Reading 3 new poems: The Harvest of 1665, The Historian, Mr Cassian’s 54th Dream

On 8/26/20, a virtual book launch was held in London to celebrate three new titles published by Dempsey & Windle. As part of the reading I read the following poems: “The Harvest of 1665,” on the harvest following the plague of London in that year “The Historian,” on the execution of Sir Walter Raleigh “Mr […]

“Caedmon Comes to Singing” – new poem at Londongrip

Many thanks to Michael Bartholomew-Biggs, for publishing my poem “Caedmon Comes to Singing” in the new issue of Londongrip. Many will remember that Caedmon, who lived in seventh-century Northumbria, is credited with being one of the earliest English poets; I suppose we can all learn from his half-mythic example, of living most of his life […]

Seamus Heaney, from “Lightenings”

Seamus Heaney, from “Lightenings” Seamus Heaney often said that, from his experience as a poet, one’s creative life followed three phases: “the movement involves a pattern of getting started, keeping going and getting started again. Some books are a matter of keeping going; some—if you’re lucky—get you started again.” Heaney was without doubt that his […]

H. D., “Orchard”

H. D., “Orchard” I saw the first pearas it fell –the honey-seeking, golden-banded,the yellow swarmwas not more fleet than I,(spare us from loveliness)and I fell prostratecrying:you have flayed uswith your blossoms,spare us the beautyof fruit-trees. The honey-seekingpaused not,the air thundered their song,and I alone was prostrate. O rough-hewngod of the orchard,I bring you an offering […]

Amy Lowell, “Thompson’s Lunch Room—Grand Central Station”

Amy Lowell, “Thompson’s Lunch Room—Grand Central Station” STUDY IN WHITES Wax-white—Floor, ceiling, walls.Ivory shadowsOver the pavementPolished to cream surfacesBy constant sweeping.The big room is coloured like the petalsOf a great magnolia,And has a patinaOf flower bloomWhich makes it shine dimlyUnder the electric lamps.Chairs are ranged in rowsLike sepia seedsWaiting fulfilment.The chalk-white spot of a cook’s […]

Delmore Schwartz, “In the Naked Bed, in Plato’s Cave”

Delmore Schwartz, “In the Naked Bed, in Plato’s Cave” In the naked bed, in Plato’s cave, Reflected headlights slowly slid the wall, Carpenters hammered under the shaded window, Wind troubled the window curtains all night long, A fleet of trucks strained uphill, grinding, Their freights covered, as usual. The ceiling lightened again, the slanting diagram […]

Seamus Heaney, “The Strand at Lough Beg” (An Elegy from the Troubles)

Seamus Heaney, “The Strand at Lough Beg” In Memory of Colum McCartney All round this little island, on the strand Far down below there, where the breakers strive Grow the tall rushes from the oozy sand. – Dante, Purgatorio, I, 100-3 Leaving the white glow of filling stations And a few lonely streetlamps among fields […]

Genevieve Taggard, “To One Loved Wholly Within Wisdom”

Genevieve Taggard, “To One Loved Wholly Within Wisdom” Someone will reap you like a field, Pile your gathered plunder, Garner what you bring to yield, Turn your beauty under; In cruel usages, in such Sickle-cutting, heaping; Certain women toil too much, Wearing of their reaping; Someone else may winnow you; Someone else may plunder; I […]

Ted Hughes – “Crow’s Song about God”

Ted Hughes – “Crow’s Song about God” Somebody is sittingUnder the gatepost of heavenUnder the lintelOn which are written the words: “Forbidden to the living.”A knot of eyes, eyeholes, lifeless, in the life-shapeA rooty old oak-stump, aground in the oozeOf some putrid estuary,Snaggy with amputations,His fingernails broken and bitten,His hair vestigial and purposeless, his toenails […]

W. B. Yeats, “Meru”

W. B. Yeats, “Meru” Civilisation is hooped together, broughtUnder a rule, under the semblance of peaceBy manifold illusion; but man’s life is thought,And he, despite his terror, cannot ceaseRavening through century after century,Ravening, raging, and uprooting that he may comeInto the desolation of reality:Egypt and Greece, good-bye, and good-bye, Rome!Hermits upon Mount Meru or Everest,Caverned […]

Heaney on Writing

Here’s Seamus Heaney talking about writing, from Dennis O’Driscoll’s book-length interview with him, Stepping Stones: On Inspiration On the week in May 1969 when he wrote “about forty poems”: It was a visitation, an onset, and as such, powerfully confirming. This you felt, was “it.” You had been initiated into the order of the inspired. […]

The Great Myths #53: Thor Goes Fishing for the Serpent that Surrounds the World (Norse)

Read the other Great Myths here Long ago the slaughter-gods were eating their hunting-prey in the mood for a drink, before they were full; they shook the sticks and looked at the lots: they learned that at Ægir’s was a fine crop of cauldrons. The cliff-dweller [Ægir] sat there, child-cheerful, much like Miskorblindi’s boy; the […]

Harold Bloom Discovers That What Writers Work Hardest On Isn’t What Readers Remember Most

from Bloom’s 1991 interview with The Paris Review: You know, I’ve learned something over the years, picking up copies of my books in secondhand bookstores and in libraries, off people’s shelves. I’ve written so much and have now looked at so many of these books that I’ve learned a great deal. You also learn this […]

Odin & Baldr (poem)

Odin & Baldr The High One heard the lowest prophecy: already riddled with the worst of dreams, his boy Baldr would be killed by his brother. And worse: another brother would avenge him, family hacking down family. And worse: these murders would lead to the end, to three winters of war and three more years […]

Kafka’s Sisters & The Remains of Old Yeats (2 poems)

Kafka’s Sisters With thanks I was tubercular and dead by early summer nineteen twenty-four, long in the grave with my intensity before those three sisters rose to follow, Ellie and Ottla and Valli dragged through the cattle-car years down to forty-five. Ellie and Ottla and Valli I sing, deported to Poland, deported to Łódź or […]

Bone Antler Stone: Poems

“Bone Antler Stone” reviewed in the Big Windows Review

Many thanks to Tom Zimmerman at The Big Windows Review for his review of Bone Antler Stone. I’ve pasted an excerpt below, and you can read the entire review here. Excerpts and reviews from the book are here. “… [Bone Antler Stone] is an act of powerful sympathetic imagination that forges a connection between lost cultures […]

Female Figurines and a Shipwreck: Two Poems from “Bone Antler Stone”

Here are two of my favorite poems from Bone Antler Stone: one on the famous ice age “Venus” figurines from 20-30,000 years ago, and another on a shipwreck from 1300 BC. You can order the entire collection here, or find more poems from the book here. Female Figurines for Evie Hum the words with me and […]

The Great Myths #46: Sacred Language & Homer’s Poets (Greek)

Here are two passages from Homer’s Odyssey featuring the common household bard of prehistoric Greece. The first poet, the description of which probably lent to the legend that Homer himself was blind, performs stories of the Trojan war before a disguised Odysseus, bringing him to tears. The second is the bard at Odysseus’ own home […]

The Great Myths #43 Sacred Language & the Story of Gwion Bach & Taliesin (Welsh)

One of the longer myths I’ll post here, the following story is well worth it, and is indeed a master-class in mythology and folklore. Containing shape-changes, chase scenes, mysterious births, borrowed identities, and competitions of all kinds, it is in the best sense a holy mess, including its sudden and (to us) perhaps unsatisfying ending. […]

The Great Myths #42: Sacred Language & the Story of Caedmon (Christian)

A brother of the monastery is found to possess God’s gift of poetry [A. D. 680] In this monastery of Streanaeshalch lived a brother singularly gifted by God’s grace. So skilful was he in composing religious and devotional songs that, when any passage of Scripture was explained by interpreters, he could quickly turn it into […]

Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 13: “The perfect image of a mighty mind, of one that feeds upon infinity”

Here are excerpts from the last book of Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude.  Other excerpts  are here.   In one of these excursions, travelling then Through Wales on foot and with a youthful friend, I left Bethkelet’s huts at couching-time, And westward took my way to see the sun Rise from the top of Snowdon. Having reading […]

Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 12: “making verse deal boldly with substantial things”

Throughout the summer I hope to post my favorite bits from Wordworth’s 1805 Prelude. Book 12 continues his meditations in Book 11, which was titled “Imagination, How Impaired & Restored.” Other excerpts are here.   Such benefit may souls of humblest frame Partake of, each in their degree; ’tis mine To speak of what myself […]

Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 11: “Habits of devoutest sympathy”

Excerpts from Book 11 of  Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, which he calls “Imagination, How Impaired and Restored.” Other excerpts are here.   Long time hath man’s unhappiness and guilt Defained us: with what dismal sights beset For the outward view, and inwardly oppressed With sorrow, disappointment, vexing thoughts, Confusion of the judgement, zeal decayed – And […]

Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 10: “In the very world which is the world of all of us, the place in which, in the end, we find our happiness, or not at all “

Excerpts from Book 10 of Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, where he concludes his story of being in France during the Revolution. Other excerpts are here.   A poor mistaken and bewildered offering, Should to the breast of Nature have gone back, With all my resolutions, all my hopes, A poet only to myself, to men Useless, […]

Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 9: “I saw the revolutionary power toss like a ship at anchor”

Excerpts from Book 9 of Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, where he begins his story of being in France during the Revolution. Other excerpts are here.   ’Tis mine to tread The humbler province of plain history, And, without choice of circumstance, submissively Relate what I have heard. Book 9, 642-645 Oft then I said, And not […]

Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 8: “A weight of ages did at once descend upon my heart”

Excerpts from Book 8 of Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, which he titles “Love of Nature Leading to Love of Mankind.” Other excerpts are here.   With deep devotion, Nature, did I feel In that great city what I owed to thee: High thoughts of God and man, and love of man, Triumphant over all those loathsome […]

The Island, the Museum, the Church: 3 Readings from “Bone Antler Stone”

My poetry collection Bone Antler Stone—a panorama of ancient Europe from the painted caves of Lascaux to contact with Greece and Rome—comes out on Thursday. You can order it here. Below are readings of three of those poems, inspired by a tidal island, a museum, and a Viking cathedral on the island of Orkney, all […]

On “Bone Antler Stone”: Ancient Europe, the Narrow Book & Finding Poetry Again

My poetry collection Bone Antler Stone—a panorama of ancient Europe from the painted caves of Lascaux to contact with Greece and Rome—comes out on Thursday. You can order it here. Here’s an essay on how it came to be written: The poems of Bone Antler Stone go way back, as a book about ancient history […]

Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 7: “This parliament of monsters”

  Excerpts from Book 7 of Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, on his time living in London. Other excerpts are here.   Above all, one thought Baffled my understanding, how men lived Even next-door neighbours, as we say, yet still Strangers, and not knowing each other’s names. Book 7, 117-120   Shall I give way, Copying the […]

Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 6: “No absence scarcely can there be, for those who love as we do.”

Excerpts from Book 6 of Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, on his friendship with Coleridge. Other excerpts are here.   There is no grief, no sorrow, no despair, No languor, no dejection, no dismay, No absence scarcely can there be, for those Who love as we do. Book 6, 253-256 I too have been a wanderer, but, […]

Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 4: “Need I say, dear friend, that to the brim my heart was full?”

  Excerpts from Book 4 of Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, on his time home from college. Other excerpts are here.   Why should I speak of what a thousand hearts Have felt, and every man alive can guess? Book 4: 33-34 Delighted did I take my place again At our domestic table; and, dear friend, Relating […]

Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 3: “Unknown, unthought of, yet I was most rich”

Excerpts from Book 3 of Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, on his years at Cambridge. Other excerpts are here.   Things they were which then I did not love, nor do I love them now: Such glory was but little sought by me, And little won. But it is right to say That even so early, from […]

Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 2: “The self-sufficing power of solitude”

Excerpts from Book 2 of Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude. Other excerpts are here.   Thus the pride of strength And the vainglory of superior skill Were interfused with objects which subdued And tempered them, and gradually produced A quiet independence of heart. And to my friend who knows me I may add, Unapprehensive of reproof, that […]

Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 1: “Invigorating thoughts from former years”

Excerpts from Book 1 of Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude. Other excerpts are here.   Time, place, and manners, these I seek, and these I find in plenteous store, but nowhere such As may be singled out with steady choice – No little band of yet remembered names Whom I, in perfect confidence, might hope To summon […]

“the shining days when the world was new”: Virgil Greets the Spring

From the second of Virgil’s Georgics, translated by David Ferry: It’s spring that adorns the woods and groves with leaves; In spring the soil, desiring seed, is tumid, And then the omnipotent father god descends In showers from the sky and enters into The joyful bridal body of the earth, His greatness and her greatness […]

The Poet Speaks #13: Richard Wilbur & John Berryman: “The artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him”

Even though I’ve never read a word of his poetry, John Berryman has been haunting me lately. Two friends who are also poets that I admire deeply have both praised his work, and recently I’ve come across remarks from a handful of Berryman’s peers, reflecting on his life and his suicide in 1972. Here are […]

The Poet Speaks #11: George Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Philip Levine, Stephen King, Seamus Heaney: “struggling erring human creatures”

George Eliot, on empathy: The greatest benefit we owe to the artist, whether painter, poet, or novelist, is the extension of our sympathies…. Art is the nearest thing to life; it is a mode of amplifying experience and extending our contact with our fellow-men beyond the bounds of our personal lot. The only effect I […]

The Poet Speaks #9: Geoffrey Hill, Robert Frost, Allen Ginsberg, James Merrill, Ursula K. Le Guin: “We are difficult”

On the supposed “difficulty” of his poetry: We are difficult. Human beings are difficult. We’re difficult to ourselves, we’re difficult to each other. And we are mysteries to ourselves, we are mysteries to each other. One encounters in any ordinary day far more real difficulty than one confronts in the most “intellectual” piece of work. […]

The Poet Speaks #8: Patti Smith, Toni Morrison, T. S. Eliot, Hart Crane: “I shall make every sacrifice toward that end”

As even “nerd culture” and all the rest just becomes another snobby fad and pop culture corner to hide in, Patti Smith suggests where the real “next” actually is, out of view completely:…when people ask me Who’s the new people?, well to me the new people are the unknown people. The new people that I […]