Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Celtic Halloween


By Annie Finch

In the season leaves should love,

since it gives them leave to move

through the wind, towards the ground

they were watching while they hung,

legend says there is a seam

stitching darkness like a name.


Now when dying grasses veil

earth from the sky in one last pale

wave, as autumn dies to bring

winter back, and then the spring,

we who die ourselves can peel

back another kind of veil


that hangs among us like thick smoke.

Tonight at last I feel it shake.

I feel the nights stretching away

thousands long behind the days

till they reach the darkness where

all of me is ancestor.


I move my hand and feel a touch

move with me, and when I brush

my own mind across another,

I am with my mother’s mother.

Sure as footsteps in my waiting

self, I find her, and she brings


arms that carry answers for me,

intimate, a waiting bounty.

“Carry me.” She leaves this trail

through a shudder of the veil,

and leaves, like amber where she stays,

a gift for her perpetual gaze.


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Happy Birthday, Ezra Pound!



Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound

Ezra Weston Loomis Pound (30 October 1885 – 1 November 1972) was an American expatriate poet and critic of the early modernist movement. His contribution to poetry began with his promotion of Imagism, a movement that called for a return to more Classical values, stressing clarity, precision and economy of language, and had an interest in verse forms such as the Japanese Haiku. His best-known works include Ripostes (1912), Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920) and his unfinished 120-section epic, The Cantos (1917–1969).[1]

Working in London and Paris in the early 20th century as foreign editor of several American literary magazines, Pound helped to discover and shape the work of contemporaries such as T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Robert Frost and Ernest Hemingway. He was responsible for the publication in 1915 of Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and for the serialization from 1918 of Joyce’s Ulysses. Hemingway wrote of him in 1925: “He defends [his friends] when they are attacked, he gets them into magazines and out of jail. … He writes articles about them. He introduces them to wealthy women. He gets publishers to take their books. He sits up all night with them when they claim to be dying … he advances them hospital expenses and dissuades them from suicide.”[2]

Outraged by the loss of life during the First World War, he lost faith in England, blaming the war on usury and international capitalism. He moved to Italy in 1924, where throughout the 1930s and 1940s, to his friends’ dismay, he embraced Benito Mussolini‘s fascism, expressed support for Adolf Hitler and wrote for publications owned by Oswald Mosley. The Italian government paid him during the Second World War to make hundreds of radio broadcasts criticizing the United States, as a result of which he was arrested for treason by American forces in Italy in 1945. He spent months in detention in a U.S. military camp in Pisa, including 25 days in a six-by-six-foot outdoor steel cage that he said triggered a mental breakdown, “when the raft broke and the waters went over me.” Deemed unfit to stand trial, he was incarcerated in St. Elizabeths psychiatric hospital in Washington, D.C., for over 12 years.[3]

While in custody in Italy, he had begun work on sections of The Cantos that became known as The Pisan Cantos (1948), for which he was awarded the Bollingen Prize in 1949 by the Library of Congress, triggering enormous controversy. He was released from St. Elizabeths in 1958 and returned to live in Italy until his death. His political views ensure that his work remains controversial; in 1933 Time magazine called him “a cat that walks by himself, tenaciously unhousebroken and very unsafe for children.” Hemingway nevertheless wrote: “The best of Pound’s writing – and it is in the Cantos – will last as long as there is any literature.”[4]

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Coleridge, Plagiarist

ColeridgeHow to walk the fine line between unconscious borrowing and deliberate theft.

In his indispensable essay on memory, plagiarism, and the necessary forgettings of creativity, neurologist Oliver Sacks points to English poet and philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge (October 21, 1772–July 25, 1834) as one of creative history’s most notorious perpetrators of plagiarism. In the altogether fascinating chronicle Coleridge: Darker Reflections, 1804–1834 (public library), biographer Richard Holmes unravels the psychological propensities of the poet’s mind that made his plagiarism possible — and, arguably, pleasurable — for him.

Coleridge’s plagiarisms began innocently enough: In his youth, he found himself enthralled by an obscure German book of spiritual meditations by Jean-Paul Richter, given to him by his friend Crabb Robinson, and began integrating Richter’s ideas into his own reflections as he was translating the German text. Holmes writes:

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Eschew not Ekphrasis

Ek-1Remember to put your thinking caps on, do a little research, and submit your choice(s) of ekphrastic poetry for our November meeting. Submissions will be listed in order received on the “Schedule” page under November. Thus far we have three submissions. Closer to our meeting of November 28, the complete list will be posted as a blog on the home page. Copious thanks to all participants.

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The National Book Award in Poetry

NBAListen to two finalists, Adrian Matejka and Lucie Brock-Broido, in the National Book Award in Poetry read their poems, along with comments from the editors of Poetry Magazine.

Click link to listen: Adrian Matejka and Lucie Brock-Broido.

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Is that really Keith Douglas reading?

Douglas-2With good reason, Anne has questioned the authenticity of those YouTube videos which claim to have Keith Douglas reading his poetry. Does anyone know? Does anyone know anyone who would know?

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Links to Keith Douglas’s poem “Simplify Me”

Ann has assigned a selection of Keith Douglas’s poems to be read by various people on Thursday. She has also added his beautiful poem “Simplify Me when I’m Dead” to the list. Click on the following link to hear Keith Douglas himself read this poem: Simplify Me. A text version of this poem can be downloaded here: “Simplify Me.”

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Keith Castellain Douglas, English poet, killed in action during the invasion of Normandy. Age 24.

Keith_DouglasMark your calendars for 12:45pm on Thursday, October 24th, when Ann Fletcher will share with us her interest in British WWII poet, Keith Douglas. Poems to be discussed in detail: Canoe; How To Kill; Aristocrats; Enfidaville. Poems simply to be read, if time allows:  Mummers; Vergissmeinicht; Behaviour of Fish in an Egyptian Tea Garden; On A Return From Egypt.

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Poet of Loss – Dead at 25, Keats is forever the passionate voice

KeatsOh, for ten years, that I may overwhelm / Myself in poesy

So wrote the author of “Sleep and Poetry,” composed in late 1816. Alas, John Keats was allowed only half that time, dying at the age of 25 in 1821.

Is there any more affecting story than his in the annals of English literature? Orphaned at a young age, barely five feet tall (and sensitive about it), and raggedly educated, Keats was nonetheless naturally gregarious and fond of “women, wine, and snuff.” A Londoner through and through, he loved the theatre, enjoyed watching boxing matches, and once spent an evening cutting cards for half guineas. This sometimes over idealized poet—so sensitive! so ethereal!—even seems to have been treated for a venereal disease, possibly syphilis. He fell in love at least twice before he met Fanny Brawne, to whom he became engaged. When they were apart or quarrelling, he suffered horribly from jealousy.

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Anorexia, addiction, child-swapping — the Lake Poets would have alarmed social services

SoutheyThe last time the general reader was inveigled into the domestic intensities of the Wordsworth circle was by Frances Wilson in The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth. She engaged delicately with Dorothy’s inordinate love for her younger brother William, and seemed to think her passionate attachment was romantic and sentimental rather than sexual — though there are 50 shades of grey between the one and the other, and honestly, it doesn’t matter.

Katie Waldegrave, in her riveting family saga The Poets’ Daughters, is not much concerned with that anyway. Her focus is on what happened to Wordsworth’s daughter Dora, the second of his five children, and Coleridge’s youngest, Sara. There were 20 months between them and they were much together as children. Coleridge’s discarded wife dressed Sara in frilly frocks, while Wordsworth believed in children being ‘wild and free’, dressing Dora in sleeveless smocks, preferably Prussian blue. He would have loved denim — though that is just the kind of comment Waldegrave does not make, being scrupulous about not imposing 21st-century perceptions and attitudes on her narrative.

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