Monthly Archives: February 2015

Please note schedule change and updated list

UpdateMarch 26 will now be: Canadian Poets – unfinished business.
Poems to be read and discussed include the following:

Geoff Mynett: 
More and More by Margaret Atwood

Bruce Burnett: The Beacons of the Bad Days (download PDF:The-Beacons-of-the-Bad-Old-Days) by Peter Trower and Green Rain by Dorothy Livesay

Rosaleen CowanThe Glass Essay by Anne Carson

Maureen Malcolm: Duncan Campbell ScottThe Forsaken

Bill: Bronwen WallaceCommon Magic


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A final reminder that we will be focusing on Canadian Poetry this Thursday, February 26

Canadian_PoetsPoems to be featured include the following:

Geoff Mynett: Anthem by Leonard Cohen and More and More by Margaret Atwood.

Anne Fletcher: Bliss Carman – Low Tide on Grande Pre and A Vagabond Song.

Bruce Burnett: The Beacons of the Bad Days (download PDF: The-Beacons-of-the-Bad-Old-Days) by Peter Trower and Green Rain by Dorothy Livesay.

Graeme Hughes: Notes Towards a Poem that Can Never Be Written by Margaret Atwood

Susan Koppersmith: Alden Nowlan – Morning of the Third Operation (download PDF: Morning-of-the-Third-Operation) and The Bull Moose

Rosaleen CowanThe Glass Essay by Anne Carson and Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell

Nora Grove: Patrick Lane -That Cold Blue Morning (Download PDF: That_Cold_Blue_Morning)

Thanks to Susan Koppersmith for making us aware of this beautiful article about Patrick Lane from The Globe and Mail: Poet Patrick Lane on looking for the beauty in life.

Maureen Malcolm: Duncan Campbell ScottThe Forsaken.


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Happy Birthday, Edna St. Vincent Millay

Millay-2Edna St. Vincent Millay was born in Rockland, Maine, on February 22, 1892. She published numerous books of poems, including The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver (1922), which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1923. Millay died in 1950.

Love is Not All (Sonnet XXX)

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink

Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;

Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink

And rise and sink and rise and sink again;

Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,

Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;

Yet many a man is making friends with death

Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.

It well may be that in a difficult hour,

Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,

Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,

I might be driven to sell your love for peace,

Or trade the memory of this night for food.

It well may be. I do not think I would.

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In Honour of Philip Levine, 1928-2015

Philip_Levine-2We were deeply saddened by the loss of Philip Levine on February 14, 2015. As Marilyn Hacker wrote, on the occasion of his receiving the 2013 Wallace Stevens Award, Levine’s “is a poetry in which the indissoluble connection between individual narrative—autobiographical, familial, or fictional—and the larger construct we call ‘history’ is made manifest.” In remembrance of him, take a look at the Academy of American Poets’ special collection of poems, audio clips, photographs, and essays celebrating his life and work.

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Let this darkness be a bell tower

bell_towerLet this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,
what batters you becomes your strength.

“Let This Darkness Be A Bell Tower” from Sonnets to Orpheus II, 29 by Rainer Maria Rilke

Read and listen to the complete poem

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Keats and King Lear

Keats_King_LearFor the poet, Sundays were not for church, but for Shakespeare.


Early in the winter of 1818, in December, John Keats wrote to his brother George about their younger brother, who had died two weeks before. “The last days of poor Tom were of the most distressing nature”—Tom, the boy whom Keats had nursed the boy through his tuberculosis in Hampstead after George had left with his wife for Kentucky. John and Tom had kept to the house that fall while John worked on his second epic poem and read Shakespeare, writing “Sunday evening, Oct. 4, 1818” next to the phrase “poor Tom” in his folio edition of King Lear. He himself would live just two more years .

I have scarce a doubt of immortality of some nature o[r] other,” wrote Keats in his letter to George. “[N]either had Tom.” Keats imagined an afterlife with “direct communication of spirit” like that which he felt as he wrote to George and felt he could begin to approach by their reading “a passage of Shakespeare every Sunday at ten o’clock” on either side of the Atlantic. “And we shall be as near each other as blind bodies can be in the same room.” Sundays, not for church, were for Shakespeare.

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Shakespeare, Sadness-Shaman: How Hamlet Can Help Us Through Our Grief and Despair

Hamlet-2Hamlet is about the precise kind of slippage the mourner experiences: the difference between being and seeming…”

Grief, when it comes, is nothing like we expect it to be,” Joan Didion wrote in her soul-stretching meditation on grief. Our coping strategies can be among the most disorienting defiances of expectation — it’s a given that nothing gives comfort per se, but the things that bring even marginal relief aren’t always the ones we imagine. From The Long Goodbye (public library) — poet, essayist, and editor Meghan O’Rourke’s stirring memoir of losing her mother — comes an exquisite case not only for finding a semblance of consolation in a timeless work of art, but for what Susan Sontag once termed the “self-transcendence” that reading affords us.

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Love Is in the Air

Valentines_2015In honour of Valentine’s Day, here is a sampling of classic and contemporary love poems for your reading pleasure from

How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
“Wild Nights—Wild Nights! (249)” by Emily Dickinson
“In a Boat” by D. H. Lawrence
“How to Love” by January Gill O’Neil
“I Want the Certainty of Love in Another Language” by Christie Ann Reynolds
“Credo” by Matthew Rohrer
“poem I wrote sitting across the table from you” by Kevin Varrone
“Love’s Body” by Jonathan Wells

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The hurt locker: Rowan Williams on the anguish of T. S. Eliot

Eliot_VivYoung Eliot, the first volume of Robert Crawford’s new T. S. Eliot biography, shows how a bruising home life led to poetic breakthrough.

Young Eliot: From St Louis to The Waste Land
Robert Crawford
Jonathan Cape, 512pp, £25

Eliot’s first marriage, says Robert Crawford in the introduction to this very good biography, “helped hurt him into further poetry”. The phrase neatly weaves together the three great canonical English-language poets of the first half of the 20th century, echoing Auden’s poem on the death of Yeats (“Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry”). And it directs our minds to the most intractable question about Eliot: how did he become not only a poet, but the kind of poet he turned out to be, early and late?

One of the things Crawford brings out is how relatively late a developer Eliot was as a poet, and how deeply significant it was for him as a student at Harvard to encounter in 1909 the work of the French symbolist poet Jules Laforgue, which offered him not simply a poetic model, but an entire poetic geography: the world of empty streets under dim lamps with wind blowing the rubbish, of pallid and isolated wanderers, acknowledging the scale of their human failure, of fractured images of religiosity and eccentrically focused sexual excitement and frustration. Eliot made this completely his own, with extraordinary rapidity, having written nothing much to suggest an exceptional poetic sensibility before the age of 20 – a great difference from, say, Auden, who in his first year as an undergraduate was pontificating cheerfully about what was and wasn’t poetry. Eliot’s voice was decisively liberated by immersing himself in another language and another imagination; quite an irony, given his later deep concern for cultural identities and roots.

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Happy Birthday, Amy Lowell

Amy_Lowell-2On February 9, 1874, Amy Lowell was born at Sevenels, a ten-acre family estate in Brookline, Massachusetts. Her family was Episcopalian, of old New England stock, and at the top of Boston society. Lowell was the youngest of five children. Her elder brother Abbott Lawrence, a freshman at Harvard at the time of her birth, went on to become president of Harvard College. As a young girl she was first tutored at home, then attended private schools in Boston, during which time she made several trips to Europe with her family. At seventeen she secluded herself in the 7,000-book library at Sevenels to study literature. Lowell was encouraged to write from an early age.

In 1887 she, with her mother and sister, wrote Dream Drops or Stories From Fairy Land by a Dreamer, printed privately by the Boston firm Cupples and Hurd. Her poem “Fixed Idea” was published in 1910 by the Atlantic Monthly, after which Lowell published individual poems in various journals. In October of 1912 Houghton Mifflin published her first collection, A Dome of Many Colored Glass.

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