Sunday, October 20, 2013

"This is My Life" by William Stanley Braithwaite

This is My Life
by William Stanley Braithwaite

To feed my soul with beauty till I die; 
To give my hands a pleasant task to do; 
To keep my heart forever filled anew 
With dreams and wonders which the days supply; 
To love all conscious living, and thereby 
Respect the brute who renders up its due, 
And know the world as planned is good and true- 
And thus -because there chanced to be an I! 

This is my life since things are as they are: 
One half akin to flowers and the grass: 
The rest a law unto the changeless star. 
And I believe when I shall come to pass 
Within the Door His hand shall hold ajar 
I'll leave no echoing whisper of Alas!

Even though This is My Life by Braithwaite is written in the more formal, structured style of the very early 20th Century poets, I appreciate its flow, timbre and emotion. I would call this a romantic poem, though the "romance" of it has more to do with the poets metaphysical relationship with life than a romance with another human being. As much as I enjoy contemporary free-verse poetry, I think I will always love and admire structured verse when it reaches deeper levels like this one does. What I'm hearing from this poem is an acceptance of life as it is, not with apathy but with exuberance and even gratitude. I find it sweet and pure, not sugary sweet or pretentious in any way but childlike in its simplicity of heart, which works for me.  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Interesting: Melville, author of "Moby Dick," was unrecognized during his lifetime.

Herman Melville

Born in 1819 into a once-prominent New York family, Herman Melville was raised in an atmosphere of financial instability and genteel pretense. After his father's death, Melville attempted to support his family by working various jobs, from banking to teaching school. However, it was his adventures as a seaman in 1845 that inspired Melville to write. On one voyage, he was captured and held for several months by the Typees; when he returned unscathed, friends encouraged Melville to write the escapade down. Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life became his first literary success; the continuation of his adventures appeared in his second book, Omoo.
After ending his seafaring career, Melville's concern over his sporadic education inspired him to read voraciously. In 1847, he married Elizabeth Shaw and moved first to New York and then the Berkshires. There he lived near the reclusive writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, who was to become a close friend and confidant. Intoxicated by metaphysics, Melville penned Mardi and a Voyage Thither, a philosophical allegory. The book failed, and though discouraged, Melville dashed off Redburn, a comedy. Although the book proved a financial success, Melville immediately returned to the symbolic in his next novel, White-Jacket; or, the World in a Man-of-War. In 1851, he completed his masterpiece, Moby-Dick, or the Whale. Considered by modern scholars to be one of the great American novels, the book was dismissed by Melville's contemporaries and he made little money from the effort. The other two novels that today form the core of the Melville canon—Pierre; or the Ambiguities and The Confidence Man—met with a similar fate.
During the 1850s, Melville supported his family by farming and writing stories for magazines. He later traveled to Europe, where he saw his friend Hawthorne for the last time. During that visit in 1856, it was clear to Melville that his novel-writing career was finished. In 1857, after returning to New York still unnoticed by the literary public, he stopped writing fiction. He became a customs inspector, a job he held for twenty years. And he began to write poetry.
The Civil War made a deep impression on Melville and became the principal subject of his verse. With so many family members participating in various aspects of the war, Melville found himself intimately connected to events, and also sought out conflict for himself. He observed the Senate debating secession during a visit to Washington D.C. in 1861, and made a remarkable trip to the front with his brother in 1864. Melville's first published book of poems was Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War (1866), a meditation. The volume is regarded by many critics as a work as ambitious and rich as any of his novels. Unfortunately, Melville's remains relatively unrecognized as a poet.
Herman Melville died of a heart attack on September 28, 1891, at the age of 72. At that time, he was almost completely forgotten by all but a few admirers. During the week of his death, The New York Times wrote: "There has died and been buried in this city…a man who is so little known, even by name, to the generation now in the vigor of life that only one newspaper contained an obituary account of him, and this was but of three or four lines." It wasn't until the 1920s that the literary public began to recognize Melville as one of America's greatest writers.

A Selected Bibliography
Battle-Pieces and Aspectsof the War: Civil War Poems (1866)
Clarel: A Poem and a Pilgrimage (1876)
John Marr and Other Sailors (1888)
Timoleon (1891)
Billy Budd, Sailor (1924)
Israel Potter (1855)
Mardi (1849)
Moby-Dick, or the Whale (1851)
Omoo (1847)
Pierre, or The Ambiguities (1852)
Redburn (1849)
The Confidence-Man (1857)
The Piazza Tales Israel Potter (1856)
Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life (1846)
White-Jacket; or, the World in a Man-of-War (1850)

- See more at:

First Smartphone to Be Produced Ethically

Very interesting article on a new company that will soon be producing a smart phone ethically or, at least, more ethically than the current smartphones. Worth the read.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Poem, "Portrait in Georgia" by Jean Toomer

Portrait in Georgia

  by Jean Toomer

Hair--braided chestnut,
     coiled like a lyncher's rope,
Lips--old scars, or the first red blisters,
Breath--the last sweet scent of cane,
And her slim body, white as the ash
     of black flesh after flame.

- See more at:

Saturday, September 14, 2013

"Marriage" by William Carlos Williams


  by William Carlos Williams

So different, this man
And this woman:
A stream flowing 
In a field.

- See more at:

This is a beautifully crafted example of short form poetry. There is so much brought to the reader to see, yet so few words to illustrate. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I love this poem by Major Jackson on dying, titled, "On Disappearing."
His language and imagery is exquisite.

(Courtesy of

About This Poem
"We are surrounded on all sides by the persistence of death and its implications. One could argue, as many have done, that all that we do is a compensation for this fact, including writing a poem." 

--Major Jackson

Sunday, August 11, 2013

I love this poem by Louis Bogan.


At night the moon shakes the bright dice of the water;
And the elders, their flower light as broken snow upon the bush,
Repeat the circle of the moon.

Within the month
Black fruit breaks from the white flower.
The black-wheeled berries turn
Weighing the boughs over the road.
There is no harvest.
Heavy to withering, the black wheels bend
Ripe for the mouths of chance lovers,
Or birds.

      Twigs show again in the quick cleavage of season and season.
      The elders sag over the powdery road-bank,
      As though they bore, and it were too much,
      The seed of the year beyond the year. 
Today's poem is in the public domain. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

"An Exhortation" by Percy Bysshe Shelley

An Exhortation

  by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Chameleons feed on light and air:
   Poets' food is love and fame:
If in this wide world of care
   Poets could but find the same
With as little toil as they,
   Would they ever change their hue
   As the light chameleons do,
Suiting it to every ray
      Twenty times a day?

Poets are on this cold earth,
   As chameleons might be,
Hidden from their early birth
   In a cave beneath the sea;
Where light is, chameleons change:
   Where love is not, poets do:
   Fame is love disguised: if few
Find either, never think it strange
      That poets range.

Yet dare not stain with wealth or power
   A poet's free and heavenly mind:
If bright chameleons should devour
   Any food but beams and wind, 
They would grow as earthly soon
   As their brother lizards are.
   Children of a sunnier star,
Spirits from beyond the moon,
      Oh, refuse the boon!

- See more at:

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Cinquain Poem

five-line poem;
twenty-two syllables
laid out two, four, six, eight, then two


again awake
and looking for the moon
in every window of the house

Monday, April 8, 2013

Confusion with the prefix "bi"

Check it out:

Well, here's one for the list of English language potentially dangerous confusions: biweekly, bimonthly, biannually. Now, granted, confusion may be averted with the term biannually by using its clearer sister word, biennially, which can only be interpreted as "every two years." But, still, the general confusion may occur with all the other terms. The prefix bi is rooted in the Latin, from bis, which means two or twice. So, biweekly may mean twice a week or every two weeks, bimonthly may mean twice a month or every two months, biannually may mean twice a year or every two years.

I vow to steer clear from all of these terms in my writing unless there is a sure fire way to clarify to the reader exactly which meaning I mean. I suggest the same for writers everywhere. Thoughts?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

My first cinquain poem

I just learned about the poetry form of the cinquain via Here is my first effort: 

five-line poem;
twenty-two syllables
laid out two, four, six, eight, then two

My Belief For Today 

I think
(but do not know)
why things are as they are
may be because of some wisdom

Friday, March 8, 2013

Poem, "Dusk," by Margo Berdeshevsky

This poem speaks to me very deeply. I love the way Berdeshevsky uses imagery here to create emotion with intuitive understanding that transcends intellectual exactness. So powerful.

by Margo Berdeshevsky
This is the place. No chairs.
A woman who is choosing
has sent a petal from her bloom
of conscious closing.

The woman who is choosing when
-scratches vellum. The rook stands.
The woman in the nest of
the phoenix hovers nearer
her edge like that brood of birthing

opal-throated pigeons in an empty
flower trough,
thirsty, one stair above my sill,
breaking their shells one by

one. She repeats
my words
from dusk in a jungle where
medicine leaned small against thorn trees.
Each poison growing in a forest

lives beside its antidote, we said.
I am still eager, I said.
Or the scent of hyacinth.
The woman remembering, who is

choosing when to die will
curl before leaves have blood-burned September.
Surrender by starvation,
she doesn't name her illness

only how many days.
Three more. The woman
in worn white cotton washed us in a tide pool,
brewed petals, shouted under

egrets at the edge of rain. Bon voyage to me & love
life as you live it she scribbles blue before her breath
ends a night and a day and the broken slant

The woman who was choosing when to die.
Too young to be skeletal, skin taken wing.
Bone no longer needed. Dove.
Fire-eyed. Distant. Opal.

The root does not care
where her water comes from.
Here is another thirsty body.
Broken into morning.

*NOTE: The poem "Dusk" by Margo Berdeshevsky is copyrighted material taken from The Academy of American Poets website: www. This copyrighted material is owned in its entirety by Margo Berdeshevsky and is not meant to be used in any way that may infringe on its copyright. 

[For more information regarding Margo Berdeshevsky, visit: 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Poem, "A pillow in the city" by Patricia Spears Jones

I find this poem by Patricia Spears Jones very beautiful and potent. I love how Jones uses the pillow as a metaphor to reveal the tragedy of social inequality and the rage and despair that results from it. "A pillow" brings to mind another poem that uses metaphor very powerfully, "Yellowjackets" by Yusef Komunyakaa (posted below Jones' "A pillow").

Read both and compare the subtle methods each of these brilliant poets uses to illustrate, by focusing on the specific and the concrete, a deeper truth that transcends the specific and reaches into the vast arena of our humanity. Enjoy! 

A pillow in the city
by Patricia Spears Jones 

Ghostly falls from the fifteenth floor
Feathers leaking/ the pillow speaking

How the sleeper's nightly pounding
Made the pillow yelp and moan

Poor sleeper heard these comments
Angered threw said pillow into

An ugly summer night's air

The pillow had little choice
The sleeper's fists. The sleeper's mouth

Not kind, not soft, always angry
The sleeper always angry--even

Dreaming the sleeper could not
Stop rage, so the bed was a battlefield
The pillow, an enemy. And now

Said enemy slowly plunges towards
The courtyard deflated, a feral squirrel

Watches the fall, moves on towards
The overflowing garbage bins, nose open
Time to feast.

Copyright © 2013 by Patricia Spears Jones. Used with permission of the author.


When the plowblade struck   
An old stump hiding under   
The soil like a beggar’s   
Rotten tooth, they swarmed up   
& Mister Jackson left the plow   
Wedged like a whaler’s harpoon.   
The horse was midnight   
Against dusk, tethered to somebody’s   
Pocketwatch.  He shivered, but not   
The way women shook their heads   
Before mirrors at the five   
& dime—a deeper connection   
To the low field’s evening star.   
He stood there, in tracechains,   
Lathered in froth, just   
Stopped by a great, goofy   
Calmness.  He whinnied   
Once, & then the whole   
Beautiful, blue-black sky   
Fell on his back.
Poem copyright ©2001 by Yusef Komunyakaa, reprinted from “Pleasure Dome: New & Collected Poems, 1975-1999,” Wesleyan Univ. Press, 2001, by permission.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Happy birthday to Lewis Carroll! Enjoy his poem, "Acrostic."

by Lewis Carroll
Little maidens, when you look
On this little story-book,
Reading with attentive eye
Its enticing history,
Never think that hours of play
Are your only HOLIDAY,
And that in a HOUSE of joy
Lessons serve but to annoy:
If in any HOUSE you find
Children of a gentle mind,
Each the others pleasing ever--
Each the others vexing never--
Daily work and pastime daily
In their order taking gaily--
Then be very sure that they
Have a life of HOLIDAY.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Call of the Open by Shelley

Listen beyond the seemingly archaic form of the language Shelley used to hear what he is actually saying here. This is quite a poem. Enjoy! 

The Call of the Open
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Which yet joined not scent to hue,
Crown the pale year weak and new;
When the night is left behind
In the deep east, dun and blind,
And the blue noon is over us,
And the multitudinous
Billows murmur at our feet,
Where the earth and ocean meet,
And all things seem only one
In the universal sun.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Great interview w/ poet Richard Blanco

Our People, Our Future: Richard Blanco in Conversation

by Richard Blanco

Academy of American Poets staff spoke with Richard Blanco in the days leading up to his delivering a poem at President Obama's Inauguration on January 21, 2013. To prepare for your writing the inaugural poem, have you studied the inaugural poems by Robert Frost, Miller Williams, Maya Angelou or Elizabeth Alexander? Or, have you reached out to any of those poets (still living) for advice?
Richard Blanco: Yes, I have looked mostly at Angelou's poem, and then Alexander's poem, too. I see this position as not only being about writing my own poem for the nation, but also keeping a certain sense of continuity, and so their poems were some of the first places I went to—looking at how they quote/unquote solved the occasional poem.
But I also went back to a poem by a friend and colleague of mine, Nikki Moustaki, that has always stayed in my memory: "How To Write A Poem After September 11th," which was published in the New York Times on its own page (and included in the anthology Poetry After 9/11: An Anthology of New York Poets, Melville House, 2002). It was also, in some sense, an occasional poem, and very inspiring to me.
And, I went back to some of my old favorites just for language, to reinspire myself. My Elizabeth Bishops and my Robert Frosts. So, the whole gang came out. What is it about poetry that makes it the art form we turn to so often to mark or understand significant events?
Blanco: In terms of my personal aesthetic or take on poetry, I would say that poetry is the place we go to when we don't have any more words: that place that is so emotionally centered. It is the place we go to when we have something that we can't quite put a finger on, that we can't explain away, that we can't easily understand with the mind.
It's the reason I come to poetry as well. As I love to say in my writing classes: If you sit down totally convinced of what the poem is going to be, don't even sit down. Because writing a poem is a discovery process.
I've been working on a memoir, which is more about storytelling. I've learned to recognize that when I sit down to write a poem, I have something to figure out, and I have to do it on the page. And I hope that my inaugural poem will do that, in some ways, for the nation. That it will work towards making sense of—all the din of the day—all that we hear in the news. The theme of this Inauguration is "Our People, Our Future." How might the poem you will offer help explore or speak to this theme?
Blanco: The theme was something I immediately connected with. In my writing I focus mostly on my immediate family, but because I'm Cuban, that means a lot of people. My family is big. There's plenty to write about.
I grew up around very Salt-of-the-Earth people—my mother working in my uncle's grocery store. We were a struggling, working-class family. I connected with the theme because so much of my even being asked to present a poem is what the American Dream tastes of—that sense of coming to life. And when I first heard the news of my being chosen to read, the first people I thought of were my parents and my grandparents.
How do we ensure our future? It's through the work we do, through the art we produce. I think about my parents and my family, what they had to sacrifice, how hard they worked, and how much they loved this country—in that sense, they are "our people." So many individuals in the LGBT and Latino communities are proud that you were selected by the President to read. How does your identity inform your poetry?
Blanco: Well, I'll tell you something that might be a little more interesting. In my first two books, I focused more on the cultural negotiation of being from an exiled community. I grew up between two imaginary worlds. One was the Cuba that my community always talked about, the place that we left that some day we were going back to, the stories, the pictures, the photographs, the letters. The other imaginary place was America.
I grew up in Miami, which was a culturally isolated community back in the 1970s. You know, I really believed in those houses and households on the sitcoms, on Leave it to Beaver and The Brady Bunch. I really thought America existed outside of where I lived. Being in Miami was somewhere in between, a purgatory or a waiting ground, waiting to get to America. I negotiated that in my writing, as soon as I started writing.
My very first writing class was taught by Campbell McGrath, and my very first writing assignment was to "Write a poem about America." And that became the very first poem in my very first book, "América."
I immediately found a reason for writing beyond the love of the words. I had something that I wanted to discover. All of a sudden I was twenty-something thinking: Wait a minute, I'm not as Cuban as I thought and I'm not as American either. That kind of trumped a lot of sexual identity questions.
My third book is sort of the book in which I came out of the literary closet. Its theme and topic was the intersection of these identities, or how they collided.
What does it mean to be a gay Cuban man? Asking that really opened the door. It piqued my interest in that sense. And now I've been with my partner for twelve years, and I'm 44. It's almost like my mind couldn't handle negotiating both things at the same time, until this third book.
My work has to do with searching—searching within myself, but searching for what the universal experience is that poetry taps into as well. When were you first interested in poetry?
Blanco: Since I grew up in an immigrant, very working-class family, Picasso and T.S. Eliot were not exactly dinner conversation. Being a poet was outside of my realm of possibilities in a way. And like many children from immigrant, working-class families, my parents wanted their kids to do better.
So I wasn't guided toward poetry; I was guided to be a lawyer, doctor, engineer. I was really good at math—which I guess is a double-edged sword—so I chose engineering, with the idea of going on and getting a Master's in Architecture.
As they say, life is what happens in between the things that you plan. But there was always, since I was a kid, a creative spirit that wouldn't silence itself. So after I graduated with an engineering degree, I began, as I say, fooling around with poetry. Poetry, or at least writing, is something that we're used to. You can pick up a piece of paper and a pen and write. You don't have to go buy brushes and a can of paint to express your creativity. I was about 23 or 24 then, and, of course, I wrote pretty bad poems. But I was never afraid to show them to people. I would show a poem to a friend who was an English major, and he or she would say, "Oh, you know, this is pretty good. I like this." Then someone said, "Have you ever thought of taking a creative writing class at a community college?" And finally someone said, "Why don't you go and get an MFA?"
I came to writing poetry late in life. (Although, I do remember looking at poetry in my older brother's textbooks, specifically "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey.") But I'm grateful for that. I've had a whole other realm of experiences.
At the same time, sometimes I feel somewhere in the middle. That's been the arc or theme of my life: always in a middle. Living the life of a straight man until age 25 (in the middle), living between the ideal of American culture and the Cuban heritage, living between engineering and poetry. It seems to be this kind of economy I have going on, which somehow makes me happy. You are the youngest poet to present an Inaugural poem. Does it feel to you like there is a shift to a new generation of leaders and voices?
Blanco: I like that. Yes, it reminds me of a conversation I had with Natasha Trethewey, our U. S. Poet Laureate, who I saw at the Dodge Poetry Festival. She's the youngest Poet Laureate ever, and she has gone through an MFA program and participated in the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) conference. Our whole world of poetry has changed so much in one generation. It's great that Natasha has a real grasp on that and what our challenges are as poets, and what the challenges of poetry are in America, in this generation.
I think sometimes there's a divide. But I think everyone in the poetry world has been working subconsciously to connect poetry to more people. And it's working. Because of my background, I hope I can bring other things to the table as well.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Off Lows, Weakness Remains: Meditation #3 by Susan Briante

Off Lows, Weakness Remains: 
Meditation #3
by Susan Briante

In the PartyStore/PierOne/Target/Kohls parking lot
find a desert willow among the shopping carts,

walk around it sunwise repeating:

        I am the avant-garde, I am the avant-garde, I am 
           the avant-garde


        DIY, DIY, DIY

Imagine a chart of median family incomes as big as
   the parking lot--
use it to determine where to abandon your car.

        I default, I default, I default

Your mind is a blood blister rising on your thumb,
   a ladybug.
Among these shopping carts, you fortress. Among
   plastic bags you affirm:

Lo! the light from desert trees does not speak in
   numbers, costs us nothing.
Here, as in a butterfly garden, everyone crawls
   before flight.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Tea at the Palaz of Hoon

Tea at the Palaz of Hoon

by Wallace Stevens

Not less because in purple I descended
The western day through what you called
The loneliest air, not less was I myself.

What was the ointment sprinkled on my beard?
What were the hymns that buzzed beside my ears?
What was the sea whose tide swept through me there?

Out of my mind the golden ointment rained,
And my ears made the blowing hymns they heard.
I was myself the compass of that sea:

I was the world in which I walked, and what I saw
Or heard or felt came not but from myself;
And there I found myself more truly and more strange.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Poem, "The Visionary" by Emily Brontë

The Visionary 
by Emily Brontë
Silent is the house: all are laid asleep:
One alone looks out o'er the snow-wreaths deep,
Watching every cloud, dreading every breeze
That whirls the wildering drift, and bends the
   groaning trees.

Cheerful is the hearth, soft the matted floor;
Not one shivering gust creeps through pane or door;
The little lamp burns straight, its rays shoot strong
   and far:
I trim it well, to be the wanderer's guiding-star.

Frown, my haughty sire! chide, my angry dame!
Set your slaves to spy; threaten me with shame:
But neither sire nor dame nor prying serf shall know,
What angel nightly tracks that waste of frozen snow.

What I love shall come like visitant of air,
Safe in secret power from lurking human snare;
What loves me, no word of mine shall e'er betray,
Though for faith unstained my life must forfeit pay.

Burn, then, little lamp; glimmer straight and clear-
Hush! a rustling wing stirs, methinks, the air:
He for whom I wait, thus ever comes to me;
Strange Power! I trust thy might; trust thou
   my constancy.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

"Lilacs In September" by Katha Pollitt

I'm sharing this poem that editor Emma Dryden shared on Twitter. It says so much in few words: the proof of truly great writing. Enjoy! 

Lilacs In September
     by Katha Pollitt

Shocked to the root
like the lilac bush
in the vacant lot
by the hurricane--

whose back branch split
by wind or rain
has broken out

into these scant ash-
colored blossoms
lifted high
as if to say

to passersby
What will unleash
itself in you
when your storm comes?