Category Archives: Reminder

The Man-Moth

BY ELIZABETH BISHOP

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.
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                    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.
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                    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.
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                    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.
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                    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.
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                    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
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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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Elizabeth Bishop, Fighting The New Yorker Over Extra Commas and Steaming Cowflops

By DWIGHT GARNER

Elizabeth Bishop, Fighting The New Yorker“What I think about The New Yorker,” the poet Elizabeth Bishop wrote in 1940 to her mentor, Marianne Moore, “can only be expressed like this: *!@!!!@!*!!”
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Bishop was 29 at the time, not so long out of Vassar, and had just published her first poem in the magazine. Moore was nearly 60 and had just had a poem rejected by its editors. Bishop’s fit of typographical pique was her way of expressing sympathy.
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Over the next four decades, until her death in 1979, Bishop would publish nearly all of her best poems — fastidious, plainspoken, uniquely potent — in The New Yorker. She helped define what a New Yorker poem, in the best sense of that phrase, was. She was their gold standard. In turn the magazine helped define her.
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Read the complete article
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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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ELIZABETH BISHOP’S MISUNDERSTOOD “BRAZIL”

By Benjamin Moser

ELIZABETH BISHOP_S MISUNDERSTOOD “BRAZIL”Half a century has passed since the Life World Library was launched, in 1961. Today, its volumes languish in Internet bookstores, begging for takers at less than a dollar. They are cheapened by their age, their association with the mass-market Time Life brand (“Mysteries of the Unknown,” “Home Repair and Improvement”) and its suburban, middle-brow readership, though that might be too strong a term: one wonders how many people actually read these picture books. But the Life World Library was once wildly popular, and not without ambition and quality, as the author of the volume on Brazil proves.
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This was no less than Elizabeth Bishop, who, by the time she came to write it, had been living in Brazil for a decade. Her eccentric aristocratic spouse, Lota de Macedo Soares, gave her entrée to the highest political and artistic circles: in the twentieth century, no foreign visitor of similar rank was as well-placed, or stayed as long (fifteen years). Because Brazil was everywhere in her work, and because the Life World Library contains her longest statement on the subject, the book has been granted a degree of scholarly attention seldom lavished on its fellows.
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Making it even more intriguing are the clouds of censorship that swirl above it. These are emphasized by Lloyd Schwartz, the editor of “Prose,” a collection of Bishop’s writing, which appeared last year. Bishop “famously disliked how the editors changed what she wrote,” Schwartz says. Moreover, her original final chapter was “completely different” from the published chapter, which “deals with what the United States and Brazil have in common, and in it she praises Brazil’s more effective way of dealing with issues of race.” Schwartz therefore chose to publish a version “taken mainly from her own typescript at Vassar.”
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Read the complete article

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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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.
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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.
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– 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.
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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,
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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.
………………………………………….
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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,
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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.”
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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,
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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
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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.
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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.
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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
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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
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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.
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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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Torn Down From Glory Daily

Anne Sexton

Torn Down From Glory DailyAll day we watched the gulls

striking the top of the sky

and riding the blown roller coaster.

Up there

godding the whole blue world

and shrieking at a snip of land.

Now, like children,

we climb down humps of rock

with a bag of dinner rolls,

left over,

and spread them gently on stone,

leaving six crusts for an early king.

A single watcher comes hawking in,

rides the current round its hunger

and hangs

carved in silk

until it throbs up suddenly,

out, and one inch over water;

to come again

smoothing over the slap tide.

To come bringing its flock, like a city

of wings that fall from the air.

They wait, each like a wooden decoy

or soft like a pigeon or

a sweet snug duck:

until one moves, moves that dart-beak

breaking over. It has the bread.

The world is full of them,

a world of beasts

thrusting for one rock.

Just four scoop out the bread

and go swinging over Gloucester

to the top of the sky.

Oh see how

they cushion their fishy bellies

with a brother’s crumb.
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A final reminder that we’ll be reading and discussing the poetry of Anne Sexton this Thursday, July 27. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for a list of poems to be featured.

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Time to Register for our July 27, 2017 Summer Session

reminder-2Poetry lovers, it’s time to register for our summer 2017 session (July 27). Registration is free, of course. You may register in person, via telephone (604-713-1800) or Register online.
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Please take the time to do this, as our free room at the Roundhouse Community Centre depends upon their awareness that we are an active group. So far, only two of our members have registered for the summer session.

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Your Favourite Poem(s) on June 22

Your Favourite Poem(s) on June 22A final reminder that this Thursday, June 22, we will once again share and discuss some of our favourite poems. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for this year’s list, with links to texts.

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Summer “Free-for-All” on June 22

Summer “Free-for-All”A mid-month reminder that on Thursday, June 22, we will continue with our customary summer “free-for-all” with everyone bringing a favourite poem(s) or excerpt to read and discuss. For this year only this session has been moved from July to June. Please bring your own choice of a poem or poems and, preferably, post them first on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly.

Please see the SCHEDULE PAGE for a list of selections to-date, which are rather few. We need more.

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Robert Frost on May 25th

Robert Frost on May 25thA final reminder that we’ll be reading and discussing the poetry of Robert Frost this coming Thursday, May 25th. Among the poems to be discussed will be “The Road Not Taken.” Please see two previous postings about this poem: The Road Not Taken: The Poem Everyone Loves and Everyone Gets Wrong and The Road Not Taken: A Misunderstood Chestnut. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for the complete list of featured poems.

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