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Virtual Poetry Circle: Langston Hughes

With the return of the Virtual Poetry Circle, I hope that you’ll read the poem or listen to it if it is available.

I’ll leave the comments open for discussion, first impressions, emotional reactions. I’d love to hear what you think about today’s poem from Langston Hughes.

Feel free to share poems you are reminded of, favorite lines, and whatever comes to mind when reading this poem.

I look are the lines in this poem and they ring so true. Dreams can be hard to hold onto in the face of adversity, but without them, life seems empty.

Virtual Poetry Circle: Lawrence Ferlinghetti

With the return of the Virtual Poetry Circle, I hope that you’ll read the poem or listen. I’ll leave the comments open for discussion, first impressions, emotional reactions. I’d love to hear what you think about today’s poem from Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Feel free to share poems you are reminded of, favorite lines, and whatever comes to mind when reading this poem.

While I find this very egocentric in that poets can save the world, I do like that he reminds us how powerful words can be.

Virtual Poetry Circle: Gwendolyn Brooks

For 2021, I’m experimenting with the Virtual Poetry Circle in which I share a poem and leave the comments open for discussion, first impressions, emotional reactions. I’d love to hear what you think about today’s poem from Gwendolyn Brooks.

Feel free to share poems you are reminded of, favorite lines, and whatever comes to mind when reading this poem.

When I first read this poem, I was struck by the Jazzy tone of it, or what I imagined Jazz to be — improvisational. But the last line still upsets me.

Transforming the Virtual Poetry Circle

It has been a joy to share poems with everybody each week and to have discussions about them. The Virtual Poetry Circle has been a staple here on the blog for many years, but I’ve been looking for ways to change it and incorporate greater audience participation.

To that end, I’m no longer going to showcase work found across the web from published poets.

Instead, I want to put out a call to readers and their friends who write their own poems.

I would love for anyone interested to submit a poem about resistance (broad term and doesn’t have to be about the current administration, etc.) for posting on Saturday, Feb. 4. Send 1 poem per person to savvyverseandwit AT gmail [dot] com by Wednesday, Feb. 1.

Include a short 50 word bio with any social media links you want included.

I will choose one poem to feature. Happy writing.

393rd Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 393rd Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s book suggested.

Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Today’s poem is from Anthony Hecht:

The Transparent Man

I’m mighty glad to see you, Mrs. Curtis,
And thank you very kindly for this visit—
Especially now when all the others here
Are having holiday visitors, and I feel
A little conspicuous and in the way.
It’s mainly because of Thanksgiving.  All these mothers
And wives and husbands gaze at me soulfully
And feel they should break up their box of chocolates
For a donation, or hand me a chunk of fruitcake.  
What they don’t understand and never guess
Is that it’s better for me without a family;
It’s a great blessing.  Though I mean no harm.
And as for visitors, why, I have you,
All cheerful, brisk and punctual every Sunday,
Like church, even if the aisles smell of phenol.
And you always bring even better gifts than any 
On your book-trolley. Though they mean only good,
Families can become a sort of burden.
I’ve only got my father, and he won’t come,
Poor man, because it would be too much for him.
And for me, too, so it’s best the way it is. 
He knows, you see, that I will predecease him,
Which is hard enough.  It would take a callous man
To come and stand around and watch me failing.
(Now don’t you fuss; we both know the plain facts.)
But for him it’s even harder.  He loved my mother.
They say she looked like me; I suppose she may have.
Or rather, as I grew older I came to look
More and more like she must one time have looked,
And so the prospect for my father now
Of losing me is like having to lose her twice.
I know he frets about me.  Dr. Frazer
Tells me he phones in every single day,
Hoping that things will take a turn for the better.
But with leukemia things don’t improve.
It’s like a sort of blizzard in the bloodstream,
A deep, severe, unseasonable winter,
Burying everything.  The white blood cells
Multiply crazily and storm around,
Out of control.  The chemotherapy
Hasn’t helped much, and it makes my hair fall out.
I know I look a sight, but I don’t care.
I care about fewer things; I’m more selective.
It’s got so I can’t even bring myself
To read through any of your books these days.
It’s partly weariness, and partly the fact
That I seem not to care much about the endings,
How things work out, or whether they even do.
What I do instead is sit here by this window
And look out at the trees across the way.
You wouldn’t think that was much, but let me tell you,
It keeps me quite intent and occupied.
Now all the leaves are down, you can see the spare,
Delicate structures of the sycamores,
The fine articulation of the beeches.
I have sat here for days studying them,
And I have only just begun to see
What it is that they resemble.  One by one,
They stand there like magnificent enlargements
Of the vascular system of the human brain.
I see them there like huge discarnate minds,
Lost in their meditative silences.
The trunks, branches and twigs compose the vessels
That feed and nourish vast immortal thoughts.
So I’ve assigned them names.  There, near the path,
Is the great brain of Beethoven, and Kepler
Haunts the wide spaces of that mountain ash.
This view, you see, has become my Hall of Fame,
It came to me one day when I remembered 
Mary Beth Finley who used to play with me
When we were girls.  One year her parents gave her
A birthday toy called “The Transparent Man.”
It was made of plastic, with different colored organs,
And the circulatory system all mapped out
In rivers of red and blue.  She’d ask me over
And the two of us would sit and study him
Together, and do a powerful lot of giggling.
I figure he’s most likely the only man
Either of us would ever get to know
Intimately, because Mary Beth became
A Sister of Mercy when she was old enough.
She must be thirty-one; she was a year 
Older than I, and about four inches taller.
I used to envy both those advantages
Back in those days.  Anyway, I was struck
Right from the start by the sea-weed intricacy,
The fine-haired, silken-threaded filiations
That wove, like Belgian lace, throughout the head.
But this last week it seems I have found myself
Looking beyond, or through, individual trees
At the dense, clustered woodland just behind them,
Where those great, nameless crowds patiently stand.
It’s become a sort of complex, ultimate puzzle
And keeps me fascinated.  My eyes are twenty-twenty,
Or used to be, but of course I can’t unravel
The tousled snarl of intersecting limbs,
That mackled, cinder grayness.  It’s a riddle
Beyond the eye’s solution.  Impenetrable.
If there is order in all that anarchy
Of granite mezzotint, that wilderness,
It takes a better eye than mine to see it.
It set me on to wondering how to deal
With such a thickness of particulars,
Deal with it faithfully, you understand,
Without blurring the issue. Of course I know
That within a month the sleeving snows will come
With cold, selective emphases, with massings
And arbitrary contrasts, rendering things
Deceptively simple, thickening the twigs
To frosty veins, bestowing epaulets
And decorations on every birch and aspen.
And the eye, self-satisfied, will be misled,
Thinking the puzzle solved, supposing at last
It can look forth and comprehend the world.
That’s when you have to really watch yourself.
So I hope that you won’t think me plain ungrateful
For not selecting one of your fine books,
And I take it very kindly that you came
And sat here and let me rattle on this way.

What are your thoughts?

392nd Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 392nd Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s book suggested.

Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Today’s poem is from Helen Hunt Jackson:

January

O Winter! frozen pulse and heart of fire, 
What loss is theirs who from thy kingdom turn 
Dismayed, and think thy snow a sculptured urn 
Of death! Far sooner in midsummer tire 
The streams than under ice. June could not hire 
Her roses to forego the strength they learn 
In sleeping on thy breast. No fires can burn 
The bridges thou dost lay where men desire 
In vain to build. 
        O Heart, when Love’s sun goes 
To northward, and the sounds of singing cease, 
Keep warm by inner fires, and rest in peace. 
Sleep on content, as sleeps the patient rose. 
Walk boldly on the white untrodden snows, 
The winter is the winter’s own release.

What are your thoughts?

391st Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 391st Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s book suggested.

Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Today’s poem is from Mary Karr:

Requiem for the New Year

On this first dark day of the year
      my daddy was born lo
these eighty-six years ago who now
      has not drawn breath or held
bodily mass for some ten years and still   
      I have not got used to it.
My mind can still form to that chair him   
      whom no chair holds.
Each year on this night on the brink
      of new circumference I stand and gaze
towards him, while roads careen with drunks,   
      and my dad who drank himself
away cannot be found. Daddy, I’m halfway   
      to death myself. The millenium
hurtles towards me, and the boy I bore   
      who bears your fire in his limbs
follows in my wake. Why can you not be   
      reborn all tall to me? If I raise my arms
here in the blind dark, why can you not   
      reach down now to hoist me up?
This heavy carcass I derive from yours is   
      tutelage of love, and yet each year
though older another notch I still cannot stand   
      to reach you, or to emigrate
from the monolithic shadow you left.

What do you think?

390th Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 390th Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s book suggested.

Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Today’s poem is from Conor O’Callaghan:

January Drought

It needn’t be tinder, this juncture of the year,
a cigarette second guessed from car to brush.

The woods’ parchment is given
to cracking asunder the first puff of wind.
Yesterday a big sycamore came across First
and Hawthorne and is there yet.

The papers say it has to happen,
if just as dribs and drabs on the asbestos siding.
But tonight is buckets of stars as hard and dry as dimes.

A month’s supper things stacks in the sink.
Tea brews from water stoppered in the bath
and any thirst carried forward is quenched thinking you,
piece by piece, an Xmas gift hidden
and found weeks after: the ribbon, the box.

I have reservoirs of want enough
to freeze many nights over.

What did you think?

389th Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 389th Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s book suggested.

Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Today’s poem is from Cynthia Zarin:

Skating in Harlem, Christmas Day

To Mary Jo Salter

Beyond the ice-bound stones and bucking trees, 
past bewildered Mary, the Meer in snow, 
two skating rinks and two black crooked paths

are a battered pair of reading glasses 
scratched by the skater’s multiplying math. 
Beset, I play this game of tic-tac-toe.

Divide, subtract. Who can tell if love surpasses? 
Two naughts we’ve learned make one astonished 0— 
a hectic night of goats and compasses.

Folly tells the truth by what it’s not— 
one X equals a fall I’d not forgo. 
Are ice and fire the integers we’ve got?

Skating backwards tells another story— 
the risky star above the freezing town, 
a way to walk on water and not drown.

What do you think?

388th Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 388th Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s book suggested.

Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Today’s poem is from Claude McKay:

After the Winter

Some day, when trees have shed their leaves
     And against the morning’s white
The shivering birds beneath the eaves
     Have sheltered for the night,
We’ll turn our faces southward, love,
     Toward the summer isle
Where bamboos spire the shafted grove
     And wide-mouthed orchids smile.

And we will seek the quiet hill
     Where towers the cotton tree,
And leaps the laughing crystal rill,
     And works the droning bee.
And we will build a cottage there
     Beside an open glade,
With black-ribbed blue-bells blowing near,
     And ferns that never fade.

What do you think?

387th Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 387th Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s book suggested.

Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Today’s poem is from Jorie Graham:

Prayer

Over a dock railing, I watch the minnows, thousands, swirl   
themselves, each a minuscule muscle, but also, without the   
way to create current, making of their unison (turning, re-
                                                                      infolding,
entering and exiting their own unison in unison) making of themselves a   
visual current, one that cannot freight or sway by   
minutest fractions the water’s downdrafts and upswirls, the   
dockside cycles of finally-arriving boat-wakes, there where   
they hit deeper resistance, water that seems to burst into   
itself (it has those layers), a real current though mostly   
invisible sending into the visible (minnows) arrowing
                                    motion that forces change—
this is freedom. This is the force of faith. Nobody gets   
what they want. Never again are you the same. The longing
is to be pure. What you get is to be changed. More and more by
each glistening minute, through which infinity threads itself,   
also oblivion, of course, the aftershocks of something   
at sea. Here, hands full of sand, letting it sift through   
in the wind, I look in and say take this, this is   
what I have saved, take this, hurry. And if I listen   
now? Listen, I was not saying anything. It was only   
something I did. I could not choose words. I am free to go.   
I cannot of course come back. Not to this. Never.   
It is a ghost posed on my lips. Here: never.

What do you think?

386th Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 386th Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s book suggested.

Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Today’s poem is from Tom Sleigh:

On the Platform

1
The omen I didn’t know I was waiting for
pulled into the station the same instant as the train.
It was just a teenage boy busking on the platform,
cello cutting through garble, Bach’s repetitions

hard-edged as a scalpel probing an open wound. 
But then I kept thinking how a sound wave 
travels the path of least resistance, 
how the notes rebound off steel and stone 

the same as a blast wave shattering row on row
of windows as it swerves through the city.
And when the music stops, on the balcony

above the rubble, coffee and tea are served. 
And if there’s sugar, is it one lump or two
and did you hear what happened to Mrs. So and So?

2
I saw, out from under the grime, whiskers 
dipping into clear water that trickled between 
the rails to get the feel of what was near—
the same scene as on the church wall, the slimy brethren

gathered at the river, one gnawing 
an ear of corn, the rest intently listening  
to Francis teaching them their catechism
about the wild man John and his crucified cousin.

Except they were birds in the painting, not rats.
But let’s go with that, let them stand 
on hind legs and sniff incense and myrrh

wafting down from high up in the air
so that one day on miraculous, fly paper feet
they’ll scale the golden walls and storm the high ground.

3
Nothing moving on the platform, nothing for miles. 
And then a shovel clanging against paving stone
like an old man clearing rubble while a rat climbs a vine
and looks into the broken window and smells the smells.

Rubble shoulder high after two weeks work,
a toilet with a sink and a light on a pull chain
stand framed at the end of the gravel walk
already sprouting suckers leafing out more green

from the fire that scorched the burned out bush.
Ten years, fifteen, and tree limbs shade the bedrooms
and branch out window frames toward the sun.

And where the electric pump pumped water for the town
the wellhead lies broken and two clear streams
wear ruts in the floor of the wrecked house.

What do you think?