T. S. Eliot hits the highest notes

Some poetry can become so much a part of our own personal scripture that its status as “literature” is pretty much irrelevant. This is near the top for me: From “East Coker” I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre, The lights are […]

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Adrienne Rich: 4 Love Poems

from 21 Love Poems: 1 Whenever in this city, screens flicker with pornography, with science-fiction vampires, victimized hirelings bending to the lash, we also have to walk . . . if simply as we walk through the rainsoaked garbage, the tabloid cruelties of our own neighborhoods. We need to grasp our lives inseparable from those rancid dreams, that blurt of […]

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Ted Hughes: 2 War Poems

Six Young Men The celluloid of a photograph holds them well – Six young men, familiar to their friends. Four decades that have faded and ochre-tinged This photograph have not wrinkled the faces or the hands. Though their cocked hats are not now fashionable, Their shoes shine. One imparts an intimate smile, One chews a grass, one lowers his eyes, […]

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James Merrill: A Poem to Begin Things

Here is how James Merrill begins his 560 page poem, The Changing Light at Sandover, published between 1976 and 1982; it being the record of his conversations with a Ouija board, &  with the spirits of W. H. Auden & many many others: Admittedly I err by undertaking This in its present form. The baldest prose Reportage was called for, that […]

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Emily Dickinson Affirms a Soul

#1142 The Props assist the House Until the House is built And then the Props withdraw And adequate, erect, The House support itself And cease to recollect The Augur and the Carpenter – Just such a retrospect Hath the perfected Life – A Past of Plank and Nail And slowness – then the scaffolds drop Affirming it a Soul –

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Allen Ginsberg, “Paterson”

Paterson What do I want in these rooms papered with visions of money? How much can I make by cutting my hair? If I put new heels on my shoes, bathe my body reeking of masturbation and sweat, layer upon layer of excrement dried in employment bureaus, magazine hallways, statistical cubicles, factory stairways, cloakrooms of the smiling gods of psychiatry; […]

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Robert Frost: “Out, Out – ”

“Out, Out – ” The buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood, Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it. And from there those that lifted eyes could count Five mountain ranges one behind the other Under the sunset far into Vermont. And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and […]

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Elizabeth Bishop, “The Shampoo”

The Shampoo The still explosions on the rocks, the lichens, grow by spreading, gray, concentric shocks. They have arranged to meet the rings around the moon, although within our memories they have not changed. And since the heavens will attend as long on us, you’ve been, dear friend, precipitate and pragmatical; and look what happens. For Time is nothing if […]

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