...the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Herbert: Prayer (I)

Prayer the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth;

Engine against th’ Almightie, sinners towre,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-daies world-transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear;

Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,

Church-bels beyond the starres heard, the souls bloud,
The land of spices; something understood.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Marlowe: from Hero and Leander

At Sestos Hero dwelt; Hero the fair,

Whom young Apollo courted for her hair,

And offered as a dower his burning throne,

Where she should sit for men to gaze upon.

The outside of her garments were of lawn,

The lining purple silk, with gilt stars drawn;

Her wide sleeves green, and bordered with a grove

Where Venus in her naked glory strove

To please the careless and disdainful eyes

Of proud Adonis, that before her lies;

Her kirtle blue, whereon was many a stain,

Made with the blood of wretched lovers slain.

Upon her head she ware a myrtle wreath,

From whence her veil reached to the ground beneath.

Her veil was artificial flowers and leaves,

Whose workmanship both man and beast deceives;

Many would praise the sweet smell as she passed,

When ‘twas the odor which her breath forth cast;

And there for honey, bees have sought in vain,

And, beat from hence, have lighted there again.

Song of the Week: Peace 2 the World

Older, undercooked: Click-see.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Anonymous: My Lief is Faren in Londe

My lief is faren in londe--

Allas, why is she so?

And I am so sore bonde

I may nat come her to.

She hath myn herte in holde

Wherever she ride or go--

With trewe love a thousand folde.

Yeats: Down by the Salley Gardens

Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;

She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.

She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;

But I being young and foolish, with her would not agree.

In a field by the river my love and I did stand,

And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.

She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;

But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Anonymous: The Cuckoo Song

Sumer is ycomen in,

Loude sing cuckou!

Groweth seed and bloweth meed,

And springth the wode now.

Sing cuckou!

Ewe bleteth after lamb,

Loweth after calve cow,

Bulloc sterteth, bucke verteth,

Merye sing cuckou!

Cuckou, cuckou,

Wel singest thou cuckou:

Ne swik though never now!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Keats: This Living Hand

This living hand, now warm and capable

Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold

And in the icy silence of the tomb,

So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights

That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood

So in my veins red life might stream again,

And thou be conscience-calmed—see here it is—

I hold it towards you.

To my vast readership

So, my sabbatical is officially over, and w/ today being the last day my kids are in school till September, events beyond my control--namely, time--have made it necessary to end this poem-a-day business. In the past five months or so, I've drafted about 130 of 'em, several of which I didn't post here. Most are crap, of course, but a few are onto something I think, and those few I'll revise or leave as is and begin to do something with. I was also able to get some critical writing done, of both the academic and popular (I use that word in its loosest sense) variety. All in all, I'm feeling pretty lucky.

I'll still be posting music here each "week" (ha ha), and I think the project of daily discipline I'll embark on next is transcribing a poem a day from other sources, as I did w/ that wonderful Rilke poem, below.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

S.P. Poem # 109: Full Flow

Created from clay the pot that holds our dinner

Made of vegetables and a little meat heated

On the stove with lines of gas buried and running

To the street to the main that remains in full flow

Supplying to all these houses on our block

And beyond out into worlds of ideas meaning

Someone thought of what to eat and how to cook it

And how to live in a way that is easy as pie

Though one hears complaining by and by

For reasons pertaining to freedom of the will,

Edwards’ essay on which I’m half-way through

In hope of learning something about why I am

The way I am and why everyone else is too

Because I’m curious and concerned and in want

Of a drink and a meal and a little space to think

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rilke: Sometimes a Man Stands Up During Supper

Sometimes a man stands up during supper

and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,

because of a church that stands somewhere in the East.

And his children say blessings on him as if he were dead.

And another man, who remains inside his own house,

dies there, inside the dishes and in the glasses,

so that his children have to go far out into the world

toward that same church, which he forgot.

Trans. by Robert Bly

Saturday, June 12, 2010

S.P. Poem # 108: Bright Morning

Bright morning wakes me through
A drapeless window. Away from kids

And wife for the weekend, the bed
Is quiet, the room unpressurized,

The house airy. I miss my life
As it is even for this short time

But this short time is a gift.
On the phone, I love you to each

Of the three. No faces to register.
Words like mortars flying

Toward a target obscured by a ridge
May or may not hit the target.

You must trust the coordinates, trust
Experience and expertise.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Power Pop Hit Parade: Joe Jackson

S.P. Poem # 107: Walks at Night

I get a break when the kids go down

And leave the house onto the path

I’m on each time I leave, with headphones

On, removing the right one when people

Pass by to say hi there, hello.

In fifty minutes or so I feel it

In my knee and sometimes ankle

And look into that bar I never enter

And walk on the pier and the water

When the moon’s full behind me now

By the shore is bright and slick,

Glassed-in and tinted purple.

I talked on the phone telling the person

I talked with about it once.

Fishermen leave so much trash

On the planks—plastic bags and cups,

Paper bags from dinner, styrofoam

Trays from frozen bait. It blows into

The ocean or will. I pick some up.

Someone seeing me will see it’s ok

To pick up trash you didn’t make,

The people who left it shamed by my act.

Nobody changes far as I can tell.

Surfing years before, a man in the water

Yelled at some others You’re not from here

Fuckin’ losers, get the fuck out of the water.

I wanted a gun. I wanted to see him cry.

I have few dreams, but the strongest I feel

Have to do with hurting people

Who should hurt, like you.

How many years I feel wronged,

Wrong myself. I know but what you don’t

I have this sense when you come

To me against me I hunger to unleash

Torrents of feeling true and therefore right,

Light by which comes the vaunted recognition

Of sin. I never will, who would hear it?

I fear it would when meeting air’s catalysis

Turn meaning that can’t be argued into

Banality by sound, by manifestation.

Let’s keep it mystery. Let’s keep quiet

Our misery, slow, decaying. I don’t want to.

I know I’m right. You know you are.

Can’t be helped. The feet each time

Pass over knotted planks, worn bricks

And lift over the aluminum threshold,

The brink of a house, and enter there

And there you are in bed awake of course.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

S.P. Poem # 106: The water runs clockwise

Like lids and screws in our hemisphere.

In yours, you’ve got spiral variety.

And depending on the continent:

Dingo, hyena, or the maned wolf.

Dogs and dog-like creatures are where

My inclinations lean. It’s that pack-ness,

That loyalty to leadership.

This has its problems.

A boy scout in the Ozarks, I let

The leader take us down an unmapped

Path. We found the abandoned cabin

He knew as a kid now used by meth-

Heads. The dog guarding it

Was trained to attack by his master.

That cabin is now long-gone—

Tornadoes. I assume they turn the same

As all else up here, errant tops

Spinning right across the regions

Destroying evidence mindlessly.

Those killers won the lottery,

Burrowed in the earth like foxes.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Word of the Day

“If that’s what he means,” says the student to the poetry teacher, “why doesn’t he just say it?” “If God is real,” says the parishioner to the preacher, “why doesn’t he simply storm into our lives and convince us?” The questions are vastly different in scale and relative importance, but their answers are similar. A poem, if it’s a real one, in some fundamental sense means no more and no less than the moment of its singular music and lightning insight; it is its own code to its own absolute and irreducible clarity. A god, if it’s a living one, is not outside of reality but in it, of it (though in ways it takes patience and imagination to perceive). Thus the uses and necessities of metaphor, which can flash us past our plodding resistance and habits into strange new truths. Thus the very practical effects of music, myth, image, which tease us not out of reality but deeper and more completely into it.

- Christian Wiman

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Song of the Week: Girls' Talk

The player remains kaput, so you'll have to click this link to hear the track, which is quite good (if we do say so ourselves).

The song was recorded for the Tower of Song Challenge our friend Todd invited us to contribute to.

Word of the Day

I had this experience a couple of years ago where I got to sit in on the editorial meeting at the Onion. Every Monday they have to come up with like 17 or 18 headlines, and to do that, they generate 600 headlines per week. I feel like that's why it's good: because they are willing to be wrong 583 times to be right 17.


It kind of gives you hope. If you do creative work, there's a sense that inspiration is this fairy dust that gets dropped on you, when in fact you can just manufacture inspiration through sheer brute force. You can simply produce enough material that the thing will arrive that seems inspired.

- Ira Glass [more here]

Monday, June 7, 2010

S.P. Poem # 105: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Fearfully and wonderfully made the tiger

Moves through a fractured landscape

Toward the end it conceives of as

Perhaps unslakeable thirst for sleep

Coming on, a lightless canopy.

His teeth are dulled and fall out, and the leaps

He made toward prey are a memory

Muscles retain when the body will not comply.

This largest of cats starves.

There are 2,000 left in the wild, hunted

For bones used in Chinese Medicine,

Penises for aphrodisiacs. The fact

That people act against their interests

Is evidenced daily, everywhere.

This is not it. The tiger existed and exists.

In the shadow of trees near home is

A faint scraping. Unseen in their branches

Are wings. The word is always whispered,

World without end, though the life has not

Taken the expected form.—Overwritten

And underfunded. Poorly conceived.

A person must reach when learning

It's too late to buy a dog or start a hobby.

Tracey Thorn

Word of the Day

Excellent poem: here.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Word of the Day

I've posted from it here before, but this series is so good.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

S.P. Poem #104: Four Poems

Modern Life

I used to take the waterslide

to work but now I take

the catapult. Sometimes I skip.


Oh Beloved,

How the stars would be reflected

in the deep pools of your eyes

if not for the air pollution

and your two eye patches!


Still Life

There's a flower

in the blue bottle that once

had Orangina in it. The flowers

are orange but the water

in the bottle only looks blue

because the bottle is blue.

Who thinks to put an orange drink

in a blue bottle? I’d like to meet this person

and interrogate him, tenderly.


Wisdom through Experience

Everybody thinks I’m great

until they marry me.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

S.P. Poem #103: Deplane the sky

Deplane the sky.

The man in gray

Unlocks Corvette

Gets it home.

Sidewalk’s the same

Shade. Be sad for

All you’ve got's

A muffin unmarked

I’ll buy when I reach it.

Ignition’s unremembered.

Drive off, Man

In mercury suit slipping into

Mercury quickening

Away. Fly little birdie.

Sky's sky today.