Monthly Archives: October 2016

Summer Evening: City Centre

By Thomas Kinsella

summer_eveningIn the last light at the end of the Lane

a faint golden haze shimmered.

A cloud of midges, teeming, minute.


Furious in their generation,

they dance among each other

to keep their place toward night and nothing.

A system of selves consuming itself,

worrying at its own energies;

the outer boundary self-established;

without a centre.


There are certain mind-specks active among us,

upsetting their near neighbours,

who seem called upon

to take account of the given conditions

And of their own particular burden.


Inspected closely,

would these have anything beyond themselves

to occupy them in their confusion?


She continued:


‘There is an inadequacy and an imbalance

In the source material.

This is the basis of energy.


And there is a dysrhythmia in some among you

– the watchful and the partly fulfilled.

A worrying for evidence of purpose.


This gives no pleasure.

But welcome it if it is offered. Use it

to the full. Trusting there will be


an easing of the disorder at a time to come.

But content…’

She turned away, her voice tired.

                             ‘…if there is not.’


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by May Swenson

october_swensonNow and then, a red leaf riding 

the slow flow of gray water. 

From the bridge, see far into 

the woods, now that limbs are bare, 

ground thick-littered. See, 

along the scarcely gliding stream, 

the blanched, diminished, ragged 

swamp and woods the sun still 

spills into. Stand still, stare 

hard into bramble and tangle, 

past leaning broken trunks, 

sprawled roots exposed. Will 

something move?—some vision 

come to outline? Yes, there— 

deep in—a dark bird hangs 

in the thicket, stretches a wing. 

Reversing his perch, he says one 

Chuck.” His shoulder-patch 

that should be red looks gray. 

This old redwing has decided to 

stay, this year, not join the 

strenuous migration. Better here, 

in the familiar, to fade.

This is the last stanza from May Swenson’s “October” from Nature: Poems Old and New. Read the complete poem.

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from “In Time of War”

by W.H. Auden
in-time-of-war I

     So from the years the gifts were showered; each

     Ran off with his at once into his life:

     Bee took the politics that make a hive,

     Fish swam as fish, peach settled into peach.


     And were successful at the first endeavour;

     The hour of birth their only time at college,

     They were content with their precocious knowledge,

     And knew their station and were good for ever.


     Till finally there came a childish creature

     On whom the years could model any feature,

     And fake with ease a leopard or a dove;


     Who by the lightest wind was changed and shaken,

     And looked for truth and was continually mistaken,

     And envied his few friends and chose his love.

The theme: Man is a creature who is forever becoming, hardly ever in a state of being. The animal and vegetable world simply is, without ego.

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Can Transcendence Be Taught?

By John Kaag and Clancy Martin

I HAVE, alas! Philosophy,

Medicine, Jurisprudence too,

And to my cost Theology,

With ardent labour, studied through.

And here I stand, with all my lore,

Poor fool, no wiser than before.

can-transcendence-be-taughtFor two professors, the opening words of Goethe’s Faust have always been slightly disturbing, but only recently, as we’ve grown older, have they come to haunt us.

Faust sits in his dusty library, surrounded by tomes, and laments the utter inadequacy of human knowledge. He was no average scholar but a true savant — a master in the liberal arts of philosophy and theology and the practical arts of jurisprudence and medicine. In the medieval university, those subjects were the culminating moments of a lifetime of study in rhetoric, logic, grammar, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.

In other words, Faust knows everything worth knowing. And still, after all his careful bookwork, he arrives at the unsettling realization that none of it has really mattered. His scholarship has done pitifully little to unlock the mystery of human life.

Read the complete article

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Alley Rats

by Carl Sandburg

metaphor-cartoonTHEY were calling certain styles of whiskers by the name of “lilacs.”
And another manner of beard assumed in their chatter a verbal guise
Of “mutton chops,” “galways,” “feather dusters.”
Metaphors such as these sprang from their lips while other street cries
Sprang from sparrows finding scattered oats among interstices of the curb.
Ah-hah these metaphors—and Ah-hah these boys—among the police they were known
As the Dirty Dozen and their names took the front pages of newspapers
And two of them croaked on the same day at a “necktie party” … if we employ the metaphors of their lips.

An early reminder that we’ll be discussing the role of metaphor in poetry on November 24.

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Leaving For The Front

by Alfred Lichtenstein

leaving-for-the-frontBefore I die, I must just find this rhyme.

Be quiet, my friends, and do not waste any time.


We’re marching off in company with death.

I only wish my girl would hold her breath.


There’s nothing wrong with me, I’m glad to leave,

Now mother’s crying too, there’s no reprieve.


And now look how the sun’s begun to set.

A nice mass-grave is all that I shall get.


Once more the good old sunset‘s glowing red.

In thirteen days I’ll probably be dead.


7 August 1914: seven weeks later Lichtenstein was dead

Translated from the German by Patrick Bridgwater


A final reminder that on this Thursday, October 27, Anne Fletcher will lead a discussion on the Poetry of the First World War. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for a list of Anne’s selected poems (and prose). Anne also invites members to bring their own favourites to read and discuss.

Please also bring your ideas and suggestions for topics for 2017.

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Best poetry of the month: New collections by Billy Collins and Robert Pinsky

By Elizabeth Lund

best-poetry-of-the-monthNothing in Billy Collins’s 12th book, The Rain in Portugal (Random House, $26), is exactly what readers might expect, and that’s the charm of this collection. Collins, a former U.S. poet laureate and one of the country’s most popular poets, has always known how to combine offbeat observations and dry wit. Yet here he adds so many subtle twists — beginning with the book’s title — that he and readers sidestep from the familiar into a more fanciful landscape. Sometimes the surprises arise from a mundane moment, as when the speaker describes his black cat or muses about conversations with the sister he never had. At other times, the speaker starts with an unusual premise — Shakespeare on a plane, Keith Richards holding up the world — that leads to curious conclusions.

Read the reviews

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by T. S. Eliot

song_eliotWhen we came home across the hill
    No leaves were fallen from the trees;
    The gentle fingers of the breeze
Had torn no quivering cobweb down.

The hedgerow bloomed with flowers still,
    No withered petals lay beneath;
    But the wild roses in your wreath
Were faded, and the leaves were brown.
“Song” was published in Vol. 83, No. 6, 
of The Harvard Advocate on May 24, 1907.

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2016 T. S. Eliot Prize Shortlist

tse_prizeAn exciting mixture of established poets, only one of whom has previously won the Prize, highly-regarded mid-career poets, and newcomers, including one debut collection.

Here are the ten poets who have been shortlisted by the judges.

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by Gunnar Ekelöf

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