Monthly Archives: April 2015

Irish poet WB Yeats honoured with worldwide 150th birthday celebrations

Yeats_DigitalFrom a new Irish stamp to a public reading by Fiona Shaw, global events in honour of ‘a great public and private poet’ begin.

The 150th anniversary of the birth of William Butler Yeats, the Irish poet who won the Nobel prize in literature in 1923, is being marked this year with hundreds of events and celebrations around the world.

The author, whose poems took six out of the top 10 slots in a vote at the end of 1999 to find Ireland’s favourite poem, was born in Dublin on 13 June 1865. The year-long celebrations centre on a four-day festival in June in Sligo, the inspiration for much of Yeats’s poetry; one of Yeats’s best-known poems, The Lake Isle of Innisfree, is about an island on Lough Gill: “I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, / And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made; / Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee, / And live alone in the bee-loud glade.”

More than 40 countries are marking the anniversary with a range of concerts, readings, talks and screenings. These will include a daily reading of a Yeats poem in a Sligo pub – “they range from the sublime to the ridiculous to the great,” said Ian Brannigan, who is running Yeats 2015 – an exhibition about the poet’s life in Singapore, a conference in Budapest and a performance in Vienna.

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The Trees

by Philip Larkin


The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

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Beastly Verse: From Lewis Carroll to William Blake, Beloved Poems About Animals in Vibrant and Unusual Illustrations

tygerStories are a meal. But poetry is a glass of water, perhaps even a single drop that will save your life.”

Half a century after Beastly Boys and Ghastly Girls, legendary artist Tomi Ungerer’s illustrated compendium of famous authors’ verses about brothers and sisters, another singular illustrator of our own era applies the concept to a different domain of the human experience — the inclination toward thinking with animals in making sense of our own lives.

In Beastly Verse (public library), her spectacular picture-book debut, Brooklyn-based illustrator and printmaker JooHee Yoon brings to vibrant life sixteen beloved poems about nonhuman creatures, real and imagined — masterworks as varied in sentiment and sensibility as Lewis Carroll’s playful “The Crocodile,” D.H. Lawrence’s revolutionarily evolutionary homage to the hummingbird, Christina Rossetti’s celebration of butterfly metamorphosis, and William Blake’s bright-burning ode to the tiger.

What makes the book doubly impressive is the ingenuity of its craftsmanship and the striking results it produces. Trained as a printmaker and fascinated by the traditional, industrial techniques of artists from the first half of the twentieth century, Yoon uses only three colors — cyan, magenta, and yellow — on flat color layers, which she then overlaps to create a controlled explosion of secondary colors.

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Pound’s Metro

by William Logan

Paris_MetroA deeper look into In a Station of the Metro reveals much about Pound’s development as a poet.

As he recalled it,

I got out of a train at, I think, La Concorde and in the jostle I saw a beautiful face, and then, turning suddenly, another and another, and then a beautiful child’s face, and then another beautiful face. All that day I tried to find words for what this made me feel. That night as I went home along the rue Raynouard I was still trying. I could get nothing but spots of colour. I remember thinking that if I had been a painter I might have started a wholly new school of painting. . . . Only the other night, wondering how I should tell the adventure, it struck me that in Japan, where a work of art is not estimated by its acreage and where sixteen syllables are counted enough for a poem if you arrange and punctuate them properly, one might make a very little poem which would be translated about as follows:—

         “The apparition of these faces in the crowd :
Petals on a wet, black bough.”

                  —“How I Began,” T.P.’s Weekly, June 6, 1913

Early in March 1911, Ezra Pound arrived in Paris. By late May he had moved on. The specters in the Métro obviously haunted him. The lines were finished by fall the following year, when he sent Poetry a batch of poems that, he hoped, would “help to break the surface of convention.” When these “Contemporania” were published at the head of the April 1913 issue, the poem appeared in this fashion:

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition   of these faces   in the crowd :
Petals   on a wet, black   bough .

The first thing striking about the couplet is the subject—beauty discovered underground. In the previous century, Turner in Rain, Steam, and Speed—The Great Western Railway (1844) and Monet in his views of Gare Saint-Lazare (1877) had brought the railroad to painting, but it would be hard to call the results traditional. Turner’s oil is a little terrifying—a rabbit flushed from cover dashes ahead of the locomotive—while Monet’s frontal portraits of ironclad leviathans are steamy visions. The works resemble fever dreams, suggesting how difficult it is for the artist to venture outside the approved list of salon subjects. To do so is to court rejection—but not to do so lets art fossilize the taste of the past.

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Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

Thanks to everyone who participated in a super session on Shakespeare, celebrating the Bard’s 451st birthday, on Thursday, April 23.

On May 28, we’re keeping to our agenda of discussing A.E. Housman. Please check the SCHEDULE PAGE for a list of his poems to be featured. Meanwhile, here’s a small seasonal sample:

cherry_treeLoveliest of trees, the cherry now

By A.E. Housman

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

Is hung with bloom along the bough,

And stands about the woodland ride

Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,

Twenty will not come again,

And take from seventy springs a score,

It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom

Fifty springs are little room,

About the woodlands I will go

To see the cherry hung with snow.

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A final reminder that we’ll be celebrating the bard’s 451st birthday this Thursday, April 23!

Shakespeare_451Please visit the SCHEDULE PAGE for a list of excerpts and soliloquies to be read. This has been a popular topic with a Niagara of submissions and clearly we won’t have time to cover them all in one sitting. Therefore we’ll discuss the option of a “Bard Redux,” possibly in May.
It will be a super session! See you all on Thursday.

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Moon-in-waterby Elizabeth Bishop

The moon in the bureau mirror
looks out a million miles
(and perhaps with pride, at herself,
but she never, never smiles)
far and away beyond sleep, or
perhaps she’s a daytime sleeper.

By the Universe deserted,
she’d tell it to go to hell,
and she’d find a body of water,
or a mirror, on which to dwell.
So wrap up care in a cobweb
and drop it down the well

into that world inverted
where left is always right,
where the shadows are really the body,
where we stay awake all night,
where the heavens are shallow as the sea
is now deep, and you love me.

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The Dancer

by Philip Larkin

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Shining in the Distance

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Shining in the DistanceAlready my gaze is upon the hill, the sunlit one.
The way to it, barely begun, lies ahead.
So we are grasped by what we have not grasped,
full of promise, shining in the distance.

It changes us, even if we do not reach it,
into something we barely sense, but are;
a movement beckons, answering our movement . . .
But we just feel the wind against us.

Uncollected Poems

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“Under the Sign” by Ann Lauterbach

under-the-signAt the core of Under the Sign, Ann Lauterbach’s ninth poetry collection, is a multitudinous us manqué, a wayward Whitmanic we. As she has throughout her exacting oeuvre, a body of work that includes abundant criticism and collaborations with artists, Lauterbach maintains a vigilance for others and other things so consistently curious as to define a poetics of radical, plural caring: “For to make something,” she writes, “is to care for it.” Lauterbach’s poetry is not hobbled—or hobgoblined—by this consistent emphasis on caring; it is enlarged and opened up by it. For almost four decades, she has kept asking, in poem after allusive poem, how wisdom arrives, how senses make sense, how art matters and happens—and what love, and loss, have to do with it.

Posing and composing her poems’ searching questions, Lauterbach hazards some answers. Her partial, even haphazard, responses contain and address our shifting, provisional, accident-prone reality; her impartial, open-ended responses clear the air for further wondering. Lauterbach believes such detached “whole fragments” are worth listening to and waiting for, worth tending. By definition and by design, they cannot wholly satisfy us or the poet, so she must continue her inquiry, the expansive opening up that is her iterated task.

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