Category Archives: Birthday

90 LINES FOR JOHN ASHBERY’S 90TH BIRTHDAY

90 LINES FOR JOHN ASHBERY_SJIM JARMUSCH, JAVIER MARÍAS, EILEEN MYLES, AND 87 OTHERS ON FAVORITE LINES BY A GREAT POET

By Literary Hub

We’ll make do,

another day, shopping and such, bringing the meat home at night

all roseate and gleaming, ready for the frying pan.

our names will be read off a rollcall we won’t hear—

how could we? We’re not even born yet—the stars will perform their dance

privately, for us, and the pictures in the great black book

that opens at night will enchant us with their yellow harmonies.

We’ll manage to get back, someday, to the tie siding where the idea

of all this began, frustrated and a little hungry, but eager

to hear each others’ tales of what went on in the interim

of our long lives, what the tea leaves said

and whether it turned out that way. I’ll brush your bangs

a little, you’ll lean against my hip for comfort.

                       –John Ashbery, “The Underwriters,” Your Name Here (2000)
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To celebrate the beloved American poet John Ashbery turning 90 today [July 28, 2017], we invited 90 of his dearest friends, collaborators, and admirers to pick a favorite line from his vast published corpus (the second volume of his Collected Poems, 1991-2000, will be published this October with Library of America) and write about it in 90 words or fewer. Ashbery’s poetic career now spans over six decades and includes more than 20 books of original poetry, the most recent being Commotion of the Birds (Ecco, 2016). His work has profoundly shaped, influenced, irritated, vexed, puzzled and/or pleased its world of readers ever since little JA began writing. His very first poem was penned in 1935, when he was eight years old: “The tall haystacks are great sugar mounds / These are the fairies’ camping grounds.”

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Today’s Birthday: Wendy Cope

Wendy_CopeWendy Cope was raised in Kent, England, where her parents often recited poetry out loud to her. She has published several volumes of poetry including Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis and Serious Concerns. Cope possesses a remarkable talent for parody and for using humor to address grave topics.

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Today’s Birthday: Amy Clampitt

Amy_ClampittAmy Clampitt was born on June 15, 1920, and brought up in New Providence, Iowa. She wrote poetry in high school, but then ceased and focused her energies on writing fiction instead. She graduated from Grinnell College, and from that time on lived mainly in New York City. To support herself, she worked as a secretary at the Oxford University Press, a reference librarian at the Audubon Society, and a freelance editor. Not until the mid-1960s, when she was in her forties, did she return to writing poetry. Her first poem was published by The New Yorker in 1978. In 1983, at the age of sixty-three, she published her first full-length collection, The Kingfisher (Alfred A. Knopf).
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THE WATERFALL
By Amy Clampitt

Orb-weaver shivering

among the filaments: how many

fibers generated from within

transect the air?

How many hirsute, sightless

gropings anchor

these redwood trees, suffuse

the flowery traceries

of the oxalis? The veining

in this hand, these

eyeballs, the circuitous

and scintillating

leap within the brain—

the synapse,

the waterfall, the black-

thread mane of fern

beside it—all, all

suspend, here:

everywhere, existences

hang by a hair
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Read “The Hickory Grove” by Amy Clampitt

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Today’s Birthday, Jan Zwicky

JJan Zwickyan Zwicky, poet, philosopher, essayist, musician, teacher (born 10 May 1955 in Calgary, AB). Winner of the Governor General’s Award and short-listed for the Griffin Poetry Prize, Jan Zwicky is among Canada’s most innovative writers and thinkers. Influenced by such foundational Western philosophers as Plato, Herakleitos, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, Zwicky has established a reputation as a thoughtful writer and editor. Along with fellow writers Robert Bringhurst, Dennis Lee, Tim Lilburn and Don McKay, she contributes to an ongoing conversation about poetry and philosophy, especially as they relate to ecological thinking.

Read the complete bio from the Canadian Encyclopedia

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Today’s Birthday, Robert Browning

Today's-birthday-Robert-BrowningRobert Browning was born on May 7, 1812, in Camberwell, England. His mother was an accomplished pianist and a devout evangelical Christian. His father, who worked as a bank clerk, was also an artist, scholar, antiquarian, and collector of books and pictures. His rare book collection of more than 6,000 volumes included works in Greek, Hebrew, Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish. Much of Browning’s education came from his well-read father. It is believed that he was already proficient at reading and writing by the age of five. A bright and anxious student, Browning learned Latin, Greek, and French by the time he was fourteen. From fourteen to sixteen he was educated at home, attended to by various tutors in music, drawing, dancing, and horsemanship. At the age of twelve he wrote a volume of Byronic verse entitled Incondita, which his parents attempted, unsuccessfully, to have published. In 1825, a cousin gave Browning a collection of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poetry; Browning was so taken with the book that he asked for the rest of Shelley’s works for his thirteenth birthday, and declared himself a vegetarian and an atheist in emulation of the poet. Despite this early passion, he apparently wrote no poems between the ages of thirteen and twenty. In 1828, Browning enrolled at the University of London, but he soon left, anxious to read and learn at his own pace. The random nature of his education later surfaced in his writing, leading to criticism of his poems’ obscurities.

Read the complete bio from poets.org

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Today’s Birthday, Algernon Charles Swinburne

Swinburne(From victorianweb.org): Algernon Charles Swinburne was born April 5, 1837 in Grosvenor Place, London, but spent most of his boyhood on the Isle of Wight, where both his parents and grandparents had homes. With Shelley and Byron, he is one of the very few poets since the days of Raleigh and Sidney to come from the aristocracy: his father was an admiral and his maternal grandfather the third earl of Ashburnham. He was very close to his other grandfather, who was born and brought up in France and continued to think and dress like a French nobleman of the ancien régime (the days before the Revolution). He and the poet’s mother trained young Algernon in French and Italian.
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In religion, the Swinburnes were true to their class, meaning that they were High Church Anglicans (see Church of England), and the poet had a Bible reader’s detailed knowledge of the scriptures and of standard interpretative methods, including typology, prophecy, and apocalyptics. His treatment of Christianity seems a characteristically idiosyncratic one — that is, although he delighted in opposing organized religion and savagely attacked the Roman Catholic Church for its political role in a divided Italy, he makes detailed use of biblical allusion, though often for blasphemous ends. Although Algernon turned to nihilism while at Oxford, he never became indifferent to religion, as “Hymn to Proserpine” (text of poem) and “Hertha” make clear.

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Today’s Birthday: Robert Frost

Robert_Frost_1910(From poets.org): Robert Frost was born on March 26, 1874, in San Francisco, where his father, William Prescott Frost Jr., and his mother, Isabelle Moodie, had moved from Pennsylvania shortly after marrying. After the death of his father from tuberculosis when Frost was eleven years old, he moved with his mother and sister, Jeanie, who was two years younger, to Lawrence, Massachusetts. He became interested in reading and writing poetry during his high school years in Lawrence, enrolled at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, in 1892, and later at Harvard University in Boston, though he never earned a formal college degree.
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An early reminder that we’ll be reading and discussing the poetry of Robert Frost on May 25. Please bring your own choice of a poem by Frost, and if you wish, post it first on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly.

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Today’s Birthday: Elizabeth Barrett Browning

elizabeth-barrett-browningFrom poets.org: Born in 1806 at Coxhoe Hall, Durham, England, Elizabeth Barrett Browning was an English poet of the Romantic Movement. The oldest of twelve children, Elizabeth was the first in her family born in England in over two hundred years. For centuries, the Barrett family, who were part Creole, had lived in Jamaica, where they owned sugar plantations and relied on slave labor. Elizabeth’s father, Edward Barrett Moulton Barrett, chose to raise his family in England, while his fortune grew in Jamaica. Educated at home, Elizabeth apparently had read passages from Paradise Lost and a number of Shakespearean plays, among other great works, before the age of ten. By her twelfth year, she had written her first “epic” poem, which consisted of four books of rhyming couplets. Two years later, Elizabeth developed a lung ailment that plagued her for the rest of her life. Doctors began treating her with morphine, which she would take until her death. While saddling a pony when she was fifteen, Elizabeth also suffered a spinal injury. Despite her ailments, her education continued to flourish. Throughout her teenage years, Elizabeth taught herself Hebrew so that she could read the Old Testament; her interests later turned to Greek studies. Accompanying her appetite for the classics was a passionate enthusiasm for her Christian faith. She became active in the Bible and Missionary Societies of her church.
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Grief

BY ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING

I tell you, hopeless grief is passionless;

That only men incredulous of despair,

Half-taught in anguish, through the midnight air

Beat upward to God’s throne in loud access

Of shrieking and reproach. Full desertness,

In souls as countries, lieth silent-bare

Under the blanching, vertical eye-glare

Of the absolute heavens. Deep-hearted man, express

Grief for thy dead in silence like to death—

Most like a monumental statue set

In everlasting watch and moveless woe

Till itself crumble to the dust beneath.

Touch it; the marble eyelids are not wet:

If it could weep, it could arise and go.

 

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Today’s Birthday: Elizabeth Bishop

elizabeth_bishop-2Elizabeth Bishop was born on February 8, 1911, in Worcester, Massachusetts. Her father died before her first birthday and while Bishop was still very young, her mother was committed to a mental asylum. She was first sent to live with her maternal grandparents in Nova Scotia and later lived with paternal relatives in Worcester and South Boston.

From poets.org: “The technical brilliance and formal variety of Elizabeth Bishop’s work—rife with precise and true-to-life images—helped establish her as a major force in contemporary literature.”
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I am in need of music

I am in need of music that would flow

Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,

Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,

With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.

Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,

Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,

A song to fall like water on my head,

And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!
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There is a magic made by melody:

A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool

Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep

To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,

And floats forever in a moon-green pool,

Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.

Elizabeth Bishop
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A very early reminder that we’ll be discussing the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop on September 28.

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Today’s Birthday: Carl Sandburg

Carl_Sandburg(From poets.org): Carl Sandburg was born in Galesburg, Illinois, on January 6, 1878. His parents, August and Clara Johnson, had emigrated to America from the north of Sweden. After encountering several August Johnsons in his job for the railroad, the Sandburg’s father renamed the family. The Sandburgs were very poor; Carl left school at the age of thirteen to work odd jobs, from laying bricks to dishwashing, to help support his family. At seventeen, he traveled west to Kansas as a hobo. He then served eight months in Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American war. While serving, Sandburg met a student at Lombard College, the small school located in Sandburg’s hometown. The young man convinced Sandburg to enroll in Lombard after his return from the war.
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Fog

By Carl Sandburg

fogThe fog comes

on little cat feet.
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It sits looking

over harbor and city

on silent haunches

and then moves on.
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Read this excellent article about Carl Sandburg: A Workingman’s Poet

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