Monday, 24 December 2012

Deep in the Quiet Wood by James Weldon Johnson


Deep in the Quiet Wood

Are you bowed down in heart?
Do you but hear the clashing discord and the din of life?
Then come away, come to the peaceful wood.
Here bathe your soul in silence. Listen! Now,
From out the palpitating solitude
Do you not catch, yet faint, elusive strains?
They are above, around, within you, everywhere.
Silently listen! Clear, and still more clear, they come.
They bubble up in rippling notes, and swell in singing tones.
Now let your soul run the whole gamut of the wondrous scale
Until, responsive to the tonic chord,
It touches the diapason of God’s grand cathedral organ,
Filling earth for you with heavenly peace
And holy harmonies.


James Weldon Johnson, Saint Peter Relates an Incident (New York, London, Victoria, Toronto, Auckland: Penguin Books, 1993), 52.

My City by James Weldon Johnson


My City

When I come down to sleep death’s endless night,
The threshold of the unknown dark to cross,
What to me then will be the keenest loss,
When this bright world blurs on my fading sight?
Will it be that no more I shall see the trees
Or smell the flowers or hear the singing birds
Or watch the flashing streams or patient herds?
No. I am sure it will be none of these.

But, ah! Manhattan’s sights and sounds, her smells,
Her crowds, her throbbing force, the thrill that comes
From being of her part, her subtle spells,
Her shining towers, her avenues, her slums—
Oh God! the stark, unutterable pity,
To be dead, and never again behold my city.


James Weldon Johnson, Saint Peter Relates an Incident (New York, London, Victoria, Toronto, Auckland: Penguin Books, 1993), 37.

Life by James Weldon Johnson


Life

Out of the infinite sea of eternity
To climb, and for an instant stand
Upon an island speck of time.

From an impassible peace of the darkness
To wake, and blink at the garish light
Through one short space of fretfulness.


James Weldon Johnson, Saint Peter Relates an Incident (New York, London, Victoria, Toronto, Auckland: Penguin Books, 1993), 39.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Give Me a Red Breast and a Song by Theodore Best


Give Me a Red Breast and a Song

I have sung down branches
to their sticky booby-traps.
Near things with bald wings
felt serenaded.

I have sung by the roundabout
in the middle of the night.
The lamplight was lamplight.
Nobody told me.

I have sung in gardens at hoses.
I have noted the cold of the flat black grass.
They say I am a territorial beast.

I have eaten from a fat-ball
hanging on a cherry tree.
Through those squares of hard air
what was watching?

I have eaten the beetle
crawling on my lookout.
A green spot’s appeared there –
shiny, like a beetle.

I have eaten a white knotted worm.
I have learnt not to turn from the whisker-claw.
They say I am a territorial beast.

Sometimes things look at me
like we belong together.
Show me a red breast
not a soft beak.

Others throw sticks at me
or screech like the whisker-claw.
All this is usable
for a nest in the wind.

I have harried green rubber in flowerbeds.
I have wrestled the edges of silver.
They say I am a territorial beast.

Though I fear the wind stopping
and a death in the dead grass,
breast upward, head downward,
neck awry,

I know only this:
that my voice is as big
as the one bush it’s filled.
One song,

and all manner of life sees a nesting place.


UEA Creative Writing Anthology 2010: Poetry (Norwich: Egg Box Publishing, 2010), 10-1.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Socrates by Jack Spicer


Socrates

Because they accused me of poems
That did not disturb the young
They gave me a pair of glasses
Filled with tincture of hemlock.
Because the young accused me
Of Piles, horseradish, and bad dreams
They gave me three days
To burn down the city. What dialogues
(If they had let me)
Could I have held with both of my enemies.


Jack Spicer, my vocabulary did this to me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer, ed. by Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2008), 179.

A Book of Music by Jack Spicer


A Book of Music

Coming to an end, the lovers
Are exhausted like two swimmers. Where
Did it end? There is no telling. No love is
Like an ocean with the dizzy procession of the waves’ boundaries
From which two can emerge exhausted, no long goodbye
Like death.
Coming at an end. Rather, I would say, like a length
Of coiled rope
Which does not disguise in the final twists of its lengths
Its endings.
But, you will say, we loved
And some parts of us loved
And the rest of us will remain
Two persons. Yes,
Poetry ends like a rope.


Jack Spicer, my vocabulary did this to me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer, ed. by Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2008), 178.

Thing Language by Jack Spicer


THING LANGUAGE

This ocean, humiliating in its disguises
Tougher than anything.
No one listens to poetry. The ocean
Does not mean to be listened to. A drop
Or crash of water. It means
Nothing.
It
Is bread and butter
Pepper and salt. The death
That young men hope for. Aimlessly
It pounds the shore. White and aimless signals. No
One listens to poetry.


Jack Spicer, my vocabulary did this to me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer, ed. by Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2008), 373.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

The Garden of Exquisite Silence by Kristin Dimitrova


The Garden of Exquisite Silence

The white statues arch their necks,
keeping their empty marble gazes
bolted.
It is closed,
this door to the sculptor’s hand
when the stone still
scraped the dust off its face.
Behind each statue’s forehead
there is a message.
If you look for an answer,
you break the head.
If you keep the head safe,
you do not get anywhere.
If you break the hand,
you may still not get an answer.
Decide faster.


Kristin Dimitrova, My Life in Squares (Middlesbrough: Smokestack Books, 2010), 74.

The Architectress by Kristin Dimitrova



The Architectress

The architectress carries blueprints.
Only the slab is poured. The walls
are transparent and rise from everywhere
strictly according to layout.
The architectress has spread the blueprints
on the nonexistent windowsill,
leafs through them for mistakes,
then leans and looks through a window
no less transparent.
The architectress (technically)
doesn't exist.
Which makes the house good enough

and practically finished.


Kristin Dimitrova, My Life in Squares (Middlesbrough: Smokestack Books, 2010), 28.

The Three Lady Beggars at the Book Premiere by Kristin Dimitrova



The Three Lady Beggars at the Book Premiere

We all know each other, more or less.
                 We listen to the reading author
                 with attention.

No one knows the three
                 grey old women
                 in the audience.

When we hear the long awaited ‘help yourself, please’
                 the three grey ladies
                 hurry to the buffet.

We turn our heads away from them.
                 Their rotten smell reminds us
                 of our exit-fee.

They advance without noticing us.
                 Beggars regard the others not as people
                 but as territory.

The three have no place among us.

                 We talk of literature,
                 we will not fill our stomachs with the cheese rolls
                 and we step back squeamishly
                 from the reeking gash into a world
                 that gapes at our cheese rolls,
                 and has neither read, nor heard of literature.

We search for meaning. We came here
                 to treat people to books;
                 part of the meaning came –

to claim our cheese rolls.


Kristin Dimitrova, My Life in Squares (Middlesbrough: Smokestack Books, 2010), 16.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Tree by Udo Degener


l  e  a  f
l e a f l e a f
l e a f l e a f l e a f l e a f
l e a f l e a f l e a f l e a f
l e a f l e a f l e a f l e a f
l e a f l e a f l e a f l e a f l e a f l e a f
l e a f l e a f l e a f l e a f l e a f l e a f
l e a f l e a f l e a f l e a f b i r d l e a f
l e a f l e a f l e a f l e a f l e a f l e a f
l e a f l e a f l e a f l e a f l e a f l e a f
l e a f l e a f l e a f l e a f l e a f l e a f
l e a f l e a f l e a f l e a f
l e a f l e a f l e a f l e a f
l e a f l e a f l e a f l e a f
l e a f l e a f
l  e  a  f
w o o d
w o o d
w o o d
w o o d
w o o d
w o o d
w o o d
w o o d
w o o d
w o o d
w o o d
w o o d
s  a  w
w o o d
w o o d


wortBILD: Visuelle Poesie in der DDR, Guillermo Deisler and Jörg Kowalski, eds. (Halle, Leipzig: Mitteldeutscher Verlag, 1990), 54. My translation.

Friday, 3 February 2012

The Twist in the River by Katherine Pierpoint


The Twist in the River

At the clear, beer-coloured and bubbleshot twist in the river –
Every stone a speckled egg spawned in that deep lap,
Every pockmarked, pitted pebble a planet, blindly seeing through its own evolution –
The shallows, and the tall air, are filled with sound and light.
This part of the river expects to be seen, for it has drawn you there,
And the trees, selfless, introduce the sky into your love for the water.
If this place were a person, it would be making up a paper hat while humming –
Entirely self-contained, absorbed yet radiant –
A family moment, appearing normal until years later in retrospect,
When its depth are fully felt, beyond blunt experience.

Underwater, the light thickens slightly but never sets
And the river runs through its own fingers.


Katherine Pierpoint, Truffle Beds (London: Faber and Faber, 1995), 1.

Osmosis by Katherine Pierpoint


Osmosis

The water is to swimmer as a kiss
Placed on a closed but moving eye.
And swimmer is to water
As a ghost to a claiming room.
The swimmer – suspended, flickering –
Parts the soft walls in the thickened realm
Of an element not entirely owned;
A bladder of heavy air,
Embodied; and yet boneless.


Katherine Pierpoint, Truffle Beds (London: Faber and Faber, 1995), 47.