Archive for the ‘ 1. Monday Poems ’ Category

Monday Poem: “Wild Swans” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

As I said last week, I’ve been going through some of St. Vincent Millay’s work after encountering her at random in a piece of fanfiction. While I haven’t liked all of the poems I’ve read, I will say that she has a great deal of imagination and I have enjoyed exploring them. I particularly enjoyed the imagery of this piece that I’m featuring today:

Wild Swans by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I looked in my heart while the wild swans went over.
And what did I see I had not seen before?
Only a question less or a question more:
Nothing to match the flight of wild birds flying.
Tiresome heart, forever living and dying,
House without air, I leave you and lock your door.
Wild swans, come over the town, come over
The town again, trailing your legs and crying!

(courtesy of this site)

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Monday Poem: “Women Have Loved Before as I Love Now” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Wow, long title and a long author name this week. I found this wonderful poet through a fanfiction piece, of all things, which featured some of her poetry. I wasn’t that enthused about the fic – I thought it was a bit out of character – but the poems were great, so I thought I would feature her as my Monday poet for a while, just to give myself an excuse to explore some of her fascinating verses.

Women Have Loved Before as I Love Now by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Women have loved before as I love now;
At least, in lively chronicles of the past—
Of Irish waters by a Cornish prow
Or Trojan waters by a Spartan mast
Much to their cost invaded—here and there,
Hunting the amorous line, skimming the rest,
I find some woman bearing as I bear
Love like a burning city in the breast.
I think however that of all alive
I only in such utter, ancient way
Do suffer love; in me alone survive
The unregenerate passions of a day
When treacherous queens, with death upon the tread,
Heedless and willful, took their knights to bed.

(courtesy of this site)

The lines that made me fall in love with this poem were, appropriately enough, “I find some woman bearing as I bear/love like a burning city in the breast.” The connection St. Vincent Millay makes between love and violence is intriguing, as is her idea that “in me alone survive” the passions of past “treacherous queens.” What do you think she’s trying to convey about her (or the narrator’s) current love affair? I can only imagine it must have been something illicit and tempestuous. What a lovely sonnet.

Monday Poem: “Unfinished Love Theorem” by Kate Camp

This week I was torn between Unfinished Love Theorem and another poem, both of them about love and relationships; Unfinished won out because it was the more upbeat of the two, and because I have always been fascinated with poems that connect love to oceans and ships. According to my mother’s amateur dream interpretation, water is always representative of powerful emotion. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy the connection so much I once wrote a poem along similar lines.

Unfinished Love Theorem by Kate Camp

Like light
it can travel in waves
or lines
depending on the circumstances.

When I first noticed it, it was travelling in waves
and I could just see its sail pop hopefully up
on the horizon now and then
as it was keeling, or gibing,
or doing whatever brave ocean craft do
when the water is a little lumpy.

I admired its buoyancy, its neat fittings,
the way everything a person could need
was stowed in its purpose-built compartments.
I liked the way it was rigged, and aligned
with particular stars and magnetisms.

Now I’m in amongst it, I find it is travelling in lines,
the underground veins of a railway, hidden,
signposted, never drawn to scale on maps.
It is moving all sorts of things about,
taking good folk to their work, taking them out
and home to their rumpled bedrooms.

I admire its secret progress, how it can speed
or lull you on its beating window,
how it spills you out up silver
stairs and it’s unexpected sun, or night lights
shining, seeming so bright, so very surprising.

(courtesy of this site)

On the surface, the poem seems deceptively simple. The poet is telling us how she experiences love, and comparing it first to waves, then to lines. What hooked me was the story she tells in doing so, hidden slightly behind the intriguing similes and metaphors. At first, love is full of ups and downs, uncertainties, tempests. She still admires it, because it is optimistic and buoyant, facing down all obstacles (it reminds me in a way of Shakespeare’s, “that looks on tempests and is never shaken”). Then it settles in, and becomes steady (“an ever-fix’d mark”), a straight line, yet still surprising. It’s an interesting take on the whole thing, if you ask me, and an encouragingly optimistic one.

Monday Poem: “Burial” by Rhian Gallagher

I had a difficult time choosing the poem for today. There were so many I wanted to select, but ultimately this one won out for its simplicity and its evocative imagery.

Burial by Rhian Gallagher

The shovels stood in a sticky underbelly of earth
as we stepped from the sidelines for him,
peeling our jackets, the boys loosening their ties.
Soon there was clay on our church-going gear
and his voice coming out of our childhood
coaching us to put our backs into it.
Flowers and fine words had never touched the man
like work, grunts behind a shovel’s bite,
the clean sound of clods as we heaved them in. Digging,
we bowed in memory of his stooped solid shape.
The dark damp weight of earth,
a provision, a very last word.

(courtesy of this site)

I love the way this poem is so grounded; there are few details given, but they give us a clear picture not only of the man to be buried but also of those burying him, their relationship and the burial itself. The rhythm is well done, too, in some ways is evocative of the rhythm of digging, neatly tied up at the end. Lovely enjambment, and an economical use of language. An enjoyable piece.

Monday Poem: “Reflection on a Proposal of Marriage” by Alison Wong

The Monday Poem

Another poem found on the wilds of the internet, and adored:

Reflection on a Proposal of Marriage, by Alison Wong

after sharing a 2 for 1 voucher to an exhibition

I was married once, briefly
to a man I met at the ticketing desk
of the Christchurch Art Gallery.
We kept falling
into each other before
the shadowy figures of
Giacometti. “Hello,”
we said in thin voices—
Standing Woman, a Man
Walking away. We parted
only to find each other at
The Glade, The Forest and City Square.
We were a Group of Three Men
my husband and I and our
marriage—each of us turning
away. Before we finally
separated, I offered
my name. “Graham,” he said.
“Thank you.” We shook hands.
He never gave me a ring.

(courtesy of this site)

The point at which I fell in love with this poem was right about “a Standing Woman, a Man Walking away.” Something about the rhythm and the image there caught my imagination and wouldn’t let go. I love the way the titles of the images form part of the poem, and the way the poet uses ‘marriage’ so elastically. Definitely a great addition to the ‘collection.’

Monday Poem: “Memory of a poem by August Kleinzahler” by Anna Livesy

The Monday Poem

I had to go looking for this week’s poem, as I’d used up the store of those that I knew and loved. There’s something to be said for treading unfamiliar literary paths: I found this absolute gem to share.

Memory of a poem by August Kleinzahler, by Anna Livesy

There were two people (one in a blue dress).
They stood outside the ring the crowd made
around some spectacle
and spoke to each other.
It is not in the poem, but I think she folded her hands
in the skirt of her blue dress,
running the fabric between her fingers.
l think he touched her wrist, bare and white
in the light reflected from the spectacle.
They were behind the backs of several thousand people,
none of whom noticed them. Her wrist
looked very fine as it rose from the blue material.
Seeing the wrist, he was sorry for what he had said.
He said something else to her instead and she replied, quietly.
They made a small crowd of their own.

(courtesy of Best New Zealand Poems 2005)

Apparently, the poem sprang from an encounter with Kleinzahler’s book, The Strange Hours Travelers Keep. What I love about it is the imagery; I can see quite vividly the pale skin of the woman against the blue of her dress, feel the press of the crowd, the un-lonely loneliness of the two in their private world. What a find! I’m glad I stumbled across it.

Monday Poem: “Sonnet 2″ by Shakespeare

The Monday Poem

As I said last week, I enjoy Shakespeare’s sonnets as much as his plays (if not more). This one has a particularly strong memory for me. Back when I was in High School, I used to take drama classes. At some point, we were asked to audition for parts in a play using this particular sonnet. Whenever I hear it now, I can remember standing in front of the nearly empty classroom – it had seats like bleachers, and a flat space for a stage – and reciting it almost from memory, along with accompanying gestures that I’d made up myself and practiced endlessly. I was always disappointed that not only did I not get a part, but the teacher never even commented on my performance. I still enjoy the sonnet, however; the memory seems to go well with the theme of age and misplaced glories.

Sonnet 2 by Shakespeare

When forty winters shall beseige thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
Thy youth’s proud livery, so gazed on now,
Will be a tatter’d weed, of small worth held:
Then being ask’d where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days,
To say, within thine own deep-sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.
How much more praise deserved thy beauty’s use,
If thou couldst answer ‘This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,’
Proving his beauty by succession thine!
This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.

(courtesy of ShakespeareOnline.com)