Poetry Corner

Poetry Corner

[The city breaks in houses to the sea, uneasy with waves,]

By Charles Reznikoff

The city breaks in houses to the sea, uneasy with waves,

And the lonely sun clashes like brass cymbals.

In the streets truck-horses, muscles sliding under the steaming hides,

Pound the sparks flying about their hooves;

And fires, those gorgeous beasts, squirm in the furnaces,

Under the looms weaving us.

At evening by cellars cold with air of rivers at night,

We, whose lives are only a few words,

Watch the young moon leaning over the baby at her breast

And the stars small to our littleness.

The slender trees stand alone in the fields

Between the roofs of the far town

And the wood far away like a low hill.

In the vast open

The birds are faintly overheard.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 8, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem: “[The city breaks in houses to the sea, uneasy with waves,]” appeared in Poems (Samuel Roth at the New York Poetry Book Shop, 1920).

About this Poet: Charles Reznikoff, born August 31, 1894, in Brooklyn, New York, was a poet and novelist from the Objectivist movement. The author of many collections, including Testimony: The United States (1885-1890): Recitative (New Directions, 1965), he was awarded the 1971 Morton Dauwen Zabel Prize by the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He died on January 22, 1976.

Poetry Corner

With the fishing season opening this weekend, the following pastoral seems appropriate.

The Anglers Wish

By Izaak Walton (1593-1683)

I in these flowery Meads wou’d be

These Chrystal streams should solace me:

To whose harmonious bubbling noise,

I with my Angle wo’d rejoice

   Sit here and see the Turtle-Dove,

   Court his chaste Mate to acts of love:

Or on that bank, feel the west wind

Breath health and plenty, please my mind

To see sweet dew-drops kiss these flowers,

And then, washt off by April-showers:

   Here hear my Kenna* sing a song,

   There see a Black-bird feed her young,

Or a Leverock build her nest;

Here, give my weary spirits rest,

And raise my low pitch thoughts above

Earth, or what poor mortals love:

   Thus free from Law-suits, and the noise

   Of Princes Courts I wou’d rejoice.

Or with my Bryan, and a book,

Loyter long days near Shawford-brook;

There sit by him, and eat my meat,

There see the Sun both rise and set:

There bid good morning to next day,

There meditate my time away:

   And angle on, and beg to have

   A quiet passage to a welcome grave.

In the public domain.

* Soon after Walton’s first wife died in 1640, Walton married Anne Ken, his “Kenna”.

About the poem: One of many verses appearing in The Compleat Angler (1653) a book he revised and republished five times over the next 25 years.

Izaak Walton, 1672

About the poet: Born in Staffordshire, in the West Midlands of England, Walton moved to London during his teens and eventually established a linen drapery shop on Fleet Street. During this time he became friends with John Donne, the poet who had become vicar of the St. Dunstan’s church near his business. After the defeat of the Royalists and the exile of Charles II in 1644, Walton moved back to Staffordshire and purchased a farm alongside a small river. With this property supplying ample income, he returned to London in 1650 and spent the remaining forty years of his life fishing, visiting eminent clergymen and others who enjoyed fishing, and writing/publishing The Compleat Angler plus biographies of his angling friends, John Donne, Sir Henry Wotton, Mr. George Herbert.

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Poetry Corner

[Since feeling is first]

By E. E. Cummings

since feeling is first

who pays any attention

to the syntax of things

will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool

while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,

and kisses are a better fate

than wisdom

lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry

—the best gesture of my brain is less than

your eyelids’ flutter which says

we are for each other: then

laugh, leaning back in my arms

for life’s not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 16, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this poem: “[since feeling is first]” appeared in Is 5 (Boni and Liveright, 1926).

E. E. Cummings, 1943

About this poet: Born Edward Estlin Cummings in 1894, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cummings was a poet, essayist, novelist, and playwright from the Modernist movement. The poet and critic Randall Jarrell once noted that Cummings is “one of the most individual poets who ever lived—and, though it sometimes seems so, it is not just his vices and exaggerations, the defects of his qualities, that make a writer popular. But, primarily, Mr. Cummings’s poems are loved because they are full of sentimentally, of sex, of more or less improper jokes, of elementary lyric insistence.”

Poetry Corner

Gone with the Swallows

By Ameen Rihani

Must I convey at last the news to thee?
Must I now mourn the love that lived in me?
Gone with the autumn, with the dying year.
Gone with the kisses that are yet so near!
Gone with the swallows somewhere o’er the sea!
But with the Spring will he again
Return, will he with me remain?
Must I till then, remembering naught,
Forgetting all that love had brought,
Grope in the shadows of the slain?
Must I forget the day
That took my love away,
And all the happy hours
That reared for him their towers
And crowned him with the flowers
Of all the queens of May?
Must I alone
My once my own,
In my retreat
The new year greet,
And winter meet,
And winds hear moan?
Not yet
Can I
But why
One clings
And sings
To things
That die?

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 9, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

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Poetry Corner

The Cherry Trees

By Laurence Binyon

Out of the dusk of distant woods

All round the April skies

Blossom-white, the cherry trees

Like lovely apparitions rise

Like spirits strange to this ill world,

White strangers from a world apart,

Like silent promises of peace,

Like hope that blossoms in the heart

1901 Sketch by W. Strang

© Laurence Binyon

About the poet: Binyon (1861-1943) was an English poet, dramatist and art scholar. His most famous poem, “For the Fallen”, was written in response to the battle of the Marne in 1914 and its tribute to all casualties of was continues to be an integral part of annual WWI remembrance services in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.