and the following line. (The published version read: “You may have met him — did you not? / His notice instant is” instead of “You may have met him? Did you not / His notice instant is.”) In other words, she was complaining about bad editing, not the “foulness” (as she once called it) of publication.

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