Robinson Jeffers (Forerunners)

Underfoot Poetry

jeffersRemember when poets made the cover of Time? It’s too bad the reputation ofRobinson Jeffers has pretty much disappeared; but read any of the following poems aloud and see if you don’t hear something brutal, beautiful, and essential. While heseems to have staked his reputation on the longer narratives that pretty well fill his Collected Poetry, it’s his small, powerful lyrics that strike me as being as good as anything ever written.



INSCRIPTION FOR A GRAVESTONE

I am not dead, I have only become inhuman:
That is to say,
Undressed myself of laughable prides and infirmities,
But not as a man
Undresses to creep into bed, but like an athlete
Stripping for the race.
The delicate ravel of nerves that made me a measurer
Of certain fictions
Called good and evil; that made me contract with pain
And expand with pleasure;
Fussily adjusted like a little…

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Kitty Coles (6 Poems)

Underfoot Poetry

Black Moon

Season for walking
out into white frost
under the black moon.

Feeling the grass bend,
the cold enfold flesh,
the dark draw closer.

Scenting the wet
earth, lying fallow:
ice has its own smell.

Tasting night on the
tongue, cobwebby, thin,
and the mouth’s own heat.

Watching the breath steam,
cloudy, abundant,
twining with old leaves.

Hearing the silence
staking its own claim.
Then – the keen owl cry

sadly to fierce stars
as once the wolves cried,
walking here also.


Daylight Fox

We watch her circle the house, crouched low to the ground.
Her hollow flanks flutter, in out, in out, and her fur,
black-tipped, as if charred, shivers with them.

She has sensed the warmth of breath, the throb
of a heart. She has scented the rust
of blood, its salt abundance.

Her doggish ears tense forward.
Her gilt eyes narrow. Her pulse comes fast
and…

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The Song of the Sea (Forerunners)

Underfoot Poetry

The Song of the Sea,” which comprises Exodus 15:1-18 and tells of the Israelites’ escape from Egypt via the Red Sea, is one of the oldest parts of the Bible. Explaining the early form of Hebrew in which it was written, James Kugel notes that the Hebrew prefix ha- (a definite article corresponding to our word “the”) only developed in later Hebrew, so that while in the rest of the Old Testament ha- can be found in abundance, in “The Song of the Sea” “it is not found even once.”

While the song appears later in the Exodus than the prose version of the escape, in chapter 14,  Kugel points to other songs in the Old Testament that were also placed amid later prose renditions of the same events: the Song of Deborah in Judges 5, Hannah’s Hymn in 1 Samuel 2, David’s song in 2 Samuel 22…

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If You Don’t Believe in Cultural Appropriation, You’re Wrong: A Satire

SAY IT WITH ME: THIS IS SATIRE! I’ve been silent long enough. When college students complained in 2015 that the Asian-themed food in their cafeteria was a mockery and appropriation of a grand culinary tradition, I said nothing. College students have no money after all, why should they complain about bad food, no matter its…

Michael McGill (5 Poems)

Underfoot Poetry

Documentary

A woman in a documentary
is frozen in my mind. She stands
behind an asylum window

and whispers in a foreign language.
The subtitle below her
reads, “Please let me out of here.”

She is framed by the subtitle;
framed by the edit
of her portrayal.

Finally, she is framed
by the asylum itself.
“Please let me out of here,” she says.


Possessions

1.
On that last day at my Grandmother’s
house, after we had taken down
her paintings and placed all of her
possessions into boxes, I opened
a door in the hall. I had always

thought this was a small cupboard.
But it wasn’t. Instead, the door
revealed a tiny spiral flight
of stairs. And it was up
these stairs that I climbed.

2.
The spiral staircase led to a loft,
and in the corner of the room was
a photograph of my Grandmother
as a young…

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Anglo-Saxon Poetry (Forerunners)

Underfoot Poetry

Many thanks to David Cooke for contributing this week’s Forerunner, and it’s quite a treat. Below he has recorded a good portion of two Anglo-Saxon poems, “The Ruin” and “The Seafarer” in the original Old English. Also included is the original text, an English translation and, following “The Ruin,” David Cooke’s response to the poem, “Ruins.” These doomed, mournful poems have remained vivid for more than a thousand years, and we’ll be lucky if anything from our own day lasts half as long.


The Ruin

Wrætlic is þes wealstan,   wyrde gebræcon;
burgstede burston,   brosnað enta geweorc.
Hrofas sind gehrorene,   hreorge torras,
hrungeat berofen,   hrim on lime,
scearde scurbeorge   scorene, gedrorene,
ældo undereotone.   Eorðgrap hafað
waldend wyrhtan   forweorone, geleorene,
heardgripe hrusan,   oþ hund cnea
werþeoda gewitan.   Oft þæs wag gebad
ræghar ond readfah   rice æfter oþrum,
ofstonden under stormum;   steap geap gedreas…
                              … hygerof gebond
weallwalan wirum   wundrum togædre.
Beorht…

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