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“Poetry is eternal graffiti written
in the heart of everyone.”
— Lawrence Ferlinghetti
When you look at lists of poets by birthday, there are gaps here and there, but poets were and are being born in every week of the year. The lists vary depending on who composes them, but this fact remains – there’s no “season of poets.”
The five poets born this week are:
Ruth Ellen Kocher – July 26, 1965
Giosuè Carducci – July 27 1835
John Ashbery – July 28, 1927
Stanley Kunitz – July 29, 1905
Kim Addonizio – July 31, 1954
They are a surprisingly coherent group – several of their poems have common themes: alienation and isolation, and the relentless passage of time.
Lesson: Daphne, As Tree, Forgetting
by Ruth Ellen Kocher
When you live in a city
cow pastures marked by the divots
of hooved lumbering forward
remain as much a myth as constellations
supposedly sleeping between stars.
Dung heaps keep worries to themselves.
Grass hushes wind to its hubris.
Clouds roll over fields sleepy
as a girl out of bed too soon as soil
retreats to the earth’s imagination.
The planet silent except for cut rock
mountain backs heaved up—
only in the green light flash of traffic
lurch of movement
never really still
underneath sirens the clip
clapping of people
moving from this place to that,
only in the small
squared parcel of grey atmosphere
veiling the crown of your city’s height,
beyond the tipped steel buildings
can you remember that I was
not always rooted to this avenue
nor caught in the pull of sky drowned out
by parking lot lights speck-less
without gods story-board stars.
“Lesson: Daphne, As Tree, Forgetting” appeared in Superstition review, Issue 3, Spring 2009 – © 2009 by Ruth Ellen Kocher
Ruth Ellen Kocher (1965 – ), African American poet whose work has been published in many literary journals, and has been translated into Persian in the Iranian literary magazine She’r. Among her poetry collections are her first book, Desdemona’s Fire, published in 1999, which won the Naomi Long Madgett Award for African American Poets; When the Moon Knows You’re Wandering (2001); One Girl Babylon (2003); domina Un/blued, a co-winner of the 2014 PEN Open Book Award; and Third Voice (2016). She teaches in the MFA program at the University of Colorado-Boulder, where she is also the divisional dean for the arts and humanities.
during a diphtheria epidemic (Mors nell’epidemia difterica)
by Giosuè Carducci
When the precise diva drops down on our houses,
the far off roar of her flying is heard,
and the shadow of her icy wing, glacially advancing,
spreads wide a melancholy silence.
When she comes, men bow their heads,
but the women fall to pining.
Thus the treetops, when July winds gather,
do not sway on the green hills:
the trees stand almost utterly still,
and only the hoarse moan of the creek is heard.
She enters, passes, touches, and without even turning levels
the saplings, delighted by their young branches;
she shears the golden wheat, and strips even hanging grapes,
scoops up the good wives and innocent girls
and tiny children: pink between black wings they reach their arms
to the sun, to their games, and smile.
O sad homes, where before their fathers’ faces,
silent, livid diva, you put out young lives.
Therein, rooms no longer sound with laughter and merrymaking
or with whispers, like birds’ nests in May:
therein, no more the sound of joyful rearing,
nor love’s woes, nor wedding dances:
they grow old therein, the shadowed survivors; to the roar
of your return their ears incline, O goddess.
– June 27, 1875
“Death” was translated into English by Frank Sewall in 1893
Giosuè Carducci (1835-1907) was born in Tuscany. In 1906, he became the first Italian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was a poet, writer, literary critic, and teacher. Rime nuove (The New Lyrics) and Odi barbare (The Barbarian Odes) are considered his best work. Since he won the Nobel Prize, Carducci has fallen into obscurity, despite his one-time eminence as the best-known poet in Italy, and a trumpeter of Italian unification.
By John Ashbery
One might like to rest or read,
Take walks, celebrate the kitchen table,
Pat the dog absent-mindedly, meanwhile
Thinking gloomy thoughts—so many separate
Ways of doing, one is uncertain
What the future is going to do
About this. Will it reveal itself again,
Or only in the artificial calm
Of one person’s resolve to do better
Yet strike a harder bargain,
Gardeners cannot make the world
Nor witches undo it, yet
The mad doctor is secure
In his thick-walled laboratory,
Behind evergreen borders black now
Against the snow, precise as stocking seams
Pulled straight again. There is never
Any news from that side.
A rigidity that may well be permanent
Seems to have taken over. The pendulum
Is stilled; the rush
Of season into season ostensibly incomplete.
A perverse order has been laid
There at the joint where the year branches
Into artifice one way, into a votive
Lassitude the other way, but that is stalled:
An old discolored snapshot
That soon fades away.
And so there is no spectator
And no agent to cry Enough,
That the battle chime is stilled,
The defeated memory gracious as flowers
And therefore also permanent in its way—
I mean they endure, are always around,
And even when they are not, their names are,
A fortified dose of the solid,
And from growing dim, the coals
Fall alight. There are two ways to be.
You must try getting up from the table
And sitting down relaxed in another country
Wearing red suspenders
Toward one’s own space and time.
“Obstensibly” was first published in Poetry magazine, August 1987 issue – © 1987 by John Ashbery
John Ashbery (1927-2017) American poet, art critic and editor, translator, and professor of languages and literature. Among his many awards and honors are the 1956 Yale Younger Poets Prize; in 1976, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award, all three given for Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror; the 1984 Bollingen Prize in Poetry for A Wave; the 1995 Robert Frost Medal; and a 2011 National Humanities Medal. He is one of the most influential 20th century American poets, but is still controversial – called by Stephanie Burt, Harvard professor of English, “the last figure whom half the English-language poets alive thought a great model, and the other half thought incomprehensible.”
End of Summer
by Stanley Kunitz
An agitation of the air,
A perturbation of the light
Admonished me the unloved year
Would turn on its hinge that night.
I stood in the disenchanted field
Amid the stubble and the stones
Amaded, while a small worm lisped to me
The song of my marrow-bones.
Blue poured into summer blue,
A hawk broke from his cloudless tower,
The roof of the silo blazed, and I knew
That part of my life was forever over.
Already the iron door of the North
Clangs open: birds, leaves, snows
Order their populations forth,
And a cruel wind blows.
“End of Summer” from The Collected Poems of Stanley Kunitz, © 1953/2002 – W. W. Norton and Company, 2002 edition
Stanley Kunitz (1905-2006) Jewish American poet, editor, and translator, appointed as U.S. Poet Laureate twice, in 1974 and again in 2000. He was an outspoken critic of censorship, and as founder and editor of the Wilson Library Bulletin (1928-1943), his influence helped bring about the Library Bill of Rights, written by librarian Forrest Spauling, and later adopted by the American Library Association, a cornerstone of intellectual freedom in libraries. He won the L.L. Winship/PEN New England Award in 2006 for The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden. Among his many collections of poetry are Next-to-Last Things; The Terrible Threshold; The Testing-Tree; Passport to the War; and Intellectual Things.
Blues for Dante Alighieri
. . . without hope we live on in desire . . .
– Inferno, IV
by Kim Addonizio
Our room was too small, the sheets scratchy and hot–
Our room was a kind of hell, we thought,
and killed a half-liter of Drambuie we’d bought.
We walked over the Arno and back across.
We walked all day, and in the evening, lost,
argued and wandered in circles. At last
we found our hotel. The next day we left for Rome.
We found the Intercontinental, and a church full of bones,
and ate takeout Chinese in our suite, alone.
It wasn’t a great journey, only a side trip.
It wasn’t love for eternity, or any such crap;
It was just something that happened . . .
We packed suitcases, returned the rental car.
We packed souvenirs, and repaired to the airport bar
And talked about pornography, and movie stars.
“Blues for Dante Alighieri” from What is This Thing Called Love, © 2004 by Lim Addonizio – W.W. Norton & Company
Kim Addonizio (1954 – ) American poet, short story writer, and novelist; recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, a 2004 Mississippi Review Fiction Prize; a 2000 Pushcart Prize for Aliens, and a 1994 San Francisco Club Poetry Medal. Her poetry collections include My Black Angel; Lucifer at the Starlite; and What is This Thing Called Love. Her fiction works include In the box called pleasure: stories; Little Beauties; and My Dreams Out in the Street.