Monthly Archives: October 2018

The Only Ghost I Ever Saw

by Emily Dickinson

The Only GhostHis conversation—seldom—

His laughter, like the Breeze—

That dies away in Dimples
Among the pensive Trees—

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From “The Duino Elegies”: The Tenth Elegy

by Rainer Maria Rilke
(translated from German by J.B. Leishman and Stephen Spender)
From “The Duino Elegies” The Tenth ElegySomeday, emerging at last from this terrifying vision,
may I burst into jubilant praise to assenting Angels!
May not even one of the clear-struck keys of the heart
fail to respond through alighting on slack or doubtful
or rending strings! May a new-found splendour appear
in my streaming face! May inconspicuous Weeping
flower! How dear you will be to me then, you Nights
of Affliction! Oh, why did I not, inconsolable sisters,
more bendingly kneel to receive you, more loosely surrender
myself to your loosened hair? We wasters of sorrows!
How we stare away into sad endurance beyond them,
trying to foresee their end! Whereas they are nothing else
than our winter foliage, our sombre evergreen, one
of the seasons of our interior year,—not only
seasons—they’re also place, settlement, camp, soil, dwelling.
Another reminder that we will be reading and discussing Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Duino Elegies on November 22. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for more information.

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Unseen Sylvia Plath short story to be published in January

Richard Lea

Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom was written in 1952, when Plath was still a student in the US
Unseen Sylvia Plath
An “important” short story written by Sylvia Plath when the poet was 20 years old will be published for the first time in January 2019.

Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom, which describes a fateful train journey, is one of a series of standalone short fiction titles being released by Faber to mark the publisher’s 90th anniversary.

According to the Plath scholar Peter K Steinberg, it is completely unlike anything else she wrote before or after. “It’s an important work and different to what Plath’s readers are used to seeing,” Steinberg said. “So it’s exciting that it will shortly be available for reading and consideration.”

The story follows a young woman as her mother and father hustle her through the glittering halls of a cathedral-like station and on to a steam-filled platform before deserting her in a sinister carriage furnished with wine-coloured, plush seats. There Mary meets a kindly woman who guides her as the train speeds through dark tunnels and a bleak autumnal landscape.

In one of the corn fields a scarecrow caught her eye, crossed staves propped aslant, and the corn husks rotting under it. The dark ragged coat wavered in the wind, empty, without substance. And below the ridiculous figure black crows were strutting to and fro, pecking for grains in the dry ground.

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Amy Clampitt
Fog-Amy-ClampittA vagueness comes over everything,
as though proving color and contour
alike dispensable: the lighthouse
extinct, the islands’ spruce-tips
drunk up like milk in the
universal emulsion; houses
reverting into the lost
and forgotten; granite
subsumed, a rumor
in a mumble of ocean.
definition, however, has not been
totally banished: hanging
tassel by tassel, panicled
foxtail and needlegrass,
dropseed, furred hawkweed,
and last season’s rose-hips
are vested in silenced
chimes of the finest,
clearest sea-crystal.
opens up rooms, a showcase
for the hueless moonflower
corolla, as Georgia
O’Keefe might have seen it,
of foghorns; the nodding
campanula of bell buoys;
the ticking, linear
filigree of bird voices.

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Jesús Castillo

Untitled-1Dear Empire, I am confused each time I wake inside you.

                    You invent addictions.  

         Are you a high-end graveyard or a child?

                    I see your children dragging their brains along.

                    Why not a god who loves water and dancing

                    instead of mirrors that recite your pretty features only?
         You wear a different face to each atrocity.

         You are un-unified and tangled.

                    Are you just gluttony?

                    Are you civilization’s slow grenade?

          I am confused each time I’m swallowed by your doors

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From The Duino Elegies (Opening of The First Elegy)

By Rainer Maria Rilke (translated by Susan Ranson and Marielle Sutherland) from Selected Poems, Oxford World’s Classics
Rilke DuinoDuino-textOther translations suggested by Bill Ellis include:

  1. The Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke translated by J.B. Leishman and Stephen Spender

  2. The First and Second Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke translated by Stephen Mitchell

  3. The Third Duino Elegy by Rainer Maria Rilke translated by Stephen Mitchell

  4. Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Duino Elegies, translated by A. S. Kline

An early reminder that we will be reading and discussing Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Duino Elegies on November 22. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for more information.

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Scriptorium: Poems
Melissa Range
Beacon Press, $18 (paper)

ScriptoriumFormalist poetry regularly tries and fails to escape the charge of atavism, so it is to Melissa Range’s credit that she doesn’t make such an attempt. Sometimes, the only way out is through. Her poetry is avowedly poetry with a history, or, more accurately, with several—at least three, by my count.
One history is that signaled by the title of Range’s collection: a Christian history, in which struggles of doubt and faith are seen on a timescale stretching back to medieval Europe. This is a history in which the same issues face both medieval pilgrims traveling to Chartres and modern tourists making the same journey:

sun pools blue and scarlet

on the floor, dappling the medallion

where, the legend goes, penitents
and priests walked on their knees.

Now anyone can walk here,

including the faithless, whom God always sees.

In this vein, Range writes poems in the voices (and sometimes words) of Hildegard of Bingen and Mechthild of Magdeburg. She relates her own labor, at both writing and belief, to that of the scribe Eadfrith in Lindisfarne. She recasts the Anglo-Saxon Fortunes of Men and puzzles over the exact nature of Byrhtnoth’s ofermōd in The Battle of Maldon.
Poetically, she draws from this history both a tone of fatalistic asperity and a striking ornateness. At times, ornamentation overflourishes content, but that excess does not make Range’s poetry any less lovely:

World’s Glim, Grim Cinderer, is it sin

or history or a whimsied hex that burns

all life to tar? We are dust, carbon

spilled out from your Word, a lamp overturned

into the pitch of pit beneath your pen

the inkhorn filled before the world was born.

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Fernando Pessoa

O GUARDADOR DE REBANHOS II (THE KEEPER OF SHEEP II)O meu olhar é nítido como um girassol.

Tenho o costume de andar pelas estradas

Olhando para a direita e para a esquerda,

E de vez em quando olhando para trás…

E o que vejo a cada momento

É aquilo que nunca antes eu tinha visto,

E eu sei dar por isso muito bem…

Sei ter o pasmo comigo

Que tem uma criança se, ao nascer,

Reparasse que nascera deveras…

Sinto-me nascido a cada momento

Para a eterna novidade do mundo…

Creio no mundo como num malmequer,

Porque o vejo. Mas não penso nele

Porque pensar é não compreender…

O mundo não se fez para pensarmos nele

(Pensar é estar doente dos olhos)

Mas para olharmos para ele e estarmos de acordo.

Eu não tenho filosofia: tenho sentidos…

Se falo na Natureza não é porque saiba o que ela é,

Mas porque a amo, e amo-a por isso,

Porque quem ama nunca sabe o que ama

Nem sabe porque ama, nem o que é amar…

Amar é a eterna inocência,

E a única inocência é não pensar…

© 1914, Alberto Caeiro (Fernando Pessoa)

From: Poesia

Publisher: Assírio & Alvim, Lisbon, 2001


My gaze is clear like a sunflower.

It is my custom to walk the roads

Looking right and left

And sometimes looking behind me,

And what I see at each moment

Is what I never saw before,

And I’m very good at noticing things.

I’m capable of feeling the same wonder

A newborn child would feel

If he noticed that he’d really and truly been born.

I feel at each moment that I’ve just been born

Into a completely new world…

I believe in the world as in a daisy,

Because I see it. But I don’t think about it,

Because to think is to not understand.

The world wasn’t made for us to think about it

(To think is to have eyes that aren’t well)

But to look at it and to be in agreement.

I have no philosophy, I have senses…

If I speak of Nature it’s not because I know what it is

But because I love it, and for that very reason,

Because those who love never know what they love

Or why they love, or what love is.

To love is eternal innocence,

And the only innocence is not to think…

© Translation: 2006, Richard Zenith

From: A Little Larger Than the Entire Universe: Selected Poems

Publisher: Penguin, New York, 2006

A final reminder that we will read and discuss The poetry of Fernando Pessoa on October 25th. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for more information.

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by R S Thomas

LuminaryMy luminary,

my morning and evening

star. My light at noon

when there is no sun

and the sky lowers. My balance

of joy in a world

that has gone off joy’s

standard. Yours the face

that young I recognised

as though I had known you

of old. Come, my eyes

said, out into the morning

of a world whose dew

waits for your footprint.

Before a green altar

with the thrush for priest

I took those gossamer

vows that neither the Church

could stale nor the Machine

tarnish, that with the years

have grown hard as flint,

lighter than platinum

on our ringless fingers.

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Tracy K. Smith On The Politics Of Poetry

Talking with U.S. Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith


Tracy K. SmithTracy K. Smith invited her brother-in-law, who held a hulking double bass, up to the stage. At their annual Spring Benefit at the New York Botanical Garden, the Poetry Society of America honored Smith, our current U.S. Poet Laureate and winner of many prizes (including the Pulitzer). To celebrate, Smith read from her new collection of poems, Wade in the Water, with some family assistance: a two-piece jazz band. “Every least leaf / Shivers in the sun,” she read, bassline thrumming behind her, “while we sit, bothered, / Late, captive to this thing commanding / Wait for this man. Wait for him.” I spoke with Smith after the dinner, about her current work as Poet Laureate, her latest book, poetry’s role in the world today.
Your role as U.S. Poet Laureate is an apolitical one, yet you hold it at a time where everything feels intensely political. How do you negotiate it?

I think about it in terms of what possibilities language affords us: for thinking differently, more deeply and complexly; [for] admitting to more vulnerabilities than we are encouraged to in the fast-paced, highly adrenalized, combative stream that we live in. Issues are polarizing and you fall into a camp, [but] poetry doesn’t allow that to happen. You’re being pushed towards new ways of hearing and seeing. It’s exciting for me to celebrate the different things that language allows us to hear and ask and wish. You can do that everywhere, you can do that with anyone.

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