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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]