Category Archives: Poem

Lines To A Movement In Mozart’s E-Flat Symphony

Thomas Hardy

Lines To A Movement In Mozart's E-Flat SymphonyShow me again the time

When in the Junetide’s prime

We flew by meads and mountains northerly! –

Yea, to such freshness, fairness, fulness, fineness, freeness,

Love lures life on.
Show me again the day

When from the sandy bay

We looked together upon the pestered sea! –

Yea, to such surging, swaying, sighing, swelling, shrinking,

Love lures life on.
Show me again the hour

When by the pinnacled tower

We eyed each other and feared futurity! –

Yea, to such bodings, broodings, beatings, blanchings, blessings,

Love lures life on.
Show me again just this:

The moment of that kiss

Away from the prancing folk, by the strawberry-tree!

– Yea, to such rashness, ratheness, rareness, ripeness, richness,

Love lures life on.
Listen to Mozart’s Symphony No. 39 in E-flat major, K. 543

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Elizabeth Bishop’s “Sonnet”

Introduction by Lloyd Schwartz

Elizabeth Bishop's SonnetElizabeth Bishop’s “Sonnet” is often taken to be her last poem. It was published in The New Yorker on October 29, 1979, three weeks after she died. And it feels like a posthumous poem, with its images of release from illness, from emotional conflict, from being “a creature divided.” In fact Bishop had written it more than a year earlier, then with surprising speed finished another poem, “Pink Dog” — a bitterly ironic, grotesquely comic “samba” set in Rio at Carnival time, in which she advises a “poor bitch,” a hairless scavenger with scabies (her chilling mirror image, another creature out of place among the Cariocan revelers), to “Dress up! Dress up and dance at Carnival!” The New Yorker rushed this mardi-gras poem into the February 26 issue, while “Sonnet,” acquired months before, would have to wait another eight months to see the light of day.
Yet in some ways “Sonnet” really is the later poem. Bishop began drafting “Pink Dog” in Brazil as early as 1963, under the title “Goodbye to Rio” — one of the first signs that she had started to think about leaving Brazil, where after more than a decade the sweetest life she’d known was beginning to sour. “Sonnet” is the very last poem that she both started and also completed. It’s the closest thing we have to her final poetic testament.


Caught — the bubble

in the spirit level,

a creature divided;

and the compass needle

wobbling and wavering,


Freed — the broken

thermometer’s mercury

running away;

and the rainbow-bird

from the narrow bevel

of the empty mirror,

flying wherever

it feels like, gay!

Read the complete article
We will be reading and discussing Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry on September 28. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for the list of featured poems thus far.

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The Man-Moth


Man-Moth: Newspaper misprint for “mammoth.”

Here, above,

cracks in the buildings are filled with battered moonlight.

The whole shadow of Man is only as big as his hat.

It lies at his feet like a circle for a doll to stand on,

and he makes an inverted pin, the point magnetized to the moon.

He does not see the moon; he observes only her vast properties,

feeling the queer light on his hands, neither warm nor cold,

of a temperature impossible to record in thermometers.

                    But when the Man-Moth

pays his rare, although occasional, visits to the surface,

the moon looks rather different to him. He emerges

from an opening under the edge of one of the sidewalks

and nervously begins to scale the faces of the buildings.

He thinks the moon is a small hole at the top of the sky,

proving the sky quite useless for protection.

He trembles, but must investigate as high as he can climb.

                    Up the façades,

his shadow dragging like a photographer’s cloth behind him

he climbs fearfully, thinking that this time he will manage

to push his small head through that round clean opening

and be forced through, as from a tube, in black scrolls on the light.

(Man, standing below him, has no such illusions.)

But what the Man-Moth fears most he must do, although

he fails, of course, and falls back scared but quite unhurt.

                    Then he returns

to the pale subways of cement he calls his home. He flits,

he flutters, and cannot get aboard the silent trains

fast enough to suit him. The doors close swiftly.

The Man-Moth always seats himself facing the wrong way

and the train starts at once at its full, terrible speed,

without a shift in gears or a gradation of any sort.

He cannot tell the rate at which he travels backwards.

                    Each night he must

be carried through artificial tunnels and dream recurrent dreams.

Just as the ties recur beneath his train, these underlie

his rushing brain. He does not dare look out the window,

for the third rail, the unbroken draught of poison,

runs there beside him. He regards it as a disease

he has inherited the susceptibility to. He has to keep

his hands in his pockets, as others must wear mufflers.

                    If you catch him,

hold up a flashlight to his eye. It’s all dark pupil,

an entire night itself, whose haired horizon tightens

as he stares back, and closes up the eye. Then from the lids

one tear, his only possession, like the bee’s sting, slips.

Slyly he palms it, and if you’re not paying attention

he’ll swallow it. However, if you watch, he’ll hand it over,

cool as from underground springs and pure enough to drink.

The Man MothElizabeth Bishop, “The Man-Moth” from The Complete Poems 1926-1979.

Read an interesting analysis of this poem: Man Moth Analysis

We’ll be reading and discussing the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop on September 28. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for the list of featured poems thus far.

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As Bad as a Mile

Philip Larkin

As Bad as a MileWatching the shied core

Striking the basket, skidding across the floor,

Shows less and less of luck, and more and more
Of failure spreading back up the arm

Earlier and earlier, the unraised hand calm,

The apple unbitten in the palm.

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My Message

Cecil Rajendra

My MessageAnd now you ask

What is my message

i say with Nabokov

i am a poet

not a postman

i have no message.

but i want the cadences

of my verse to crack

the carapace of indifference

prise open torpid eyelids

thick coated with silver.

i want syllables

that will dance, pirouette

in the fantasies of nymphets

i want vowels that float

into the dreams of old men.

i want my consonants

to project kaleidoscopic visions

on the screens of the blind

and on the eardrums of the deaf

i want pentameters that sing

like ten thousand mandolins.

i want such rhythms

as will shake pine

angsana, oak and meranti

out of their pacific

slumber, uproot them-

selves, hurdle over

buzz-saw and bull-dozer

and rush to crush

with long heavy toes

merchants of defoliants.

i want stanzas

that will put a sten-gun

in the paw of polar-bear and tiger

a harpoon under the fin

of every seal, whale and dolphin

arm them to stem

the massacre of their number.

i want every punctuation –

full-stop, comma and semi-colon

to turn into a grain of barley

millet, maize, wheat or rice

in the mouths of our hungry;

i want each and every metaphor

to metamorphose into a rooftop

over the heads of our homeless.

i want the assonances

of my songs to put smiles

on the faces of the sick

the destitute and the lonely

pump adrenalin into the veins

of every farmer and worker

the battle-scarred and the weary.

And yes, yes, i want my poems

to leap out from the page

rip off the covers of my books

and march forthrightly to

that sea of somnolent humanity

lay bare the verbs, vowels

syllables, consonants and say

“These are my sores, my wounds;

this is my distended belly;

here i went ragged and hungry;

in that place i bled, was tortured;

and on this electric cross i died.

Brothers, sisters, HERE I AM.”

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What Is It You Feel I Asked Kurt

Diane Seuss

What Is It You Feel I Asked KurtWhat is it you feel I asked Kurt when you listen to

Ravel’s String Quartet in F-major, his face was so lit up

and I wondered, “the music is unlike the world I live

or think in, it’s from somewhere else, unfamiliar and unknown,

not because it is relevant to the familiar and comfortable,

but because it brings me to that place that I didn’t/couldn’t

imagine existed. And sometimes that unfamiliar place is closer

to my world than I realize, and sometimes it’s endlessly distant,”

that’s what he wrote in an email when I asked him

to remind me what he’d said earlier, off the cuff, “I don’t

recall exactly what I said,” he began, a sentence written

in iambic pentameter, and then the rest, later he spoke of two

of his brothers who died as children, leukemia and fire,

his face, soft, I’m listening to Ravel now, its irrelevancy.
Listen to Ravel’s String Quartet in F-major played by the Alban Berg Quartet.

Maurice Ravel completed his String quartet in F major in early April 1903 at the age of 28. Dedicated to his friend and teacher Gabriel Fauré, the work was introduced in Paris by the Heymann Quartet on March 5, 1904. The quartet follows a strict four movement classical structure: Moderato très doux begins as a sonata form allegro, the following Assez vif-Très rythmé functions as the quartet’s scherzo, while Très lent acts as a contrasting foil. The last movement, Vif et agité, reintroduces themes from the earlier passages and ends with a striking finale.

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Elizabeth Bishop [unpublished]
Dated by Vassar “[1931–34]” (Vassar 64.3); published in
Edgar Allan Poe & The Juke-Box. Due to the state of the manuscript, some words are barely legible (and are enclosed in slashes in the transcription). In line 4, Alice Quinn offers “curly”; in line 11, “you’re” has been read as “your”; no satisfactory interpretation of the word in line 13 has been found; in line 19, Quinn also offers “slick”; in line 20, Quinn offers “negotiate.”
We will be reading and discussing the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop on September 28. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for the list of featured poems thus far.

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Bring Me the Sunflower

by Eugenio Montale (Translated from the Italian by George Kay)

Bring Me the SunflowerBring me the sunflower for me to transplant

to my own ground burnt by the spray of sea,

and show all day to the imaging blues

of sky that golden-faced anxiety.
Things hid in darkness lean towards the clear,

bodies consume themselves in a flowing

of shades; and they in varied music–showing

the chance of chances is to disappear.
So bring me the plant that takes you right

where the blond hazes shimmering rise

and life fumes to air as spirit does;

bring me the sunflower crazy with the light.

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The Sandpiper

By Elizabeth Bishop

The_SandpiperThe roaring alongside he takes for granted,

and that every so often the world is bound to shake.

He runs, he runs to the south, finical, awkward,

in a state of controlled panic, a student of Blake.
The beach hisses like fat. On his left, a sheet

of interrupting water comes and goes

and glazes over his dark and brittle feet.

He runs, he runs straight through it, watching his toes.
– Watching, rather, the spaces of sand between them

where (no detail too small) the Atlantic drains

rapidly backwards and downwards. As he runs,

he stares at the dragging grains.
The world is a mist. And then the world is

minute and vast and clear. The tide

is higher or lower. He couldn’t tell you which.

His beak is focussed; he is preoccupied,
looking for something, something, something.

Poor bird, he is obsessed!

The millions of grains are black, white, tan, and gray

mixed with quartz grains, rose and amethyst.
Elizabeth Bishop’s Sandpiper is concerned with the particular. Through a controlled tightening of focus, like the turn of the lens on a telescope, Bishop draws our attention ever closer to the minutiae of existence, of which the bird is solely conscious: from the water glazing over its feet, to its toes, to the spaces between its toes, to the grains of sand, and finally to the very nature of each grain, their precise colours and the stones and minerals that constitute them.
But while it is concerned with the specific, the poem makes us very much aware of the larger stuff that is outside of this focus. The sea is referenced in a way that we, unlike the sandpiper, cannot completely ignore. Its roaring is the first thing that the poem announces, along with the fact that ‘every so often the world is bound to shake’. The roaring and the shaking are not trivial events. And it is not merely water, or even the sea, but that gigantic ocean the ‘Atlantic’ that drains between its toes.
By drawing attention to that which is ignored, the poet foregrounds the apparent oddity of a consciousness that can shut out something as vast and imposing as an ocean. It provides a kind of irony throughout the poem, that beside something all-encompassing one can focus on something so minute.
In 1976, three years before Elizabeth Bishop died, she wrote:

“All my life I have lived and behaved very much like that sandpiper – just running along the edges of different countries ‘looking for something’.  I have always felt I couldn’t possibly live very far inland, away from the ocean; and I have always lived near it, frequently in sight of it …. timorously pecking for subsistence along coastlines of the world.

A reminder that we’ll be discussing the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop on September 28. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for the list of featured poems thus far.

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The Victor Dog

by James Merrill for Elizabeth Bishop

The Victor DogBix to Buxtehude to Boulez,
The little white dog on the Victor label
Listens long and hard as he is able.
It’s all in a day’s work, whatever plays.
From judgment, it would seem, he has refrained.
He even listens earnestly to Bloch,
Then builds a church upon our acid rock.
He’s man’s–no–he’s the Leiermann’s best friend,
Or would be if hearing and listening were the same.
Does he hear?I fancy he rather smells
Those lemon-gold arpeggios in Ravel’s
“Les jets d’eau du palais de ceux qui s’aiment.”
He ponders the Schumann Concerto’s tall willow hit
By lightning, and stays put.When he surmises
Through one of Bach’s eternal boxwood mazes
The oboe pungent as a bitch in heat,
Or when the calypso decants its raw bay rum
Or the moon in Wozzeck reddens ripe for murder,
He doesn’t sneeze or howl; just listens harder.
Adamant needles bear down on him from
Whirling of outer space, too black, too near–
But he was taught as a puppy not to flinch,
Much less to imitate his bête noire Blanche
Who barked, fat foolish creature, at King Lear.
Still others fought in the road’s filth over Jezebel,
Slavered on hearths of horned and pelted barons.
His forebears lacked, to say the least, forebearance.
Can nature change in him?Nothing’s impossible.
The last chord fades.The night is cold and fine.
His master’s voice rasps through the grooves’ bare groves.
Obediently, in silence like the grave’s
He sleeps there on the still-warm gramophone
Only to dream he is at the première of a Handel
Opera long thought lost–Il Cane Minore.
Its allegorical subject is his story!
A little dog revolving round a spindle
Gives rise to harmonies beyond belief,
A cast of stars . . . . Is there in Victor’s heart
No honey for the vanquished?Art is art.
The life it asks of us is a dog’s life.
We will be reading and discussing the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop on September 28. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for the list of featured poems thus far.

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