SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS


Gerard_Manley_Hopkins


MOONRISE
By Gerard Manley Hopkins

I awoke in the Midsummer not to call night, in the white and the walk of the morning:
The moon, dwindled and thinned to the fringe of a finger-nail held to the candle,
Or paring of paradisaïcal fruit, lovely in waning but lustreless,
Stepped from the stool, drew back from the barrow, of dark Maenefa the mountain;
A cusp still clasped him, a fluke yet fanged him, entangled him, not quit utterly.
This was the prized, the desirable sight, unsought, presented so easily,
Parted me leaf and leaf, divided me, eyelid and eyelid of slumber.



(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 – 1889) was an English poet, Roman Catholic convert, and a Jesuit priest, whose posthumous fame established him among the leading Victorian poets. His experimental explorations in prosody (especially sprung rhythm) and his use of imagery established him as a daring innovator in a period of largely traditional verse. (Annotated biography of Gerard Manley Hopkins courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Editor’s Note: Today’s poem appears here on the recommendation of my mother, a faithful reader of this series. As this coming Monday is her birthday, and the moon her ruling planet, I wanted to share this poem with you today in her honor. Happy Birthday, Mama! May you forever shine as brightly as the moon.

Want to read more by and about Gerard Manley Hopkins?
The Poetry Foundation
Academy of American Poets
Bartleby.com

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: EARTH VOICES FOR SPRING

Public Domain image.

Public Domain image.



EARTH VOICES
By Bliss Carman

I

I heard the spring wind whisper
Above the brushwood fire,
“The world is made forever
Of transport and desire.

“I am the breath of being,
The primal urge of things;
I am the whirl of star dust,
I am the lift of wings.

“I am the splendid impulse
That comes before the thought,
The joy and exaltation
Wherein the life is caught.

“Across the sleeping furrows
I call the buried seed,
And blade and bud and blossom
Awaken at my need.

“Within the dying ashes
I blow the sacred spark,
And make the hearts of lovers
To leap against the dark.”

II

I heard the spring light whisper
Above the dancing stream,
“The world is made forever
In likeness of a dream.

“I am the law of planets,
I am the guide of man;
The evening and the morning
Are fashioned to my plan.

“I tint the dawn with crimson,
I tinge the sea with blue;
My track is in the desert,
My trail is in the dew.

“I paint the hills with color,
And in my magic dome
I light the star of evening
To steer the traveller home.

“Within the house of being,
I feed the lamp of truth
With tales of ancient wisdom
And prophecies of youth.”

III

I heard the spring rain murmur
Above the roadside flower,
“The world is made forever
In melody and power.

“I keep the rhythmic measure
That marks the steps of time,
And all my toil is fashioned
To symmetry and rhyme.

“I plow the untilled upland,
I ripe the seeding grass,
And fill the leafy forest
With music as I pass.

“I hew the raw, rough granite
To loveliness of line,
And when my work is finished,
Behold, it is divine!

“I am the master-builder
In whom the ages trust.
I lift the lost perfection
To blossom from the dust.”

IV

Then Earth to them made answer,
As with a slow refrain
Born of the blended voices
Of wind and sun and rain,

“This is the law of being
That links the threefold chain:
The life we give to beauty
Returns to us again.”


(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


Bliss Carman FRSC (1861–1929) was a Canadian poet who lived most of his life in the United States, where he achieved international fame, and was acclaimed as Canada’s poet laureate during his later years. (Annotated bio courtesy of Wikipedia, with edits.)

Editor’s Note: Each year around this time I become so excited by the fact that winter is finally over that I must celebrate the birth of spring through poetry. The sun is shining, the crocuses and tulips are rising, the spring blossoms are in bloom. The cold and darkness that are just behind us are quickly forgotten by the promise of all that is warm and beautiful and worthy of rejoicing. So it has been since the days of Demeter and Persephone, and so it shall be until humankind destroys the natural balance of the world with climate change.

Today’s poem calls upon the “Earth Voices”—the spring wind, the spring light, the spring rain, and the Earth herself—to tell a story of the rebuilding of the world at springtime. The voices of spring speak of the newness they create: “Across the sleeping furrows / I call the buried seed, / And blade and bud and blossom / Awaken at my need.” “I am the master-builder / In whom the ages trust. / I lift the lost perfection / To blossom from the dust.” And the voice of Earth answers, calling upon the ancient power of three, reminding us, as spring does, that what is buried beneath winter “Returns to us again.”

Want to read more Spring Poetry?
SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: SPRING! (2014)
SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: LIZZIE LAWSON ON SPRING
SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: SPRING! (2013)
The Poetry Foundation – Spring Poems

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: THE OPERATING SYSTEM FOR NATIONAL POETRY MONTH


national-poetry-month1


Editor’s Note: April is National Poetry Month. According to the Academy of American Poets, who founded the annual event in 1996, “National Poetry Month is the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of readers, students, K-12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary events curators, publishers, bloggers, and, of course, poets marking poetry’s important place in our culture and our lives.”

Today I want to highlight one of the countless organizations that has picked up the gauntlet the AAP has thrown down. This April the Operating System celebrates its 4th Annual 30-on-30-in-30 Poetry Month Celebration:

“Over the course of Poetry Month The OS brings you 30 poets (+ writers, musicians, and artists) writing on 30 (+ a few extra) poets for 30 days (every day in April). The intention is simple, but crucial: to explode the process of sharing our influences and joys beyond the random. To create a narrative archive around that moment where we excitedly pass on the work of someone who has made a difference in our lives. And so, too, this is an opportunity for The OS to introduce our audience to the work of the people writing — who are invited to share work of their own that demonstrates that influence. Really, its an exercise in appreciation.”

An exercise in appreciation. A labor of love. 30 days for 30 artists to share their 30 favorite poets with you. What more could you ask for? A little love from your fearless editor? You’ve got it! Keep up with the Operating System throughout the month of April and be on the lookout for yours truly sharing the love and inspiration that is Li-Young Lee.

What should you be doing RIGHT NOW? Go forth and fall in love, poetry style, with the Operating System’s 4th Annual 30-on-30-in-30 Poetry Month Celebration.

Want more National Poetry Month?
Spend each day in April with The Operating System.
Learn About National Poetry Month from the Academy of American Poets.
Read blog entries, online poetry sources, and get writing prompts from NaPoWriMo.
Celebrate NaPoMo with WordPress: Celebrating poetry, all month long.
30 ways to celebrate National Poetry Month, from the Academy of American Poets.

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: MOTHER NIGHT

Edward-Robert-Hughes-Painting-003

MOTHER NIGHT
By James Weldon Johnson

Eternities before the first-born day,
Or ere the first sun fledged his wings of flame,
Calm Night, the everlasting and the same,
A brooding mother over chaos lay.
And whirling suns shall blaze and then decay,
Shall run their fiery courses and then claim
The haven of the darkness whence they came;
Back to Nirvanic peace shall grope their way.

So when my feeble sun of life burns out,
And sounded is the hour for my long sleep,
I shall, full weary of the feverish light,
Welcome the darkness without fear or doubt,
And heavy-lidded, I shall softly creep
Into the quiet bosom of the Night.


(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) was an American author, educator, lawyer, diplomat, songwriter, and civil rights activist. In addition to being known for his leadership of the NAACP, Johnson was known during the Harlem Renaissance for his poems, novels, and anthologies collecting both poems and spirituals of black culture. (Annotated biography of James Weldon Johnson courtesy of Wikipedia, with edits.)

Editor’s Note: This Yuletide season I have been thinking—and writing—about ancient holiday traditions that we still practice, and how we received them. So when I came across today’s poem I was struck by the homage it seems to pay to the ancient festival of Mothers’ Night. This winter celebration was held on the eve of Yule, and celebrated The Mothers (goddesses) giving birth to the sun and the new year.

Beyond its title, today’s poem is rich with images of this ancient holiday: the night of labor, the birth of the sun, and the cycle of a year, when “whirling suns shall blaze and then decay.” Yet just as winter is a kind of death, in the second stanza the poet turns “Mother Night” into a metaphor for his own eventual death, imagining that when his time comes he will “Welcome the darkness without fear or doubt” and “softly creep / Into the quiet bosom of the Night.”

Want to see more by and about James Weldon Johnson?
The Poetry Foundation
Poets.org

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: EDGAR ALLAN POE FOR HALLOWEEN AND DIA DE LOS MUERTOS

Edgar Allan Poe (public domain)

 

By Edgar Allan Poe:

SPIRITS OF THE DEAD

Thy soul shall find itself alone
’Mid dark thoughts of the grey tomb-stone;
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy.

Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness — for then
The spirits of the dead, who stood
In life before thee, are again
In death around thee, and their will
Shall overshadow thee; be still.

The night, though clear, shall frown,
And the stars shall not look down
From their high thrones in the Heaven
With light like hope to mortals given,
But their red orbs, without beam,
To thy weariness shall seem
As a burning and a fever
Which would cling to thee for ever.

Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish,
Now are visions ne’er to vanish;
From thy spirit shall they pass
No more, like dew-drop from the grass.

The breeze, the breath of God, is still,
And the mist upon the hill
Shadowy, shadowy, yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token.
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!

THE RAVEN

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“ ’Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“ ’Tis some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door;
This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore!”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—
Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon I heard again a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
“Tis the wind and nothing more!”

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not an instant stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.”

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.”
Then the bird said “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of “Never—nevermore.”

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamplght gloated o’er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Angels whose faint foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!

(Today’s poems are in the public domain, belong to the masses, and appear here today accordingly.)

Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849) was an American author, poet, editor, and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story, and is generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre. He is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. (Annotated biography of Edgar Allan Poe courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Editor’s Note: Your faithful editor of this Saturday Poetry Series is a HUGE fan of Halloween. This year I’ve decided to celebrate with poetry! “The Raven” is a classic poem of the macabre, and as such is a perfect nod to All Hallow’s Eve. I am particularly partial to this rendition by the Simpsons, because Halloween should have both tricks and treats involved. In addition to “The Raven,” well-known and beloved, I was pleasantly surprised to find “Spirits of the Dead,” a poem that calls out to Dia de los Muertos, when the veils thin between the worlds of the living and the dead and we welcome the spirits of those who came before us. “[F]or then / The spirits of the dead, who stood / In life before thee, are again / In death around thee, and their will / Shall overshadow thee; be still.” Happy Halloween!

Want to read more by and about Edgar Allan Poe?
PoeStories
The Poetry Foundation
Academy of American Poets
Poe Museum

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: SPRING!

photo 3Spring’s first flowers spotted this week in New York’s Jefferson Market Garden.


WITH A BUNCH OF SPRING FLOWERS
By Kate Seymour Maclean

In the spring-time, out of the dew,
      From my garden, sweet friend, I gather,
      A garland of verses, or rather
A poem of blossoms for you.

There are pansies, purple and white,
      That hold in their velvet splendour,
      Sweet thoughts as fragrant and tender,
And rarer than poets can write.

The Iris her pennon unfurls,
      My unspoken message to carry,
      A flower-poem writ by a fairy,
And Buttercups rounder than pearls.

And Snowdrops starry and sweet,
      Turn toward thee their pale pure faces
      And Crocus, and Cowslips, and Daisies
The song of the spring-time repeat.

So merry and full of cheer,
      With the warble of birds overflowing,
      The wind through the fresh grass blowing
And the blackbirds whistle so dear.

These songs without words are true,
      All sung in the April weather–
      Music and blossoms together–
I gather and weave them for you.


(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


Kate Seymour Maclean (1829-1916): Born in Fulton, New York, seemingly as “Chloe Ann Seymour” and educated at the Falley Seminary, Kate Seymour moved to Canada a few years after her 1857 marriage to Allan MacLean of Ingersoll, Ontario. She was well known as a poet in her day, producing three volumes of verse and publishing frequently in Canadian and American magazines. Her first book, The Coming of the Princess, And Other Poems (1881), is prefaced by Graeme Mercer Adam, then editor of the Canadian Monthly. Loyal to her adopted country, MacLean became a strong advocate of the “Canada First” movement. She died in Toronto at the age of 86. (Biography courtesy of The Simon Fraser University Library.)

Editor’s Note: If you are an avid reader of this series, you have faithfully read along as I lamented this year’s winter and dared Mother Nature to bring on the spring. This week, spring has finally arrived. The cherry blossoms are bursting in all their glory in Washington D.C., and here in New York City there is warm weather and sunshine, the first cherry blossoms have been spotted on the trees, and spring flowers can finally be seen lining the streets and blooming in the parks.

If you read this series, you know how we on the East Coast have suffered this long winter, and you know how anxiously your faithful Editor has awaited spring. Today I am happy to report that SPRING IS HERE, and in its honor I offer you “A flower-poem writ by a fairy,” “sung in the April weather,” “Music and blossoms together.” To celebrate spring’s arrival, here is a poem in the form of a bouquet, “gather[ed] and weave[d] … for you.”

Want to see more by Kate Seymour Maclean?
All Poetry
Public Domain Poetry

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: LIZZIE LAWSON ON SPRING

1185601_827625185839_902627425_nPhoto by Lydia Polimeni.


SPRING
By Lizzie Lawson

The tiny crocus is so bold
           It peeps its head above the mould,
           Before the flowers awaken,
To say that spring is coming, dear,
With sunshine and that winter drear
           Will soon be overtaken.


(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


Lizzie Lawson (circa 1867–1902 OR 1858-1905) appears to have been a poet and children’s visual artist. This is a rare instance in which I was able to find many poems by the poet, but almost no biographical information whatsoever. The woman appears to have been lost to us, while her artistic creations remain. If anyone knows about the biography of this enigmatic artist, please share with us in the comments below!

Editor’s Note: Crocuses have been spotted on the east coast, “To say that spring is coming.” (See photographic evidence from photographer Lydia Polimeni above.) In fact, the first day of spring has come and gone. But… we here in the northeast expect snow next week, and are facing record lows for the beginning of spring. So, today’s entry is a kind of a rain dance, or, rather, a spring dance. A call to the powers that be: Bring on the spring! Bring on the sunshine! Bring on the—dare I say it?—warmth!!! Let the crocuses be the sign “that winter drear / Will soon be overtaken.” For we have had our fill of winter drear, thank you very much.

Want to see more by Lizzie Lawson?
Public Domain Poetry
Visual Art