Category Archives: Poem

The Wild Swans at Coole

W. B. Yeats

The Wild Swans at CooleThe trees are in their autumn beauty,

The woodland paths are dry,

Under the October twilight the water

Mirrors a still sky;

Upon the brimming water among the stones

Are nine-and-fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me

Since I first made my count;

I saw, before I had well finished,

All suddenly mount

And scatter wheeling in great broken rings

Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,

And now my heart is sore.

All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,

The first time on this shore,

The bell-beat of their wings above my head,

Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,

They paddle in the cold

Companionable streams or climb the air;

Their hearts have not grown old;

Passion or conquest, wander where they will,

Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,

Mysterious, beautiful;

Among what rushes will they build,

By what lake’s edge or pool

Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day

To find they have flown away?

Listen to Cyril Cusack read “The Wild Swans at Coole” and other poems by W. B. Yeats


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by Joni Mitchell

WoodstockI came upon a child of God

He was walking along the road

And I asked him where are you going

And this he told me

I’m going on down to Yasgur’s farm

I’m going to join in a rock ‘n’ roll band

I’m going to camp out on the land

I’m going to try an’ get my soul free

We are stardust

We are golden

And we’ve got to get ourselves

Back to the garden

Then can I walk beside you

I have come here to lose the smog

And I feel to be a cog in something turning

Well maybe it is just the time of year

Or maybe it’s the time of man

I don’t know who I am

But you know life is for learning

We are stardust

We are golden

And we’ve got to get ourselves

Back to the garden

By the time we got to Woodstock

We were half a million strong

And everywhere there was song and celebration

And I dreamed I saw the bombers

Riding shotgun in the sky

And they were turning into butterflies

Above our nation

We are stardust

Billion year old carbon

We are golden

Caught in the devil’s bargain

And we’ve got to get ourselves

back to the garden
Listen to Joni Mitchell sing “Woodstock”
Camille Paglia describes Joni Mitchell as “a major contemporary poet” and includes her poem “Woodstock” in her remarkable book Break, Blow, Burn, containing essays about what she regards as “forty three of the world’s best poems.”
A selection of Joni Mitchell’s lyrics will be included in our study of “The Poetry in Popular Music” on October 26. Please bring your own favourite examples and post them first on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for submissions to-date.

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Seditious verses of the royal Master of Music

One of Britain’s most influential composers and a favourite of the royal court, Sir Arnold Bax had another life as a would-be Irish nationalist poet, writes Petroc Trelawny

Seditious verses of the royal Master of MusicSir Arnold Bax wanted to die in Glencolumcille, Co Donegal. “I fancy that my last vision in this life will be the still brooding, dove-grey mystery of the Atlantic at twilight,” he said. He was seduced by the remote settlement, the savagery of the sea in winter, the rugged cliffs that stretch away from the houses, the live music he heard in Paddy John McNelis’s pub.
Trad players were gathering outside another pub when I visited the Co Donegal village last month, recording a BBC radio documentary. Bax’s beloved beach was filled with sunburnt families, many of them day-trippers from Derry and Belfast whose journeys had been much simpler than his tortuous route via the Donegal Light Railway. The heat was breaking records, the sea absolutely flat, but it was not hard to imagine the potential fury of the waves, crashing hundreds of feet up the face of Glen Head. The natural beauty, and the sympathetic welcome Bax received from the villagers ensured that he returned year after year, later writing: “I came to know the people as I never knew any other community.”

Read the complete article
Read “A Dublin Ballad: 1916” by Dermot O’Byrne

Listen to “Tintagel”, by Arnold Bax (1883-1953)

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Remembering Betjeman

R. S. Thomas

Remembering BetjemanThe only greenness

from your city

window was that of the grass

in the cemetery

outside. The stones

bent over it like readers

in a baize library

out of the way

of the traffic. I caught

your gaze homing

there and changed the talk

from poetry to prose,

enquiring from the living

what only the dead

knew, who had all time

on their side.

                       Into that room,

now that you have left

it, the view enters

unchanged; the grass

is absorbing, the readers

have not looked up

from their breathless

pondering of the manuscript

of the deaf and dumb.

It is a slow view, but one

never to be overtaken

by the hurrying images

of that other window

your successor has turned to,

tipplers at an existence

that has everything

this one has not

except its repose.

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On Rabindranath Tagore, the actual first songwriter to win the Nobel Prize for Literature

By Angad Roy

TagoreA few months ago, my neighbour asked me, ‘Do you have beds in India?’ Last week, a white friend asked me, albeit jokingly and drunk, ‘Did you have some spicy curry for dinner before you came?’ Do these two examples, among many, reveal a symptomatic Western perception of India as defined by its extremities – poverty, spicy food, idolatry of cricket heroes? Is cultural India merely a frenzied collection of colours and Bollywood melodrama? Does there remain a colonial hangover demarcating India as an exotic populace of the enchanting and far-away East? Is this why in October 2016, a Bengali writer as significant to literature as Joyce, Eliot or Proust, was forgotten by the New York Times and the Guardian, when they described Bob Dylan as the ‘first songwriter to win the Nobel Prize for Literature’?
Rabindranath Tagore is the anti-colonialist in question, reverently coined by his devotees and by my Bengali family as the ‘Bard of Bengal’. He was the first non-European to win the prize in 1913, for his collection of poems in Gitanjali and, as such, he possesses an elevated status in my country. Walking down the bustling streets of Kolkata, you hear his poetry blaring from major traffic intersections and pandals which dot the metro landscape during the festive season. You can see his face and words printed on posters behind street-hawkers selling fake Nike clothes and in most Bengali households, where his portrait sits alongside statues of Ganesha and Shiva in the omnipresent puja room.

Read the complete article
Read “My song has put off her adornments” from Tagore’s Gitanjali: My song has put off her adornments
We will be reading and discussing “The Poetry in Popular Music” on October 26. Please bring your own favourite examples and post them first on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly.

See the SCHEDULE PAGE for submissions to-date.

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R. S. Thomas

AimI resent the question

yet murmur it to myself:

The magic, where has it gone?
Is age good for nothing

but with its arthritic breath

to dry up the dew
on the poem’s petals? Who

would have thought language

with nowhere to go could
have become tired? Vocabulary

abhors a vacuum but why

from verbal ranks
do I force the same adjectives

to volunteer? The muse laughs

at my medals, signalling the one
over my shoulder, whose aim

is his youth, she has the whole

dictionary as ammunition.

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Even the Gods

By Nicole Sealey

Even the gods misuse the unfolding blue. Even the gods misread the wind flower’s nod toward sunlight as consent to consume. Still,you envy the horse that draws their chariot. Bone of their bone.The wilting mash of air alone keeps you from scaling Olympus with gifts of dead or dying things dangling from your mouth —your breath, like the sea, inching away. It is rumored gods grow where the blood of a hanged man drips. You insist on being this man. The gods abuse your grace. Still, you’d rather live among the clear, cloudless white, enjoying what is left of their ambrosia.Who should be happy this time? Who brings cake to whom? Pray the gods do not misquote your covetous pulse for chaos,the black from which they were conceived. Even the eyes of gods must adjust to light. Even gods have gods.
Even the GodsNicole Sealey is the executive director at Cave Canem Foundation. Her full-length debut collection, Ordinary Beast, was published this month by Ecco.

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Idiopathic Illness

By Meghan O’Rourke

Idiopathic IllnessI threw hollowed self at your robust,

went for IV drips, mercury detoxes, cilantro smoothies.

I pressed my lips to you, fed you kale, spooned down coconut oil.

I fasted for blood sugar, underboomed the carbs,

chased ketosis, urine-stripped and slip-checked.

Baked raw cocoa & mint & masticated pig thyroids.

You were contemporary, toxic, I can’t remember what you were,

you’re in my brain, inflaming it, using up the glutathione.

I read about you on the Internet & my doctor agreed.

Just take more he urged & more.

You slipped into each cell. I went after you with a sinking inside

and medical mushrooms for maximum oom, I plumbed

you without getting to nevermore. O doom.

You were a disease without name, I was a body gone flame,

together, we twitched, and the acupuncturist said, it looks difficult,

stay calmish. What can be said? I came w/o a warranty.

Stripped of me—or me-ish-ness—

I was a will in a subpar body.

I waxed toward all that waned inside.

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Bill Evans: “Alone”

By Jan Zwicky

Bill Evans AloneSound that makes night fall around it

Like the glow from a reading lamp.
Rain on the roof, straight down.

The name of your name

Spoken without another’s.
Rubato is a hand

You thought indifferent

Laid, briefest of moments,

On your sleeve.
It walks away, then,

That sound, without looking back.

Lights up a Lucky. Says
We hadn’t the ghost of a chance, says never

Let me go.
Listen to the complete Bill Evans album, “Alone”
Please note that we have tentatively scheduled musically inspired “Ekphrastic” poetry for June 28, 2018.
On October 26th, 2017 from 5:00 PM  – 6:30 PM, at the Coach House, Green College, UBC, 6201 Cecil Green Park Road, Vancouver, Jan Zwicky and her husband, Canadian poet Robert Bringhurst, will present THE SHAPE OF THE WORLD: POETRY AND ECOLOGY.  See the EVENTS PAGE for details.

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Today’s Birthday: Wallace Stevens

Wallace Stevens was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, on October 2, 1879. He attended Harvard University as an undergraduate from 1897 to 1900. He planned to travel to Paris as a writer, but after a working briefly as a reporter for the New York Herald Times, he decided to study law. He graduated with a degree from New York Law School in 1903 and was admitted to the U.S. Bar in 1904. He practiced law in New York City until 1916.
Though he had serious determination to become a successful lawyer, Stevens had several friends among the New York writers and painters in Greenwich Village, including the poets William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, and E. E. Cummings.
In 1914, under the pseudonym “Peter Parasol,” he sent a group of poems under the title “Phases” to Harriet Monroe for a war poem competition for Poetry magazine. Stevens did not win the prize, but his work was published by Monroe in November of that year.
Anecdote of the Jar


I placed a jar in Tennessee,   

And round it was, upon a hill.   

It made the slovenly wilderness   

Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,

And sprawled around, no longer wild.   

The jar was round upon the ground   

And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.   

The jar was gray and bare.

It did not give of bird or bush,   

Like nothing else in Tennessee.
This poem first appeared in:

Today's Birthday Wallace Stevens

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