Real Poetry

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Archive for the month “August, 2012”

Theodore Roethke – “The Waking”

That’s right folks, I’m doing a second poem of the week on Roethke… and there’s nothing you can do about it. ūüėČ

Honestly, like I said previously, I really do love Roethke’s poetry and wanted to put in at least one more of his poems this month, but I promise I’ll take a break from him next week. This poem is a villanelle, a form of poetry that I find incredibly difficult to do.

I hope everyone out there is doing amazingly well, and for those starting classes best of luck in the coming year.

Stephen R.

A dirt path through a wooded area

The Waking

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

-Theodore Roethke

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Theodore Roethke – “Weed Puller”

Heeelllloooooo world,

For those of you out there who know me personally, it’s no secret that one of my favorite poets is Theodore Roethke. He was one of the first poets I was introduced to outside of the usual Shakespeare/High School English poets. Thus, the collected poems of Roethke was the first book of poetry I ever purchased. I couldn’t recommend this collection of poems more highly.

Anyway, the poem I’m sharing here really encapsulates the style and strength of image that I always find when reading through his work. I also happened to spend a few hours the other day out weeding the garden, so I had it on my mind. I hope you all enjoy.

Stephen R.

Weeds under trees

Weed Puller

Under the concrete benches,
Hacking at black hairy roots,-
Those lewd monkey-tails hanging from drainholes,-
Digging into the soft rubble underneath,
Webs and weeds,
Grubs and snails and sharp sticks,
Or yanking tough fern-shapes,
Coiled green and thick, like dripping smilax,
Tugging all day at perverse life:
The indignity of it!-
With everything blooming above me,
Lilies, pale-pink cyclamen, roses,
Whole fields lovely and inviolate,-
Me down in that fetor of weeds,
Crawling on all fours,
Alive, in a slippery grave.

– Theodore Roethke

Small Remembrance – Dr. Edward Lee Shirley

Hey all,

I had every intent of posting up a new poem of mine, either sonnet or another, but I was just recently informed that a professor of mine has passed: Dr. Edward Shirley, a theological professor at St. Edward’s University.

a photo of Dr. Edward Shirley

He was a quirky, spirited, and amazingly fun professor to have.  I will never forget the class I took with him last, Religious Themes of Harry Potter, which ultimately boiled down to reading the HP series and discussing ways in which theological elements were implemented in the story.

Though I only had him in two classes my first two years of college, he always remembered my name. ¬†He was the kind of person you’d see walking around campus every day almost always in conversation with a student, usually more than one, but he would always make it a point to say hi as you passed. ¬†When he wasn’t walking around, he would be sitting to lunch with a large group of students. ¬†That was the main element of Dr. Shirley that stood out to me, his closeness to his students. ¬†He even went to see the midnight release of the last Potter film with several students. ¬†He had a youthful vitality that always surprised me.

I know most of you all who read this will undoubtedly not know this man, and some may have skimmed this post and moved on, but I just wanted to put down these few memories of him while they are on my mind today.

I want this post to be dedicated to Dr. Shirley, so I am going to conclude with a fitting poem by Marie Howe.

Stephen R.

What the Living Do

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in here and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking, Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss–we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living. I remember you.

– Marie Howe

Frank O’Hara – “Song”

What’s this? ¬†Can it be? ¬†Yes, another consecutive poem of the week from yours truly. ¬†This week’s poem comes from a collection of Frank O’Hara I own:¬†Lunch Poems. ¬†I particularly enjoy the use of punctuation in this poem. ¬†The two instances in which he uses periods really add a lot to the way the poem was read by me. ¬†I hope that the poem resonates with some of you out there as well.

Stephen R.

Picture of Smog in city

Song

Is it dirty
does it look dirty
that’s what you think of in the city

does it just seem dirty
that’s what you think of in the city
you don’t refuse to breathe do you

someone comes along with a very bad character
he seems attractive. is he really. yes. very
he’s attractive as his character is bad. is it. yes

that’s what you think of in the city
run your fingers along your no-moss mind
that’s not a thought that’s soot

and you take a lot of dirt off someone
is the character less bad. no. it improves constantly
you don’t refuse to breathe do you

– Frank O’Hara

Sonnet Challenge – #1 (Finally)

Alright, alright… I’ve blathered on enough about how I find myself incapable of maintaining a challenge I’ve set for myself, and it’s time I finally just place my chips on the table and show my hand. Anyway, I’ve worked for awhile today revising this sonnet up for your viewing pleasure, and I hope you enjoy it.

Not only that, but I ran across a sonnet I wrote a few months ago that I genuinely still love after reading it a few times again. It was intended to be part of a series of sonnets dealing with a common theme. So I’m going to shift gears a little bit in the coming weeks and work to flesh out a collection of sonnets that work with the one I’ve mentioned.

I won’t be sharing all of those, but I will work to show a part of it when I can. For now, here’s the sonnet that the challenge helped to produce that I’ve put off too long on revising and sharing with you all.

Sincerely,
Stephen R.

Acoustic Classical Guitar

Writing

The strings have fallen flat
while sitting quietly beside my bed,
dust falling between the slats
of my window to collect along its neck.

When I do pull it out, I pluck the strings
the way I remember.  Each finger placed
so finely as to make each note sing
out in pleasure as I play through a scale.

I grow faster with practice, notes bending
to the pull of my fingertips.  Humming along
I move through the familiar, winding
paths, lightly biting my tongue.

I play because I feel I must
or I’d only produce a film of dust.

– Stephen Recker

P.S. One of my favorite bands just released a new single the other day, Mumford & Sons. ¬†I’m sure most of you will have already heard of them or know of the song already, but for those who haven’t I strongly suggest checking them out.

James Tate – “The Rules”

Well hello there.

I feel as though I’ve fallen off the map for a little while there. I wish I could say that I’ve been fighting the good fight or at least putting pen to paper and producing something new to work with in my writing, but honestly I have really just been distracted. Though not much an excuse, I’ve had my little niece and nephew staying with me and the family for the better part of a month so far… and for those who are not aware, a 1 and 4-year-old can be quite a distraction. Especially when they require almost constant entertainment. I’m not really complaining though.

But last night, at around 11:16 my mind just sort of clicked. It’s happened to me before. It wasn’t a lightbulb turning on. I had this initial thought just pop into my head. And I’ll even share it with you here “I’ve slipped.” Just those two words. And I kept repeating them over and over in my mind. My hands started to shake slightly, and I could feel my heart racing as the words just kept up on a loop. I can’t really think of any other way to describe it. So I’d say by 11:18 I realized that the random show I was watching had to stop and I got up and started writing. It’s always a great feeling when I’ve finally gotten myself to write something down.

I would like to have revised that poem up and put it up here for everyone to see, but I want to give it more time to gestate, so to speak. So to tide things over, I thought I’d share another poem of the week. The poem, “The Rules,” is by the poet James Tate. I ran into Tate when reading an essay by Tony Hoagland (another poet I have reviewed previously). His writing style is… different. At least in his book The Ghost Soldiers. The poems are basically all written in prose. This, combined with the short and accelerating sentences (you’ll understand when you read it aloud to yourself) make it a style that really sets the heart racing by the poem’s conclusion. The poem is also marked by its odd sense of humor in the seeming randomness of the content at times, but the finality in the command at the conclusion always sets me adrift momentarily after a read through. Perhaps you’ll see what I mean after a reading.

Hope you all have that moment of inspiration,
Stephen R.

A Cream Cheese and Lox Bagle

The Rules

Jack told me to never reveal my true identity. “I would
never do that,” I said. “Always wear at least a partial disguise,”
he said. “Of course,” I said. “And try to blend in with the
crowd,” he said. “Naturally,” I said. “And never fall in love,”
he said. “Far too dangerous,” I said. “Never raise your voice,”
he said, “Understood,” I said. “Never run,” he said. “I
wouldn’t dream of it,” I said. “Never make a glutton of yourself,”
he said. “It won’t happen,” I said. “Always be polite,” he
said. “That’s me, polite,” I said. “Don’t sing in public,”
he said. “You have my promise,” I said. “Don’t touch strangers,”
he said. “That’s forbidden,” I said. “Never speed,” he said.
“You can count on me,” I said. “Don’t wear plaid,” he said.
“No plaid,” I said. “Don’t pet dogs,” he said. “Of course
not,” I said. “Don’t jump fences,” he said. “I won’t,” I
said. “Stay away from children,” he said. “I will,” I said.
“Don’t enter churches,” he said. “Of course not,” I said.
“Good posture at all times,” he said. “Good posture is a must,”
I said. “Never pick money out of the gutter,” he said. “That’s
not for me,” I said. “Be punctual,” he said. “Always on time,”
I said. “When walking or driving always mix your routes,” he
said. “Naturally,” I said. “Never order the same meal twice,”
he said. “Never,” I said. “Do not be seen on the street after
midnight,” he said. “Not ever,” I said. “Do not give money
to homeless beggars,” he said. “Nothing for the beggars,”
I said. “Do not start conversations with officers of the law,”
he said. “No talking with cops,” I said. “No ice skating,”
he said. “Never,” I said. “No skiing,” he said. “Of course
not,” I said. “When a sign says STAY OFF THE GRASS, you’ll
stay off,” he said. “I will, I said. “No chewing gum in
public,” he said. “I won’t,” I said. “You must carry your weapon
at all times,” he said. “Always armed,” I said. “You must
follow orders,” he said. “Count on it,” I said. “You will
contact Central once a week,” he said. “Contact Central,”
I said. “No green pants,” he said. “Certainly not,” I said.
“No orange or purple shirts,” he said. “Not for me,” I said.
“No sushi,” he said. “Oh no,” I said. “No fandango,” he said.
“Not possible,” I said. “No farm bureau,” he said. “Not my
style,” I said. Beware hypnotism,” he said. “Always
alert,” I said. “Watch out for leeches,” he said. “A danger
not forgotten,” I said. “Stay off gondolas.” “Instinctively,”
I said. “Never trust a fortune-teller,” he said. “Never,”
I said. “Avoid crusades,” he said. “Certainly,” I said.
“Never ride on a blimp,” he said. “Blimps are out,” I said.
“Do not chase turkeys,” he said. “I will not,” I said. “Do
not put your hand in the mouth of a horse,” he said. “Out
of the question,” I said. “Never believe in miracles,” he said.
“I won’t,” I said.

– James Tate

P.S. For anyone curious by this point, the sonnet challenge has proven a very difficult thing to get myself to maintain. I have one to put up eventually, but I’ll only do that when I think it’s really revised enough.

P.P.S. I honestly struggled coming up with an image to fit this poem, as you can see it goes pretty much everywhere.  So I settled on a picture of my favorite bagel to eat when I visit New York.

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