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

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


(New Growth by Danna Ray, born 1981, American artist)

āmĕʹn (or ah-) int. & n. “so be it,” an exclamation expressed at the end of a prayer or hymn; recorded from Middle English through ecclesiastical Latin, from Greek, from Hebrew “truth, certainty”


It is over. What is over?
Nay, how much is over truly! —
Harvest days we toiled to sow for;
Now the sheaves are gathered newly,
Now the wheat is garnered duly.

It is finished. What is finished?
Much is finished known or unknown:
Lives are finished; time diminished;
Was the fallow field left unsown?
Will these buds be always unblown?

It suffices. What suffices?
All suffices reckoned rightly:
Spring shall bloom where now the ice is,
Roses make the bramble sightly,
And the quickening sun shine brightly,
And the latter wind blow lightly,
And my garden teem with spices.

~ Christina Rossetti (1830-1894), English poet

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Grand Canyon

(National Park Service silkscreen poster
for Grand Canyon National Park, 1938)

“Simplification of outward life is not enough. It is merely the outside. But I am starting with the outside. I am looking at the outside of a shell, the outside of my life — the shell. The complete answer is not to be found on the outside, in an outward mode of living. This is only a technique, a road to grace. The final answer, I know, is always inside. But the outside can give a clue, can help one to find the inside answer.”

~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906-2001), American writer and aviator, from
Gift from the Sea


As if there were instead some limit
To this world which follows where we go;
As if we could renounce the many
Habits we acquired long ago;
As if we could embrace the infinite
Spaces we traverse like falling snow;
Or as if we ourselves had any
Substance, and were present; even so,
Just when we are ready to admit
Defeat we find ourselves on this plateau
Staring out across long violet
Reaches filling up with indigo.

~ Stephen Lefebure, American poet

Monday, February 27, 2012


(Kwakiutl House Frame, on Vancouver Island, British
Columbia, circa 1910, by Edward Curtis, 1868-1952,
American photographer)

“Wherever the arts are nourished through the festive contemplation of universal realities and their sustaining reasons, there in truth something like a liberation occurs: the stepping-out into the open under an endless sky, not only for the creative artist himself but for the beholder as well, even the most humble. Such liberation, such fore-shadowing of the ultimate and perfect fulfillment, is necessary for man, almost more necessary than his daily bread, which is indeed indispensable and yet insufficient.

“In this precisely do I see the meaning of that statement in Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, ‘We work so we can have leisure.’”

~ Josef Pieper (1904-1997), German philosopher, from Only the Lover Sings: Art and Contemplation


This is the house
that must be entered,
the house whose doors
do not lock,
whose walls are shadows
of moving trees,

the house whose table
is heavy with food
already blessed,
waiting under
the mouths in need
of food, of blessings,

the house whose windows
were polished until
they vanished,
whose moon and sun
once painted there
moved inside,

the one whose chimney
breathes a visible
breath at night,
the house whose walls
must be swept
with the wing of a bird.

~ Paulann Petersen, born 1942, American poet and current poet laureate of Oregon

Sunday, February 26, 2012


(Hedgehog by Hans Hoffmann, circa 1530-1591, German
artist whose watercolors of animals are sometimes mistaken
for Albrecht Dürer’s work)

Carmen Bernos de Gasztold (1919-?) was a French poet whose best-known works are two collections of poems expressing the thoughts of a menagerie of animals, Prayers from the Ark and The Creatures’ Choir.

These were translated into English by the British novelist Rumer Godden. She wrote, “‘Anyone could write such poems,’ said one critic when [the poet] first showed them to him. Perhaps the simplest answer to such obtuseness is that no one but Carmen de Gasztold has ever done it. . . . Each animal, bird, fish, reptile, or insect voice makes, as it were, a statement of its situation, its circumstances — what, perhaps, we humans would call its problem.”


Yes, Lord, I prick!
Life is not easy —
But You know that —
and I have too much on my shoulders!
I speak of my prickles
but thank You for them.
You at least
have understood me,
that is why You made me
such a pinball.
How else can I defend myself?
When people see me,
my anxious nose
searching for the fat slugs
that devastate the garden,
why can’t they leave me alone?
Ah! But when I think proper,
I can roll myself up
into my hermit life.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Refusing at Fifty-Two to Write Sonnets

(Rainy Day in Brussels by Léonard Misonne,
1870-1943, Belgian photographer)

Thomas Lynch (born in 1948), the poet who wrote the sonnet below, is also a funeral director in Michigan.

To him, the work of a poet and of a mortician are “the same enterprise.”

“But here’s the quiet little truth of the matter,” Lynch wrote in a collection of essays,
Bodies in Motion and at Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality. “Requiems and prosodies, sonnets and obsequies, poems and funerals — they are all the same. The arrangement of flowers and homages, casseroles and sympathies; the arrangement of images and idioms, words on a page — it is all the same — an effort at meaning and metaphor, an exercise in symbol and ritualized speech, the heightened acoustics of language raised against what is reckoned unspeakable — faith and heartbreak, desire and pain, love and grief, the joyous and sorrowful mysteries by which we keep track of our lives and times.”


It came to him that he could nearly count
How many late Aprils he had left to him
In increments of ten or, say, eleven
Thus: sixty-three, seventy-four, eighty-five.
He couldn’t see himself at ninety-six —
Humanity’s advances notwithstanding
In health-care, self-help, or new-age regimens —
What with his habits and family history,
The end he thought is nearer than you think.

The future, thereby bound to its contingencies,
The present moment opens like a gift:
The greening month, the golden week, the blue morning,
The hour’s routine, the minute’s passing glance —
All seem like godsends now. And what to make of this?
At the end the word that comes to him is Thanks.

Friday, February 24, 2012


Each Friday we provide the link to the blog that is hosting a celebration of poetry around the blogosphere. At that site 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.

Enjoy the festivities!

The host this week is MsMac. You can visit her here at Check It Out.

(Grandmother Knits by David Foggie, 1878-
1948, Scots painter)

“I can’t tell if the day is ending, or the world, / or if the secret of secrets is within me again.” ~ Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966), Russian poet


So much of what we live goes on inside —
The diaries of grief, the tongue-tied aches
Of unacknowledged love are no less real
For having passed unsaid. What we conceal
Is always more than what we dare confide.
Think of the letters that we write our dead.

~ Dana Gioia, born 1950, American poet and critic

Thursday, February 23, 2012


(Forest Palace by Johannes Kjarval, 1885-1972, Icelandic

“Do not the most moving moments of our lives find us all without words?” ~ Marcel Marceau (1923-2007), French mime artist


In the middle of the ancient woods
leaves browse on the sun like gods,
roots tongue the dark below —
who needs words? I find myself
debating silence, and losing again.

~ Leonard Nathan (1924-2007), American poet, translator, and critic

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Little Gidding

(Old Bell Tower, 1905, by Edward Curtis,
1868-1952, American photographer)

Today is Ash Wednesday, in the Christian calendar the first day of Lent, the forty-day period of prayer, penance, and fasting in preparation for Easter. On this day, ashes are placed on the foreheads of the faithful as a reminder from Genesis 3:19 that “For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

(It is in the Anglican
Book of Common Prayer, not in the Bible, where we find those famous phrases, “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”)


If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.

~ T. S. Eliot (1888-1965), American-born English poet, playwright, and editor, and winner of the 1948 Nobel Prize in Literature

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Loon

(Family of Loons by Norval Morrisseau, 1931?-2007,
Canadian Ojibwa artist)

How does she come to create a poem, Mary Oliver was asked in an interview. “I take walks. Walks work for me. I enter some arena that is neither conscious or unconscious. It’s a joke here in town: I take a walk and I'm found standing still somewhere. This is not a walk to arrive; this is a walk that’s part of a process.”


Not quite four a.m., when the rapture of being alive
strikes me from sleep, and I rise
from the comfortable bed and go
to another room, where my books are lined up
in their neat and colorful rows. How

magical they are! I choose one
and open it. Soon
I have wandered in over the waves of the words
to the temple of thought.

And then I hear
outside, over the actual waves, the small,
perfect voice of the loon. He is also awake,
and with his heavy head uplifted he calls out
to the fading moon, to the pink flush
swelling in the east that, soon,
will become the long, reasonable day.

Inside the house
it is still dark, except for the pool of lamplight
in which I am sitting.

I do not close the book.
Neither, for a long while, do I read on.

~ Mary Oliver, born 1935, American poet

Monday, February 20, 2012

On Seeing Weather-Beaten Trees

(Untitled Polaroid, 1979, by André Kertész, 1894-
1985, Hungarian-born photographer)


Is it as plainly in our living shown,
By slant and twist, which way the wind has blown?

~ Adelaide Crapsey (1878-1914), American poet

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A List of Praises

(Anne in a Striped Dress, 1967, a painting of
today’s poet by her husband, Fairfield Porter,
1907-1975, American Representational painter)

Anne Porter (1911-2011) was a late-bloomer. She began writing her poetry early on in life but it wasn’t until she was 83 years old that her first collection of poems was published, 94 when one of her poems was included in The Oxford Book of American Poetry, and 95 when her second volume of poems came out.

In an interview, she explained why she continued to write as she got on in years. In old age, she said, “you can’t sing anymore, you can’t dance anymore, you can’t drive anymore — but you can still write.”


Give praise with psalms that tell the trees to sing,
Give praise with Gospel choirs in storefront churches,
Mad with the joy of the Sabbath,
Give praise with the babble of infants, who wake with the sun,
Give praise with children chanting their skip-rope rhymes,
A poetry not in books, a vagrant mischievous poetry
Living wild on the Streets through generations of children.

Give praise with the sound of the milk-train far away
With its mutter of wheels and long-drawn-out sweet whistle
As it speeds through the fields of sleep at three in the morning,
Give praise with the immense and peaceful sigh
Of the wind in the pinewoods,
At night give praise with starry silences.

Give praise with the skirling of seagulls
And the rattle and flap of sails
And gongs of buoys rocked by the sea-swell
Out in the shipping-lanes beyond the harbor.
Give praise with the humpback whales,
Huge in the ocean they sing to one another.

Give praise with the rasp and sizzle of crickets, katydids and cicadas,
Give praise with hum of bees,
Give praise with the little peepers who live near water.
When they fill the marsh with a shimmer of bell-like cries
We know that the winter is over.

Give praise with mockingbirds, day’s nightingales.
Hour by hour they sing in the crepe myrtle
And glossy tulip trees
On quiet side streets in southern towns.

Give praise with the rippling speech
Of the eider-duck and her ducklings
As they paddle their way downstream
In the red-gold morning
On Restiguche¹, their cold river,
Salmon river,
Wilderness river.

Give praise with the whitethroat sparrow.
Far, far from the cities,
Far even from the towns,
With piercing innocence
He sings in the spruce-tree tops,
Always four notes
And four notes only.

Give praise with water,
With storms of rain and thunder
And the small rains that sparkle as they dry,
And the faint floating ocean roar
That fills the seaside villages,
And the clear brooks that travel down the mountains

And with this poem, a leaf on the vast flood,
And with the angels in that other country.

¹Restiguche – a river that flows through parts of New Brunswick and Quebec

Saturday, February 18, 2012

What’s in My Journal

(Toleware document box, Pennsylvania, nineteenth-century)

“Time past and time future / What might have been and what has been . . .” ~ T. S. Eliot (1888-1965), American-born English poet, playwright, and editor, from Burnt Norton


Odd things, like a button drawer. Mean
Things, fishhooks, barbs in your hand.
But marbles too. A genius for being agreeable.
Junkyard crucifixes, voluptuous
discards. Space of knickknacks, and for
Alaska. Evidence to hang me, or to beatify.
Clues that lead nowhere, that never connected
anyway. Deliberate obfuscation, the kind
that takes genius. Chasms in our character.
Loud omissions. Mornings that yawn above
a new grave. Pages you know exist
but you can’t find them. Someone’s terribly
inevitable life story, maybe mine.

~ William Stafford (1914-1992), American poet

Friday, February 17, 2012

The behavior of the pigeon

Each Friday we provide the link to the blog that is hosting a celebration of poetry around the blogosphere. At that site 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.

Enjoy the festivities!

The host this week is Myra Garces-Bacsal. You can visit her here at Gathering Books.

(Spring Vision by Kenojuak Ashevak, born in 1927 on
the southern coast of Baffin Island, Canada; she is one
of the most accomplished modern Inuit artists)

A haiku.

The behavior of the pigeon
is beyond reproach,
but the mountain cuckoo?

~ Yosa Buson (1716-1783), Japanese poet and painter

Thursday, February 16, 2012

If of thy mortal goods

(Vaughan’s Seed Store catalog, 1893,
featuring hyacinths)

In the language of flowers, one of the meanings of the hyacinth is “a constant source of joy.”

If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft
And from thy slender store
Two loaves alone to thee are left,
Sell one, and with the dole,
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

~ Saadi (1184-?1283), Persian poet

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Every New Morning

(Marsh under Golden Skies by Granville Redmond,
1872-1935, American painter)

“Trig is almost 4 years old now, and every morning when he wakes up, he pulls himself up, rubs the sleep out of his eyes, looks around, and then starts applauding! He welcomes each day with thunderous applause and laughter. He looks around at creation and claps as if to say, ‘OK, world, what do you have for me today?’” ~ Sarah Palin, from her article in Newsweek, “Sarah Palin on Raising a Special-Needs Child”


Every day is a fresh beginning,
Listen my soul to the glad refrain.
And, in spite of all sorrows
And older sinning,
Troubles forecasted
And possible pain,
Take heart with the day and begin again.

~ Susan Coolidge (1835-1905), American poet, editor, and writer of children’s stories, including What Katy Did

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


(Oodgeroo Noonuccal, or Kath Walker, 1920-1993,
Australian Aboriginal poet, artist, and teacher)

A meditation on love, for Valentine’s Day.


Life is ours in vain
Lacking love, which never
Counts the loss or gain.
But remember, ever
Love is linked with pain.

Light and sister Shade
Shape each mortal morrow.
Seek not to evade
Love’s companion Sorrow,
And be not dismayed.

Grief is not in vain,
It’s for our completeness.
If the fates ordain
Love to bring life’s sweetness
Welcome too its pain.

~ Oodgeroo Noonuccal

Monday, February 13, 2012


(Quilt from Gee’s Bend, Alabama, by Annie
Mae Young)

This poem seems to allude to the printer’s devils, the errand boys at a printer’s shop, so-called because the boys “do commonly and so black and bedaub themselves [with ink] that the workmen do jocosely call them devils,” according to Joseph Moxon's Mechanick exercises; or The doctrine of handy-works applied to the art of printing, published in London in 1683.


Read, as the dreamer reads,
Only between the lines.

Everything else is indubitably
A misprint, a devilish misprint.

~ Kenneth Fearing (1902-1961), American poet

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lightenings VIII

(Detail from a page of the Book of Kells, an illuminated
book of the four Gospels in Latin, created by Celtic monks
around 800 A. D.)

The two realms represent, Seamus Heaney wrote about the poem below, “two orders of knowledge which we might call the practical and the poetic; . . . each form of knowledge redresses the other and . . . the frontier between them is there for the crossing.”


The annals say: when the monks of Clonmacnoise
Were all at prayers inside the oratory
A ship appeared above them in the air.

The anchor dragged along behind so deep
It hooked itself into the altar rails
And then, as the big hull rocked to a standstill,

A crewman shinned and grappled down the rope
And struggled to release it. But in vain.
“This man can’t bear our life here and will drown,”

The abbot said, “unless we help him.” So
They did, the freed ship sailed, and the man climbed back
Out of the marvelous as he had known it.

~ Seamus Heaney, born 1939, Irish poet and translator, and winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Clouds Come from Time to Time

(Snow in the Countryside, 1909, woodcut by Kamisaka
Sekka, 1862-1942, Japanese artist)

Clouds come from time to time
and bring to me a chance to rest
from looking at the moon.

~ Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694), Japanese master of the haiku, whose work would later influence Western poets like Ezra Pound

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Old Vicerage, Grantchester

Each Friday we provide the link to the blog that is hosting a celebration of poetry around the blogosphere. At that site 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.

Enjoy the festivities!

The host this week is Laura Purdie Salas. You can find her here at Writing the World for Kids.

(Rupert Brooke, 1887-1915, English poet)

Rupert Brooke was one of the cohort of young English poets who perished in the Great War.

His most beloved poem, however, is not one of his war poems but a lyrical meditation he wrote in 1912 as he toured Europe in those innocent, sun-filled days before the onset of hostilities. In that poem, excerpted below, he asks a series of questions to express his homesickness for the idyll near Cambridge where he and his friends would gather for afternoon tea.


(Café des Westens, Berlin, May 1912)

Say, do the elm-clumps greatly stand
Still guardians of that holy land?
The chestnuts shades, in reverend dream,
The yet unacademic stream?
Is dawn a secret shy and cold
Anadyomene¹, silver-gold?
And sunset still a golden sea
From Haslingfield to Madingley?
And after, ere the night is born,
Do hares come out about the corn?
Oh, is the water sweet and cool,
Gentle and brown, above the pool?
And laughs the immortal river still
Under the mill, under the mill?
Say, is there Beauty yet to find?
And Certainty? And Quiet kind?
Deep meadows yet, for to forget
The lies, and truths, and pain? . . . oh! Yet
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?

¹ Anadyomene – an allusion to the beautiful goddess of love, the Roman Venus or the Greek Aphrodite, who is raised from the sea on a shell

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Psychological Moment

(A Psychological Moment by Piet Hein, 1905-
1995, Danish poet, designer, and mathematician)

Yesterday’s verse was a poem by Piet Hein, the prolific Danish poet. It was the first poem that he wrote after joining the Resistance against the Nazi regime in Denmark during the War.

Today’s verse is another poem by Piet Hein, another one of his thousands of “grooks,” as he called them. It reflects, in a witty and pithy way, his common-sense approach to life, like his view of the ordinary dandelion. “I think it’s good not to value things just because they are difficult to get, costly. If the dandelion were not so willing and generous and fertile, I’m sure it would be the most highly valued and appreciated flower in the world because it is so beautiful, so optimistic, so simple, so radiating.”


Whenever you’re called to make up your mind,
and you’re hampered by not having any,
the best way to solve the dilemma, you’ll find,
is simply by spinning a penny.

No — not so that chance shall decide the affair
while you’re passively standing there moping;
but the moment the penny is up in the air,
you suddenly know what you’re hoping.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Consolation Grook

(Piet Hein, 1905-1996, Danish poet, designer, and

In the right hands, poetry can truly inspire.

Piet Hein was an accomplished mathematician, designer (of furniture and games, and a public square in Stockholm), and writer of at least ten thousand poems.

He began writing his short and aphoristic verses — “grooks,” he called them in English — when he went into hiding as a member of the Danish Resistance during the Nazi occupation of his country. His first poem (below) became a popular rallying cry for the Danes, urging them to keep on fighting for their freedom and beliefs and not to collaborate with the regime for they will regret their betrayal when freedom is restored. He went on to write about a thousand more such verses during the War.


Losing one glove
is certainly painful,
but nothing
compared to the pain,
of losing one,
throwing away the other,
and finding

the first one again.

~ Piet Hein

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Other

(Peggy’s Cove from the Rocks, Nova Scotia, by Hilton
Hassell, 1910-1980, Canadian artist)

“What I’m after,” the poet R. S. Thomas once said, “is to demonstrate that man is spiritual.”


There are nights that are so still
that I can hear the small owl
far off, and a fox barking
miles away. It is then that I lie
in the lean hours awake, listening
to the swell born somewhere in
the Atlantic
rising and falling, rising and
wave on wave on the long shore
by the village that is without
and companionless. And the
thought comes
of that other being who is
awake, too,
letting our prayers break on him,
not like this for a few hours,
but for days, years, for eternity.

~ R. S. Thomas (1913-2000), Welsh poet

Monday, February 6, 2012


(The Artist Fernand Léger among His Works
by Robert Doisneau, 1912-1994, French photographer

“From things that have happened and from things as they exist and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality.”

~ Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), American author, in an interview in 1958


I have been thinking at random
on the universe
or rather, how nothing in the universe
is random —

(there’s nothing like presumption late at night.)

My sumptuous
trash bag of colors —
Laura Ashley cottons —
waits to be cut
and stitched and patched

but there’s a mechanical feel
about the handle
of my secondhand sewing machine,
with its flowers
and Singer painted orange on it.
And its iron wheel.

My back is to the dark.
Somewhere out there
are stars and bits of stars
and little bits of bits.
And swiftness and brightness and drift.

But is it craft or art?

I will be here
till midnight,
cross-legged in the dining-room,
logging triangles and diamonds,
cutting and aligning,
finding greens in pinks
and burgundies in whites
until I finish it.

There’s no reason in it.

Only when it’s laid
right across the floor,
sphere on square
and seam on seam,
in a good light —
a night-sky spread —
will it start to hit me.

These are not bits.
They are pieces.

And the pieces fit.

~ Eavan Boland, born 1944, Irish poet

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Cat in an Empty Apartment

(Wislawa Szymborska, 1923-2012, Polish
poet and translator)

With sadness we note that the great Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska died last week.

Szymborska received 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,” according to the citation that announced the prize. Her criticism of civilization “often finds expression in an irony made more scathing by its very restraint: ‘There is no such thing as a self-critical jackal.’ In this way her muse becomes subversive in the best meaning of that term.”

The Committee also remarked that Szymborska has been compared to the greatest of composers, to Mozart “in view of her wealth of inspiration and the veritable ease with which her words seem to fall into place,” and to Beethoven for “the fury . . . in her creative work.”

Ave atque vale. Hail and farewell.

(To read the eight poems we have published of hers in this blog, please click on her name in the “labels” just below today’s poem.)


Die — you can’t do that to a cat.
Since what can a cat do
in an empty apartment?
Climb the walls?
Rub up against the furniture?
Nothing seems different here,
but nothing is the same.
Nothing has been moved,
but there’s more space.
And at nighttime no lamps are lit.

Footsteps on the staircase,
but they’re new ones.
The hand that puts fish on the saucer
has changed, too.

Something doesn’t start
at its usual time.
Something doesn’t happen
as it should.
Someone was always, always here,
then suddenly disappeared,
and stubbornly stays disappeared.

Every closet has been examined.
Every shelf has been explored.
Excavations under the carpet turned up nothing.
A commandment was even broken,
papers scattered everywhere.
What remains to be done.
Just sleep and wait.

Just wait till he turns up,
just let him show his face.
Will he ever get a lesson
on what not to do to a cat.
Sidle towards him
as if unwilling
and ever so slow
on visibly offended paws,
and no leaps or squeals at least to start.

~ Wislawa Szymborska

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Peace of Wild Things

(Blue Heron by Isaac Bignell, 1959-1995,
Canadian Cree artist)

“One can live fully only by participating fully in the succession of the generations, in death as well as in life. Some would say (and I am one of them) that we can live fully only by making ourselves as answerable to the claims of eternity as to those of time.”

~ Wendell Berry, born 1934, American poet, farmer, and agrarian writer, from
Life Is a Miracle: An Essay against Modern Superstition


When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

~ Wendell Berry

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Best Thing in the World

Each Friday we provide the link to the blog that is hosting a celebration of poetry around the blogosphere. At that site 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.

Enjoy the festivities!

The host this week is Karissa Knox Sorrell. You can visit her here at The Iris Chronicles.

(Summer Night by Piet Mondrian, 1872-1944, Dutch painter)

This is a good question for contemplation.


What’s the best thing in the world?
June-rose, by May-dew impearled;
Sweet south-wind, that means no rain,
Truth, not cruel to a friend;
Pleasure, not in haste to end;
Beauty, not self-decked and curled
Till its pride is over-plain;
Love, when, so, you’re loved again.
What’s the best thing in the world?
— Something out of it, I think.

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

Thursday, February 2, 2012

In Silence

(Untitled, 1969 by Mark Rothko, 1903-1970, American

“Contemplation is related to art, to worship, to charity: all these reach out by intuition and self-dedication into the realms that transcend the material conduct of everyday life. Or rather, in the midst of ordinary life itself they seek and find a new and transcendent meaning. And by this meaning, they transfigure the whole of life.”

~ Thomas Merton (1915-1968), American Trappist monk, poet, and writer of many books and essays, from
Art and Spirituality


Be still.
Listen to the stones of the wall.
Be silent, they try
To speak your

To the living walls.
Who are you?
Are you? Whose
Silence are you?

Who (be quiet)
Are you (as these stones
Are quiet). Do not
Think of what you are
Still less of
What you may one day be.
Be what you are (but who?) be
The unthinkable one
You do not know.

O be still, while
You are still alive,
And all things live around you
Speaking (I do not hear)
To your own being,
Speaking by the Unknown
That is in you and in themselves.

“I will try, like them
To be my own silence:
And this is difficult. The whole
World is secretly on fire. The stones
Burn, even the stones
They burn me. How can a man be still or
Listen to all things burning? How can he dare
To sit with them
When all their silence
Is on fire?”

~ Thomas Merton

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Hunting the Phoenix

(Nun by Morris Louis, 1912-1962, American Abstract
Expressionist painter)

Today we begin a month of contemplation guided by poetry. The poem below speaks to a journey of inner discovery made possible by the exploration of past experience.

According to Greek mythology, the phoenix is a wondrous bird with shining red and gold plumage. It lives for centuries until there comes a time when it breaks out into a haunting dirge, before it burns itself on a funeral pyre of spices set alight by the sun and fanned by its own wings. The phoenix then arises from the ashes, renewed, resurrected, to live again.


Leaf through discolored manuscripts,
make sure no words
lie thirsting, bleeding,
waiting for rescue. No:
old loves half-
articulated, moments forced
out of the stream of perception
to play “statue,”
and never released —
they had no blood to shed.
You must seek
the ashy nest itself
if you hope to find
charred feathers, smoldering flightbones,
and a twist of singing flame

~ Denise Levertov (1923-1977), English-born American poet