Monthly Archives: December 2016

Home From The Forest

By Gordon Lightfoot

home-from-the-forestOh the neon lights were flashing

And the icy wind did blow

The water seeped into his shoes

And the drizzle turned to snow

His eyes were red, his hopes were dead

And the wine was running low

And the old man came home from the forest

His tears fell on the sidewalk as he stumbled in the street

A dozen faces stopped to stare but no one stopped to speak

For his castle was a hallway and the bottle was his friend

And the old man stumbled in from the forest

Up a dark and dingy staircase the old man made his way

His ragged coat around him as upon his cot he lay

And he wondered how it happened that he ended up this way

Getting lost like a fool in the forest

And as he lay there sleeping a vision did appear

Upon his mantle shining a face of one so dear

Who had loved him in the springtime of a long forgotten year

When the wildflowers did bloom in the forest

She touched his grizzled fingers and she called him by his name

And then he heard the joyful sound of children at their games

In an old house on a hillside in some forgotten town

Where the river runs down from the forest

With a mighty roar the big jets soar above the canyon streets

And the con men con but life goes on for the city never sleeps

And to an old forgotten soldier the dawn will come no more

For the old man has come home from the forest.


Listen to Gordon Lightfoot sing “Home From The Forest



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Auden on Writing, Originality, Self-Criticism, and How to Be a Good Reader

“It would only be necessary for a writer to secure universal popularity if imagination and intelligence were equally distributed among all men.”


auden-on-writing“Before writers are writers they are readers, living in books, through books, in the lives of others that are also the heads of others, in that act that is so intimate and yet so alone,” Rebecca Solnit observed in her beautiful meditation on why we read and write. “At the hour when our imagination and our ability to associate are at their height,” Hermann Hesse asserted in contemplating the three styles of reading, “we really no longer read what is printed on the paper but swim in a stream of impulses and inspirations that reach us from what we are reading.” Both reader and writer hold this transcendent communion on the page as the highest hope for their respective reward, but it is a reward each can attain only with the utmost skill and dedication.
The separate but symbiotic rewards of reading and writing, and the skills required for each, are what W.H. Auden (February 21, 1907–September 29, 1973) examines in The Dyer’s Hand and Other Essays . Although he remains one of the most celebrated, beloved, and influential poets of the past century, it is in this posthumously collected aphoristic prose that Auden speaks most directly to his values, his ideas about literature and art, and his creative process.
Read the complete article

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by Charles Simic

fearFear passes from man to man


As one leaf passes it’s shudder

To another.

All at once the whole tree is trembling

and there is no sign of wind.

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Poet and critic Anthony Cronin dies aged 88

anthony-croninRead Colm Tóibín on that fine writer Anthony Cronin
Listen to Anthony Cronin read his poem ‘Apology’

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Last Century Thoughts in Snow Tonight


last-century-thoughts-in-snow-tonightThis is winter where light flits at the tips of things.
Sometimes I flit back and glitter.
Too much spectacle conquers the I.
This is winter where I walk out underneath it all.
What could I take from it? Astonishment?
I wore an extra blanket.
This is winter where childhood lanterns skate
in the distance

where what we take is what we are given.
Some call it self-reliance. Ça va?
To understand our portion, our bright portion.
This is winter and this the winter portion
of self-reliance and last century thoughts in snow.

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Choruses from “The Rock”

by T. S. Eliot                  choruses-from-the-rockI

The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven,

The Hunter with his dogs pursues his circuit.

О perpetual revolution of configured stars,

О perpetual recurrence of determined seasons,

О world of spring and autumn, birth and dying!

The endless cycle of idea and action,

Endless invention, endless experiment,

Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;

Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;

Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.

All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,

All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,

But nearness to death no nearer to GOD.

Where is the Life we have lost in living?

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries

Bring us farther from GOD and nearer to the Dust.


            I journeyed to London, to the timekept City,

Where the River flows, with foreign flotations.

There I was told: we have too many churches,

And too few chop-houses. There I was told:

Let the vicars retire. Men do not need the Church

In the place where they work, but where they spend their


An early reminder that we’ll be reading and discussing T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets in our February and March sessions.

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by David Gascoyne

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Winter Trees

By William Carlos Williams

winter-treesAll the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

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Words and Roses

by Alistair Te Ariki Campbell,
Christmas Day, 1998

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The Wren-Boys

By Carol Ann Duffy

The old year, a tear in the eye of time;

frost on the blackthorn, the ditches glamorous

with rime; on the inbreath of air,

the long, thoughtful pause before snow.
A star on the brow of a mule in a field

and the mule nuzzling the drystone wall

where a wren, size of a child’s lost purse,

hides in a hole. St. Stephen’s Day
Eight bells from the Church. Next to the Church,

the Inn. Next to the Inn, and opposite,

a straight furlong of dwellings. End of the line,

a farm. Top of the hill, the Big House –
everywhere musky with peat from the first fires

as though the hour had started the day

with a neat malt; like your man has here

who bangs on door after door with his holly-stick.
Quick boys! Up for the wren! Then the Wren-Boys

flinging open the doors in their green-laced boots,  

daft caps, red neckerchiefs, with cudgels and nets;

who bangs on door after door with his holly-stick.
Hedge-bandit, song-bomb, dart-beak, the wren

hops in the thicket, flirt-eye; shy, brave,

grubbing, winter’s scamp, but more than itself –

ten requisite grams of the world’s weight.


An exclusive extract from Carol Ann Duffy’s Christmas poem The Wren-Boys.
Inspired by the many myths of the wren and the Irish tradition of hunting it, Carol Ann Duffy’s beautiful poem takes us on a chase through a snowy, rural landscape and ends with a merry celebration.
The annual festive poems from the Poet Laureate have become one of our favourite Christmas traditions. Discover all eight of Carol Ann Duffy’s beautifully illustrated Christmas poetry books at the Picador blog.  

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