Another reminder that on October 25 we will read and discuss The poetry of Fernando Pessoa

FernandoAnother reminder that on October 25 we will read and discuss the poetry of Fernando Pessoa. Bill Ellis has furnished us with several relevant links of interest:

  1. Twenty Two New Translations – Brown University

  2. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/fernando-pessoa

  3. “So many gods!” by Álvaro de Campos | Poetry Magazine

  4. “Ah Margarida” by Álvaro de Campos | Poetry Magazine

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Lift Not the Painted Veil Which Those Who Live

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Lift Not the Painted VeilLift not the painted veil which those who live

Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there,

And it but mimic all we would believe

With colours idly spread,—behind, lurk Fear

And Hope, twin Destinies; who ever weave

Their shadows, o’er the chasm, sightless and drear.

I knew one who had lifted it—he sought,

For his lost heart was tender, things to love,

But found them not, alas! nor was there aught

The world contains, the which he could approve.

Through the unheeding many he did move,

A splendour among shadows, a bright blot

Upon this gloomy scene, a Spirit that strove

For truth, and like the Preacher found it not.

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On Not Being Sylvia Plath

Colm Tóibín

Selected Poems by Thom Gunn

On Not Being Sylvia PlathThere were two anthologies of modern poetry in our house when I was a teenager and they both offered glimpses of the world outside that were more intense, more useful, than anything on television or on albums or in ordinary books. One was The Penguin Book of Contemporary Verse, edited by Kenneth Allott. It had been published first in 1950, with a second edition in 1962. The other was The New Poetry, also published in 1962. Edited by A. Alvarez, it had a crazy Jackson Pollock painting on the cover. In the Allott anthology I was intrigued by some of the poems that came towards the end, most notably Jon Silkin’s ‘Death of a Son’, whose last line (‘And out of his eyes two great tears rolled, like stones, and he died’) I thought sadder than anything in Joni Mitchell or Leonard Cohen. I was also interested in Thomas Kinsella’s ‘Another September’, because I knew the house just outside Enniscorthy where it was set and I had met the poet’s wife, whose sleeping figure was evoked in the poem. What was most interesting about it, though, was the way it left the familiar behind and moved into a set of images and cadences that I could not fully understand:

It is as though

The black breathing that billows her sleep, her name,

Drugged under judgment, waned and – bearing daggers

And balances – down the lampless darkness they came,

Moving like women: Justice, Truth, such figures.

‘Figures’ rhymes, of course, with ‘daggers’, but the rhyme is weak, almost faint, suggesting no sure-footed conclusion. Those two final words puzzled me. How would you know to end a poem with those two words?

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Let Them Alone

by Robinson Jeffers

Let Them AloneIf God has been good enough to give you a poet

Then listen to him. But for God’s sake let him alone until he is dead;

no prizes, no ceremony,

They kill the man. A poet is one who listens

To nature and his own heart; and if the noise of the world grows up

around him, and if he is tough enough,

He can shake off his enemies, but not his friends.

That is what withered Wordsworth and muffled Tennyson, and would have

killed Keats; that is what makes

Hemingway play the fool and Faulkner forget his art.

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Friendly shade

Andrew Motion wonders whether Philip Larkin had an unexpected afterlife

Philip_Larkin-small copyPhilip Larkin died in December 1985. By the time the Memorial Service for him was held on Valentine’s Day 1986, Monica Jones, his long-term companion and one of his Literary Executors, had already asked another of those Literary Executors, Anthony Thwaite, to edit his Collected Poems and an edition of Selected Letters, and invited the third – me – to write his biography.
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From the outset, when Monica gave me Larkin’s address book and told me “the names of all the people you need to talk to are in there”, then pointed me upstairs in his house in Hull where I found enormous quantities of his correspondence filed in shoeboxes, I had decided that candour would be the best policy. I knew from other cases that when Literary Estates and/or biographers try to withhold information about a writer, it only serves to inflame curiosity and provoke harmful guesswork. I also felt that it would be right and proper to tell in plain terms the story of a man who himself had believed very firmly in the value of plain speaking. Like it or not, one of the most striking aspects of Larkin’s letters is their lack of hesitation in saying exactly what he thought and felt. Sometimes this un-hinderedness contains an element of liberal-baiting. Sometimes it is a kind of joke. Sometimes it is simply a frank expression of an opinion or attitude. But in all cases it is proof of honest self-reporting. I never doubted that his poems – their depth and complexity, including the depth and complexity of the ways in which they depart from certain attitudes that he adopted in his daily life – would eventually survive whatever hits his reputation as a man might take.

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Coming into Eighty

May Sarton

Coming into EightyComing into eighty

I slow my ship down

For a safe landing.

It has been battered,

One sail torn, the rudder

Sometimes wobbly.

We are hardly a glorious sight.

It has been a long voyage

Through time, travail and triumph,

Eighty years

Of learning what to be

And how to become it …

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IN SYLVIA WHITMAN’S PARIS, EVERYTHING REVOLVES AROUND POETRY

THE DAUGHTER OF SHAKESPEARE AND CO.’S FOUNDER ON RUNNING HER FATHER’S SHOP

By Jeanne Damas and Lauren Bastide

IN SYLVIA WHITMAN_S PARISSylvia Whitman is radiant, bubbly and approachable when she greets us at the Shakespeare and Company bookshop on the banks of the Seine. It’s an autumn day and Paris is gilded in shades of red and orange. The Seine riverboats ripple the water below Notre-Dame Cathedral as we sit down at a table in the little café adjoining the bookshop and prepare to indulge in apple and pear smoothies and avocado toast. Sylvia seems very British to us with her good manners, use of irony, her floral dress, blue eyes, the way she orders a cup of tea at the bar, and her delicious accent as she tells us stories about her dog, Colette, whom she takes for a walk every evening along the embankment.
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Then again, she could be the most Parisian of all the women we’ve met. Paris has run through her veins since early childhood, and like the heroine in a novel, her life has had a series of unexpected twists and turns, sometimes extraordinary, sometimes romantic, sometimes tragic. And Paris has always provided the backdrop to such unforeseen events. Each and every one of them. Her picture-postcard Paris serves as a setting for the bookshop she inherited and now runs (along with her husband, she manages a team of almost 40 people working at both the bookshop and the adjoining café).

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Five Poems by Adrienne Rich

Adrienne_Rich-6Adrienne Rich, a major figure in the recent history of American poetry and a frequent contributor to The Nation, died on March 27 [2012]. In addition to the twenty-two poems she contributed over fifty years, she also wrote essays and reviewed for the magazine; a remark in her review of John Berryman’s 77 Dream Songs could serve as self-analysis: “One is conscious, as in few other poets, of a steely thread of strength running through the dislocation and the ruin.”
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She also spoke up as a reader: in a 1993 letter to the editor, she urged the magazine to refuse “to drift toward the so-called center, a nerveless, benumbed position produced by the very financial and political interests that need to be called to account.” In the first of ten reviews the magazine ran of her work, Cheryl Walker identified the best qualities of her work, and their likely source:

This poetry is deadly serious, but it is not, like so much of women’s poetry in the past, death-enamored. For it is the poet’s appetite, her undeniable life force, which sustains these operations.

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From Beowulf: A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney

From BeowulfIntroduction of the Danes

So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by

And the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.

We have heard of those prince’s heroic campaigns.
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There was Shield Sheafson, scourge of many tribes,

A wrecker of mead-benches, rampaging among foes.

This terror of the hall-troops had come far.

A foundling to start with, he would flourish later on

As his powers waxed and his worth was proved.

In the end each clan on the outlying coats

Beyond the whale-road had to yield to him

And begin to pay tribute. That was one good king.

Read the complete text
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Listen to Seamus Heaney read his own translation of Beowulf.
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Watch the superb BBC Four documentary: Historian Michael Wood returns to his first great love, the Anglo-Saxon world, to reveal the origins of our literary heritage. Focusing on Beowulf and drawing on other Anglo-Saxon classics, he traces the birth of English poetry back to the Dark Ages.

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Apples in Early October

Dave Smith
Apples in Early OctoberApples in Early October-text

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