Click on the pictures to see enlarged versions of the images.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Solo for Saturday Night Guitar

Each Friday we provide the link to the blogger who is hosting a celebration of poetry around the blogosphere. There you can find the links to the many other blogs that are posting poems (new and old), discussions of poems, and reviews of poetry books. It’s also a great way to explore the internet.

Enjoy the festivities!

The host this week is Sara Lewis Holmes.

You can visit her here at Read Write Believe.

(The Acanthus, paper cutout collage by Henri Matisse,
1869-1954, French printmaker, painter, and sculptor)

“Love is the poetry of the senses.” ~ Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850), French writer


Time was. Time is. Time shall be.
Man invented time to be used.
Love was. Love is. Love shall be.
Yet man never invented love
Nor is love to be used like time.
A clock wears numbers one to twelve
And you look and read its face
And tell the time pre-cise-ly ex-act - ly.
Yet who reads the face of love?
Who tells love numbers pre-cise-ly ex-act-ly?
Holding love in a tight hold for keeps,
Fastening love down and saying
“It's here now and here always.”
You don’t do this off hand, careless-like.
Love costs. Love is not so easy
Nor is the shimmering of star dust
Nor the smooth flow of new blossoms
Nor the drag of a heavy hungering for someone.

Love is a white horse you ride
or wheels and hammers leaving you lonely
or a rock in the moonlight for rest
or a sea where phantom ships cross always
or a tall shadow always whispering
or a circle of spray and prisms —
maybe a rainbow round your shoulder.

Heavy heavy is love to carry
and light as one rose petal,
light as a bubble, a blossom,
a remembering bar of music
or a finger or a wisp of hair
never forgotten.

~ Carl Sandburg (1878-1967), American poet, writer, and biographer of Lincoln

Thursday, September 29, 2011

How the Days Are

(Black and White Trees and Buildings by David Milne,
1882-1953, Canadian painter and printmaker)

Had we never met or never parted, wrote Robert Burns, we had never been broken-hearted.


How the days are filled with misery!
No fires to warm me have been left,
No sun to smile at me,
Everything is empty,
Everything is cold and merciless,
Even the lovely clear stars
Are as desolate as I,
Since I discovered that in the heart
Love can die.

~ Hermann Hesse (1877-1962), the German-Swiss novelist, poet, and painter

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Sick Rose

(Untitled, 1970 by Mark Rothko, 1903-1970, American

Unfortunately, even the most passionate romance can turn.


O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy;
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

~ William Blake, 1757-1827, English poet, painter, engraver, and mystic visionary

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Come, Let Us Find

(Potted Fuchsia, watercolor by Beatrix Potter,
1866-1943, English writer, illustrator, sheep
breeder, conservationist, and creator of Peter
Rabbit, among many others)

Yesterday’s pastoral verse by Christopher Marlowe was full of over-the-top promises. One would expect the modern version of that proposal to be more grounded in reality.


Come, let us find a cottage, love,
That’s green for half a mile around;
To laugh at every grumbling bee,
Whose sweetest blossom’s not yet found.
Where many a bird shall sing for you,
And in your garden build its nest:
They’ll sing for you as though their eggs
Were lying in your breast,
My love,
Were lying warm in your soft breast.

’Tis strange how men find time to hate,
When Life is all too short for love;
But we, away from our own kind,
A different life can live and prove.
And early on a summer’s morn,
As I go walking out with you,
We’ll help the sun with our warm breath
To clear away the dew,
My love,
To clear away the morning dew.

~ William H. Davies (1871-1940), Welsh poet

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

(Portrait of Christopher Marlow, 1585, by
unknown artist)

One of the best-known pastoral poems in English is this proposal, filled with the most extravagant of promises.


Come live with me, and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dale and field,
And all the craggy mountains yield.

There will we sit upon the rocks,
And see the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

There I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle*
Embroider’d all with leaves of myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair linèd slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs;
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me, and be my love.

Thy silver dishes for thy meat
As precious as the gods do eat,
Shall on an ivory table be
Prepared each day for thee and me.

The shepherd swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me, and be my love.

~ Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593), English Elizabethan poet and dramatist

* kirtle – tunic-like woman's garment

The poem’s fame rests in part on the fact that so many poets have been tempted to write their own replies. The first was Sir Walter Raleigh. In his response, the proposal was clearly rejected, with no room left for discussion, as you can read below. (Other poets, like John Donne, C. Day Lewis, William Carlos Williams, Ogden Nash, W. D. Snodgrass, Douglas Crase, and Greg Delanty, have responded with a more bemused attitude.)


If all the world and love were young,
And truth in every shepherd’s tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move,
To live with thee and be thy love.

Time drives the flocks from field to fold,
When rivers rage and rocks grow cold;
And Philomel* becometh dumb;
The rest complains of cares to come.

The flowers do fade, and wanton fields
To wayward winter reckoning yields:
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy’s spring, but sorrow’s fall.

The gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten, —
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.

Thy belt of straw and ivy buds,
Thy coral clasps and amber studs,
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy love.

But could youth last, and love still breed,
Had joys no date nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind might move
To live with thee and be thy love.

~Sir Walter Raleigh (1552?-1618), English Elizabethan courtier, explorer, writer, and poet

* Philomel – stringed musical instrument resembling a violin

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Message

(Geraniums by Childe Hassam, 1859-1935,
American painter)

Literary works with pastoral themes can be traced back to the ancient Greeks. They depicted in song and verse an idyllic uncorrupted life, of the shepherd, for example, playing the flute as he watches over his flock.

Over the centuries, the imagery went farther afield, to include other figures of the countryside, even the fisherman. By Elizabethan time in England, writes Edmund Kerchever Chambers, the Shakespearean scholar, “there is a body of poetry, transparent, sensuous, melodious, dealing with all the fresh and simple elements of life, fond of the picture and the story, rejoicing in love and youth, in the morning and the spring.”

Today’s lyric poem is a particularly playful example of such a pastoral.


Ye little birds that sit and sing
Amidst the shady valleys,
And see how Phyllis sweetly walks
Within her garden-alleys;
Go, pretty birds, about her bower;
Sing, pretty birds, she may not lower;
Ah, me! methinks I see her frown;
Ye pretty wantons, warble!

Go, tell her through your chirping bills,
As you by me are bidden,
To her is only known my love,
Which from the world is hidden.
Go, pretty birds, and tell her so;
See that your notes strain not too low,
For still, methinks, I see her frown;
Ye pretty wantons, warble!

Go, tune your voices’ harmony,
And sing, I am her lover;
Strain loud and sweet, that every note
With sweet content may move her;
And she that hath the sweetest voice,
Tell her I will not change my choice;
Yet still, methinks, I see her frown;
Ye pretty wantons, warble!

Oh, fly! make haste! see, see, she falls
Into a pretty slumber!
Sing round about her rosy bed
That, waking, she may wonder:
Say to her, ’tis her lover true
That sendeth love to you, to you!
And when you hear her kind reply,
Return with pleasant warblings.

~ Thomas Heywood (157?-1650), English actor, playwright, and poet

Saturday, September 24, 2011

On Virtue

(Frontispiece and title page of Poems on Various Subjects,
Religious and Moral by Phillis Wheatley, Negro Servant
to Mr. John Wheatley of Boston, published in 1773)

As we continue our look at romance or Eros, we take a moment to clear up a common misunderstanding.

There is an important difference between celibacy and chastity.

Celibacy is a commitment or discipline, in which a person by free choice abstains completely from sex.

Chastity, by contrast, is a virtue, part of the virtue of temperance or moderation in accord with a particular state of life. For example, according to the dictates of traditional religions, single people are called to both chastity and celibacy and married couples to conjugal chastity but not to celibacy.

But why be celibate or chaste? In the verse below, the poet explores virtue and the steps that virtue leads us to take on the road to “endless life and bliss.”

Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784) was a remarkable woman. When she was only seven, she was captured in West Africa for the slave trade. Purchased by the Wheatley family of Boston, she was taught how to read and write and study classic books like the Bible and the works of Milton, Ovid, Homer, and Virgil. Mrs. Wheatley also encouraged her to publish a volume of her verses. Her poems won her the admiration and respect of persons like George Washington and John Hancock in America, and Selina Hastings, the Countess of Huntingdon, and other people fighting for the Abolitionist cause in England.


O though bright jewel in my aim I strive
To comprehend thee. Thine own words declare
Wisdom is higher than a fool can reach.
I cease to wonder, and no more attempt
Thine height t’explore, or fathom thy profound.
But, O my soul, sink not into despair,
Virtue is near thee, and with gentle hand
Would now embrace thee, hovers o’er thine head.
Fain would the heaven-born soul with her converse,
Then seek, then court her for her promised bliss.

Auspicious queen, thine heavenly pinions spread,
And lead celestial Chastity along;
Lo! now her sacred retinue descends,
Arrayed in glory from the orbs above.
Attend me, Virtue, thro’ my youthful years!
O leave me not to the false joys of time!
But guide my steps to endless life and bliss.
Greatness, or Goodness, say what I shall call thee,
To give an higher appellation still,
Teach me a better strain, a nobler lay,
O Thou, enthroned with Cherubs in the realms of day!

~ Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784), American poet

Friday, September 23, 2011


Each Friday we provide the link to the blogger who is hosting a celebration of poetry around the blogosphere. There you can find the links to the many other blogs that are posting poems (new and old), discussions of poems, and reviews of poetry books. It’s also a great way to explore the internet.

Enjoy the festivities!

The host this week is Anastasia Suen.

You can visit her here at Picture Book of the Day.

(Moorish tiles at the Alhambra in Andalusia, Spain; this
pattern in a tessellation of tiles is said to have inspired
the Dutch artist M. C. Escher)

Today’s poem is found in Poems of Arab Andalusia, an anthology of verses translated by Cola Franzen from the Spanish versions of poems from tenth- to thirteenth-century southern Spain.

The poems had been originally put together by the Andalusian scholar Ibn Sa’īd al-Maghribī in 1243. He collected poems “whose idea is more subtle than the West Wind, and whose language is more beautiful than a fair face.” The poets included African, Jewish, and Berber authors, all writing in Arabic.

The translation into Spanish was done by Emilio García Gómez, who discovered the Arabic manuscript in 1928 in Cairo, Egypt.


Every night I scan
the heavens with my eyes
seeking the star
that you are contemplating.

I question travelers
from the four corners of the earth
hoping to meet one
who has breathed your fragrance.

When the wind blows
I make sure it blows in my face:
the breeze might bring me
news of you.

I wander over roads
without aim, without purpose.
Perhaps a song
will sound your name.

Secretly I study
every face I see
hoping against hope
to glimpse a trace of your beauty.

~ Abū Bakr al-Turtūshī (1059-1127), poet from Eastern Andalusia

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fairy-Tale Logic

(Saint George and the Dragon by Paolo Uccello, 1391-1475,
Italian painter and mathematician)

Yesterday, we featured Kay Ryan, one of two poets awarded a MacArthur Fellowship or so-called Genius Grant this week. Today, we look at A. E. Stallings, the second poet to win: “Through her technical dexterity and graceful fusion of content and form, Stallings is revealing the timelessness of poetic expression and antiquity's relevance for today.”

The sonnet below sets out a
caveat emptor, a caution, about romances with their promises of Happily Ever After. Fairy tales can come true, they can happen to you — but only under very special circumstances.


Fairy tales are full of impossible tasks:
Gather the chin hairs of a man-eating goat,
Or cross the sulphuric lake in a leaky boat,
Select the prince from a row of identical masks,
Tiptoe up to a dragon where it basks
And snatch its bone; count dust specks, mote by mote,
Or learn the phone directory by rote.
Always it’s impossible when someone asks —

You have to fight magic with magic. You have to believe
That you have something impossible up your sleeve,
The language of snakes, perhaps, an invisible cloak,
An army of ants at your beck, or a lethal joke,
The will to do whatever must be done:
Marry a monster. Hand over your firstborn son.

~ A. E. Stallings, born in 1968, American poet and translator

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Why We Must Struggle

(William Morris Stamp Set issued May 2011 by the Royal
Mail of the United Kingdom)

Yesterday, the MacArthur Foundation announced that the poet Kay Ryan has been awarded one of its Fellowships, popularly called a Genius Grant: “Her mode of expression is a disarmingly clear and accessible style, characterized by concision, rhyme, wordplay, and wit.”

Ryan had previously been honored with the appointment of United States Poet Laureate from 2008 to 2010.

Why must we struggle? asks the poet.

Anything of worth, including love, demands the best of us.


If we have not struggled
as hard as we can
at our strongest
how will we sense
the shape of our losses
or know what sustains
us longest or name
what change costs us
saying how strange
it is that one sector
of the self can step in
for another in trouble
how loss activates
a latent double how
we can feed
as upon nectar
upon need?

~ Kay Ryan, born in 1945, American poet

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

We Are Always Too Late

(Café in Soho, London, 1955 by Willy Ronis, 1910-2009,
French photographer)

The poet recalls her role in the drama of a romance — her thoughts trace what was and what should have been.


Is in two parts.

First the re-visiting:

the way even now I can see
those lovers at the café table. She is weeping.

It is New England, breakfast time, winter. Behind her,
outside the picture window, is
a stand of white pines.

New snow falls and the old,
losing its balance in the branches,
showers down,
adding fractions to it. Then

The re-enactment. Always that.
I am getting up, pushing away
coffee. Always I am going towards her.

The flush and scald is
to her forehead now, and back down to her neck.

I raise one hand. I am pointing to
those trees, I am showing her our need for these
beautiful upstagings of
what we suffer by
what survives. And she never even sees me.

~ Eavan Boland, born in 1944, Irish poet

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Double Bubble of Infinity

(Dreamtime Sisters, Australian Aboriginal art)

Today is my wedding anniversary.


The night before the day of our wedding
I dreamed that the universe had a party,
All the stars were invited,
Beneath sparkling chandeliers, the planets rejoiced;
In all its beautiful, candle-lit galaxies,
Crowded with glass-clinking revelers,
The Cosmos was Laughing with
Lasting Love and Light.

~ Kate Farrell, born in 1946, American poet and editor

Sunday, September 18, 2011

To My Dear and Loving Husband

(Detail of Portrait of Anne Bradstreet by unknown

Born in England, Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672) became the first published poet in America with her collection The Tenth Muse, Lately Sprung Up in America written by A Gentlewoman from Those Parts. She lived in New England from 1630, when she and her Puritan family landed in Salem, Massachusetts, from England.

Bradstreet was a popular and widely read author. She wrote essays about theology and politics, and poetry about both public and private themes, like her praise of Queen Elizabeth I, her thoughts about her faith, and her fears of dying in childbirth.

The verse below is one of several love poems she wrote to her husband.


If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee.
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay;
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let’s so persever*,
That when we live no more, we may live ever.

* persever - persevere

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Bright Star

(Rosa Meditativa by Salvador Dali, 1904-1989,
Spanish Surrealist painter)

John Keats may have begun Bright Star before he met his beloved Fanny Browne. By the time of his final revision, however, it is clear that he was devoting this poem to her.

Two things to note — the reference to his own death and the comparison of Fanny to a star.

Consumption, as tuberculosis was called then, was still a fatal disease during Keats’s time. It had killed his mother and a brother and was now beginning to affect him. This made him painfully aware that he had only a little time left to live. More than once, Keats put this fear into words on paper, as in the beginning lines of a different sonnet:

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,

He also wrote of it in letters, such as one to Fanny on July 25, 1819: “I have two luxuries to brood over in my walks, your Loveliness and the hour of my death. O that I could have possession of them both in the same minute.”

In that letter, he also compared Fanny to a celestial body: “I will imagine you Venus tonight and pray, pray, pray to your star like a Heathen. Yours ever, fair Star.”


Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art —
Not in lone splendor hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature's patient, sleepless Eremite*,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors —
No — yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft swell and fall,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever — or else swoon to death.

~ John Keats (1795-1821), English Romantic poet

* Eremite – hermit

Friday, September 16, 2011

I Can’t Hold You and I Can’t Leave You

Each Friday we provide the link to the blogger who is hosting a celebration of poetry around the blogosphere. There you can find the links to the many other blogs that are posting poems (new and old), discussions of poems, and reviews of poetry books. It’s also a great way to explore the internet.

Enjoy the festivities!

The host this week is Amy Ludwig VanDerwater.

You can visit her here.

(Satiric Dancer by André Kertész, 1894-1985,
Hungarian-born photographer)


I can’t hold you and I can’t leave you,
and sorting the reasons to leave you or hold you,
I find an intangible one to love you,
and many tangible ones to forgo you.

As you won’t change, nor let me forgo you,
I shall give my heart a defense against you,
so that half shall always be armed to abhor you,
though the other half be ready to adore you.

Then, if our love, by loving flourish,
let it not in endless feuding perish;
let us speak no more in jealousy and suspicion.

He offers not part, who would all receive —
so know that when it is your intention
mine shall be to make believe.

~ Juana Inés De La Cruz (1648-1695), Mexican poet

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sonnet XXIV: Let the World’s Sharpness

(Australian Rock Lily, hand-colored woodcut by Margaret
Preston, 1875-1963, Australian artist)

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” So begins one of the most popular love sonnets in the English language, one of forty-four poems that Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote as a gift to her husband, the poet Robert Browning. Her series, Sonnets from the Portuguese, gets its title from his pet name for her, “my little Portuguese.”

In this sonnet from the series, the poet seeks to comfort her beloved — alluding to the famous passage in Christ’s
Sermon on the Mount, “Why are you anxious? Consider how the lilies of the field grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:28-29; Luke 12:27)


Let the world’s sharpness, like a clasping knife,
Shut in upon itself and do no harm
In this close hand of Love, now soft and warm,
And let us hear no sound of human strife
After the click of the shutting. Life to life —
I lean upon thee, Dear, without alarm,
And feel as safe as guarded by a charm
Against the stab of worldlings, who if rife
Are weak to injure. Very whitely still
The lilies of our lives may reassure
Their blossoms from their roots, accessible
Alone to heavenly dews that drop not fewer;
Growing straight, out of man’s reach, on the hill.
God only, who made us rich, can make us poor.

~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861), English poet

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Husbands and Wives

(The Tiff, also called Sunlight and Shadow, by William
 Merritt Chase, 1849-1916, American artist)

About three decades ago, Dear Abby, an advice columnist syndicated in newspapers across the country, published these ten rules for a happy marriage.

1. Never both be angry at the same time.
2. Never yell at each other unless the house is on fire.
3. If one of you has to win an argument, let it be your mate.
4. If you must criticize, do it lovingly.
5. Never bring up mistakes of the past.
6. Neglect the whole world rather than each other.
7. Never go to sleep with an argument unsettled.
8. At least once every day say a kind or complimentary word to your spouse.
9. When you have done something wrong, admit it and ask for forgiveness.
10. Remember it takes two to make a quarrel, and the one in the wrong usually is the one who does most of the talking.


Two broken hearts, lonely, looking like
Houses where nobody lives.
Two people each having so much pride inside,
Neither side forgives.

Angry words spoken in haste,
Such a waste of two lives.
It’s my belief, pride is the chief cause in the decline
In the number of husbands and wives.

A woman and a man, a man and a woman,
Some can, some can’t, and some can.

~ Roger Miller (1936-1992), American singer and songwriter

My favorite version is by a Canadian jazz group, the Susie Arioli Band featuring Jordan Officer on the guitar, and found on their CD Learn to Smile Again.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

You Came as a Thought

(Moonrise, 1906, by B. J. O. Nordfeldt,
1878-1955, American Expressionist
painter and printmaker)

Love is never too late.


when I was past such thinking
you came as a song when I had

finished singing you came when
the sun had just begun its setting

you were my evening star.

~ James Laughlin (1914-1997), American poet and publisher of literary books and journals

Monday, September 12, 2011

True Love

(Shall We Dance? by Beryl Cook, 1926-2008,
English artist)

Wislawa Szymborska was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1996 for “poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality.”


True love. Is it normal
is it serious, is it practical?
What does the world get from two people
who exist in a world of their own?

Placed on the same pedestal for no good reason,
drawn randomly from millions but convinced
it had to happen this way — in reward for what?
For nothing.
The light descends from nowhere.
Why on these two and not on others?
Doesn’t this outrage justice? Yes it does.
Doesn’t it disrupt our painstakingly erected principles,
and cast the moral from the peak? Yes on both accounts.

Look at the happy couple.
Couldn’t they at least try to hide it,
fake a little depression for their friends’ sake?
Listen to them laughing — it’s an insult.
The language they use — deceptively clear.
And their little celebrations, rituals,
the elaborate mutual routines —
it’s obviously a plot behind the human race’s back!

It's hard even to guess how far things might go
if people start to follow their example.
What could religion and poetry count on?
What would be remembered? What renounced?
Who’d want to stay within bounds?

True love. Is it really necessary?
Tact and common sense tell us to pass over it in silence,
like a scandal in life’s highest circles.
Perfectly good children are born without its help.
It couldn’t populate the planet in a million years,
it comes along so rarely.

Let the people who never find true love
keep saying that there’s no such thing.

Their faith will make it easier for them to live and die.

~ Wislawa Szymborska, born in 1923, Polish poet and translator

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Love Lives beyond the Tomb

(Remains of the World Trade Center,
photographed on September 14, 2001)


Love lives beyond
The tomb, the earth, which fades like dew —
I love the fond,
The faithful, and the true.

Love lies in sleep,
The happiness of healthy dreams.
Eve’s dews may weep,
But love delightful seems.

’Tis seen in flowers,
And in the even’s pearly dew
On earth’s green hours,
And in the heaven’s eternal blue.

’Tis heard in spring
When light and sunbeams, warm and kind,
On angel’s wing
Bring love and music to the wind.

And where is voice
So young, so beautiful, so sweet
As nature’s choice,
Where spring and lovers meet?

Love lies beyond
The tomb, the earth, the flowers, and dew.
I love the fond,
The faithful, young, and true.

~ John Clare (1793-1864), English Romantic poet

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Now Touch the Air Softly

(Garden in Shoreham by Samuel Palmer,
1805-1881, English painter and printmaker)

The hypothetical, as we saw in two poems last week, is a great rhetorical device for the literature of love. It uses conditional clauses and verbs in the subjunctive mood to suggest the impossible and the improbable, or to express wishes and doubts and uncertainties and suppositions contrary to fact.

With the hypothetical, poets and lyricists can expand the possibilities for the expression of love.


Now touch the air softly,
Step gently, one, two . . .
I'll love you ’til roses
Are robin’s egg blue;
I'll love you ’til gravel
Is eaten for bread,
And lemons are orange,
And lavender’s red.

Now touch the air softly,
Swing gently the broom.
I'll love you ’til windows
Are all of a room;
And the table is laid,
And the table is bare,
And the ceiling reposes
On bottomless air.

I’ll love you ’til heaven
Rips the stars from his coat,
And the moon rows away
In a glass-bottomed boat;
And Orion steps down
Like a river below,
And earth is ablaze,
And oceans aglow.

So touch the air softly,
And swing the broom high.
We will dust the gray mountains,
And sweep the blue sky:
And I’ll love you as long
As the furrow the plough,
As however is ever,
And ever is now.

~ William Jay Smith, born in 1918, American poet

Friday, September 9, 2011

Heart! We will forget him!

Each Friday we provide the link to the blogger who is hosting a celebration of poetry around the blogosphere. There you can find the links to the many other blogs that are posting poems (new and old), discussions of poems, and reviews of poetry books. It’s also a great way to explore the internet.

Enjoy the festivities!

The host this week is Katie.

You can visit her here.

(Melodian by Eugene Montgomery, 1905-2001,
American portrait painter and muralist)

You cannot reason your way out of heartbreak.

Heart! We will forget him!
You and I — tonight!
You may forget the warmth he gave —
I will forget the light!

When you have done, pray tell me,
Then I, my thoughts, will dim.
Haste! ’lest while you’re lagging
I may remember him!

~ Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), American poet

Thursday, September 8, 2011

These Poems She Said

(White Narcissus by Pierre-Joseph Redouté,
1759-1840, French botanist and watercolorist)

There are two possible sources for the botanical name of this bulbous plant. The Roman historian Plutarch (circa 45-125) wrote that Narcissus comes from the Greek word narke or numbness; its ingestion was thought to cause palsy or paralysis.

Most gardeners, however, believe the legend that it is named after a nymph in Greek mythology who became fatally bewitched with his own beauty when he happened on his reflection in a pond. For this reason, the narcissus, however beautiful, does not really belong in a bouquet of blossoms for a beloved. In the language of flowers in the West, it represents vanity and egotism.

However, when called by its common English name of
Daffodil, the plant can express more pleasant meanings — as a Lent lily, the subject of Wordsworth’s beautiful poem “I Wondered Lonely as a Cloud,” and the image of the annual fundraising campaigns of the North American cancer societies.


These poems, these poems,
these poems, she said, are poems
with no love in them. These are the poems of a man
who would leave his wife and child because
they made noise in his study. These are the poems
of a man who would murder his mother to claim
the inheritance. These are the poems of a man
like Plato, she said, meaning something I did not
comprehend but which nevertheless
offended me. These are the poems of a man
who would rather sleep with himself than with women,
she said. These are the poems of a man
with eyes like a drawknife, with hands like a pickpocket’s
hands, woven of water and logic
and hunger, with no strand of love in them. These
poems are as heartless as birdsong, as unmeant
as elm leaves, which if they love, love only
the wide blue sky and the air and the idea
of elm leaves. Self-love is an ending, she said,
and not a beginning. Love means love
of the thing sung, not of the song or the singing.
These poems, she said. . . .
You are, he said,
That is not love, she said rightly.

~ Robert Bringhurst, born in 1946, Canadian poet, translator of the epic myths of the Haida, indigenous people of west-coast Canada and Alaska, and writer of a most informative book on the art and technique of designing the printed page, The Elements of Typographic Style

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The World Was Warm and White When I Was Born

(The Roofs of Paris, by Vincent van Gogh, 1853-1890,
Dutch Post-Impressionist painter)

To mark my birthday today, I’ve chosen one of my favorite images of Paris, the city where I was born. Van Gogh painted it three years before the installation of the Eiffel Tower in 1889.


The world was warm and white when I was born:
Beyond the windowpane the world was white,
A glaring whiteness in a leaded frame,
Yet warm as in the hearth and heart of light.
Although the whiteness was almond and was bone
In midnight’s still paralysis, nevertheless
The world was warm and hope was infinite
All things would come, fulfilled, all things would be known
All things would be enjoyed, fulfilled, and come to be my own.

How like a summer the years of youth have passed!
— How like the summer of 1914, in all truth! —
Patience, my soul, the truth is never known
Until the future has become the past
And then, only, when the love of truth at last
Becomes the truth of love, when both are one,
Then, then, then, Eden becomes Utopia and is surpassed:
For then the dream of knowledge and knowledge knows
Motive and joy at once wherever it goes.

~ Delmore Schwartz (1913-1966), American poet and writer of short stories

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


(Delta Theta 1961 by Morris Louis, 1912-1962, American
Abstract Expressionist painter)

A simple metaphor is often sufficient to express profound grief.


Your absence has gone through me
Like a thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

~ W. S. Merwin, born in 1927, American poet, essayist, and translator

Monday, September 5, 2011


(Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window
by Jan Vermeer, 1632-1675, Dutch painter)

An epigraph is a short quotation or poem at the head of a book or a chapter.

The verse below is an example of an
epigram, which the poet Coleridge defined as “A dwarfish whole, / Its body brevity, its wit its soul.”


When words we want, Love teaches to indite*;
And what we blush to speak, She bids us write.

~ Robert Herrick (1591-1674), the greatest of the English Cavalier poets

* indite – to put into words, compose

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Bare Arms of Trees

(Automat, 1927 by Edward Hopper, 1892-1967, American
painter and printmaker; an automat is a cafeteria where
prepared foods are dispensed in vending machines)

“Edward Hopper belongs to a particular category of artist whose work appears sad but does not make us sad — the painterly counterpart to Bach or Leonard Cohen. Loneliness is the dominant theme in his art. His figures look as though they are far from home. They stand reading a letter beside a hotel bed or drinking in a bar. They gaze out of the window of a moving train or read a book in a hotel lobby. Their faces are vulnerable and introspective. They may have just left someone or been left. They are in search of work, sex or company, adrift in transient places. It is often night, and through the window lie the darkness and threat of the open country or of a strange city.

“Yet despite the bleakness Hopper’s paintings depict, they are not themselves bleak to look at — perhaps because they allow us as viewers to witness an echo of our own griefs and disappointments, and thereby to feel less personally persecuted and beset by them. It is sad books that console us most when we are sad, and the pictures of lonely service stations that we should hang on our walls when there is no one to hold or love.”

~ Alain de Botton, born in 1969, Swiss essayist, from “The Pleasures of Sadness” in the Summer 2004 issue of the art magazine
Tate Etc.


Sometimes when I see the bare arms of trees in the evening
I think of men who have died without love,
Of desolation and space between branch and branch.
I think of immovable whiteness and lean coldness and fear
And the terrible longing between people stretched apart as these branches
And the cold space between.
I think of the vastness and courage between this step and that step,
Of the yearning and the fear of the meeting, of the terrible desire held apart.
I think of the ocean of longing that moves between land and land
And between people, the space and ocean.
The bare arms of the trees are immovable, without the play of leaves, without the sound of wind;
I think of the unseen love and the unknown thoughts that exist between tree and tree,
As I pass these things in the evening, as I walk.

~ John Tagliabue (1923-2006), American poet

Saturday, September 3, 2011

If you were coming in the Fall

(Dream by Henri Matisse, 1869-1954, French
printmaker, painter, and sculptor)

Yesterday we discussed that most useful of rhetorical devices, the hypothetical, for the writing of songs and poems about love.

In this poem, Emily Dickinson also ponders the many possibilities.

If you were coming in the Fall,
I’d brush the Summer by
With half a smile, and half a spurn,
As Housewives do, a Fly.

If I could see you in a year
I’d wind the months in balls —
And put them each in separate drawers
Until their time befalls —

If only Centuries, delayed,
I’d count them on my Hand,
Subtracting, till my fingers dropped
Into Van Diemen’s Land*.

If certain, when this life was out —
That yours and mine, should be
I’d toss it yonder, like a Rind,
And take Eternity —

But now, all ignorant of the length
Of time’s uncertain wing,
It goads me, like the Goblin Bee —
That will not state — its sting.

~ Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), American poet

* Van Diemen’s Land – Tasmania, a part of Australia; in the early 19th-century it served as a penal colony for thousands of prisoners transported there from Great Britain

Friday, September 2, 2011

If I Were a Carpenter

Each Friday we provide the link to the blogger who is hosting a celebration of poetry around the blogosphere. There you can find the links to the many other blogs that are posting poems (new and old), discussions of poems, and reviews of poetry books. It’s also a great way to explore the internet.

Enjoy the festivities!

The host this week is Tricia Stohr-Hunt.

You can find her here.

(The Intercepted Love Letter by
Carl Spitzweg, 1808-1885, German
Romanticist painter and poet)

Rhetoric is the art of using language to persuade.

Poetry is full of rhetorical devices, like alliteration, metaphor, simile, and the hypothetical.

The hypothetical uses conditional clauses and verbs in the subjunctive mood to suggest the impossible and the improbable, or to express wishes and doubts and uncertainties and suppositions contrary to fact. If we want to comment, for example, on an impossibility, we might say, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride” (using a conditional clause), and when a friend sneezes, we say “Bless you!” (using the subjunctive mood to express the wish that God bless him, that he enjoy good health).

This rhetorical device is especially useful to those poets and lyricists writing about love. One songwriter who made the most of this was Tim Hardin (1941-1980). He took up a total of four different trades in his famous ballad pleading for the affection of his beloved.

The hypothetical works its magic by expanding the possibilities, by allowing a wide range of examples for the expression of love.


If I were a carpenter
And you were a lady,
Would you marry me anyway?
Would you have my baby?

If a tinker were my trade
Would you still find me,
Carryin’ the pots I made,
Followin’ behind me?

Save my love through loneliness,
Save my love for sorrow.
I'm given you my onlyness,
Give me your tomorrow.

If I worked my hands in wood,
Would you still love me?
Answer me, babe, “Yes, I would,
I would put you above me."

If I were a miller
At a mill wheel grinding,
Would you miss your color box,
And your soft shoe shining?

If I were a carpenter
And you were a lady,
Would you marry me anyway?
Would you have my baby?
Would you marry me anyway?
Would you have my baby?

My favorite is the version by Bobby Darin.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

At Nightfall

(A Pair of Jeweled Pink and Gold Royal Crown Derby
Vases with Covers, 1899, by D. Leroy)

It’s a new month.

We continue to look at
Eros or romantic love, the state that C. S. Lewis called “being in love.” We will then finish with Agape or charity.

“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.” ~ Erich Fromm (1900-1980), American psychoanalyst


I need so much the quiet of your love,
After the day’s loud strife;
I need your calm all other things above,
After the stress of life.

I crave the haven that in your dear heart lies,
After all toil is done;
I need the starshine of your heavenly eyes,
After the day’s great sun.

~ Charles Hanson Towne (1877-1949), American poet and editor