Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers
on Monday mornings. This is an Open Thread forum,
so if you have an off-topic opinion burning a hole in
your brainpan, feel free to add a comment.
“During bad circumstances, which is the human inheritance,
you must decide not to be reduced. You have your humanity,
and you must not allow anything to reduce that. We are
obliged to know we are global citizens. Disasters remind us
we are world citizens, whether we like it or not.”
– Maya Angelou
Featuring nine poets who have birthdays this week, so without futher ado:
by Ruth Ellen Kocher
You shake a mile of ocean
not your shoulders but a different language
Maybe you’re talking in your sleep
When I am watching the Ethiopian grocer
hand me change
Quiet is one language of war but
Most importantly only one
© 2022 by Ruth Ellen Kocher
Ruth Ellen Kocher (1965 – ) African American poet born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Her collection When the Moon Knows You’re Wandering won the Green Rose Prize in Poetry, and her first book, Desdemona’s Fire, won the Naomi Long Madget Award for African American Poets. She is also the author of Third Voice, Goodbye Lyric: Gigans and Selected Poems, domina Un/blued, and One Girl Babylon. Kocher is a Professor of English at the University of Colorado – Boulder, and Divisional Dean for Arts and Humanities.
by Giosuè Carducci
January 29, 1881
A light snow falls through an ashy sky.
From the city no sounds rise up, no human cries,
not the grocer’s call or the ruckus of his cart,
no light-hearted song of being young and in love.
From the tower in the piazza, the quinsied hours
moan, sighing as if from a world far off.
Flocks of birds beat against the misted glass:
ghosts of friends returned, peering in, calling to me.
Soon, O my dears, soon—peace, indomitable heart—
I will sift down to silence, in shadow rest.
– translated by David Yessi
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 Hilaire Belloc
K for the Klondyke, a Country of Gold,
Where the winters are often excessively cold;
Where the lawn every morning is covered with rime,
And skating continues for years at a time.
Do you think that a Climate can conquer the grit
Of the Sons of the West? Not a bit! Not a bit!
When the weather looks nippy, the bold Pioneers
Put on two pairs of Stockings and cover their ears,
And roam through the drear Hyperborean dales
With a vast apparatus of Buckets and Pails;
Or wander through wild Hyperborean glades
With Hoes, Hammers, Pickaxes, Mattocks and Spades.
There are some who give rise to exuberant mirth
By turning up nothing but bushels of earth,
While those who have little cause excellent fun
By attempting to pilfer from those who have none.
At times the reward they will get for their pains
Is to strike very tempting auriferous veins;
Or, a shaft being sunk for some miles in the ground,
Not infrequently nuggets of value are found.
They bring us the gold when their labours are ended,
And we—after thanking them prettily—spend it.
Just you work for Humanity, never you mind
If Humanity seems to have left you behind.
“K” is from A Moral Alphabet, by Hilaire Belloc, originally published in 1899 – reissued in 2018 by Franklin Classics
Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953) was born near Paris just a few days before the Franco-Prussian War began. His family fled to England when news came of the French army’s collapse, returning after the war’s end to discover that their home had been looted and vandalized by Prussian soldiers. His father died, leaving his English mother in difficult financial circumstances, and she returned with her children to England. Belloc later joined the French Artillery Service in France for a year. Back in England, he became a student at Baillol College, Oxford, then wrote for London newspapers and magazines. In 1896, his first book, Verses and Sonnets, appeared, followed by The Bad Child’s Book of Beasts, the first offering of his satiric verses which remain popular to this day.
Warning to Suffragists
by Alice Duer Miller
“The Latin man believes that giving woman the vote
will make her less attractive.” —Anna Howard Shaw
They must sacrifice their beauty
Who would do their civic duty,
Who the polling booth would enter,
Who the ballot box would use;
As they drop their ballots in it
Men and women in a minute,
Lose their charm, the antis tell us,
But—the men have less to lose.
“Warning to Suffragists” is in the public domain
Alice Duer Miller (1874-1942) was born on July 28, 1874, in Staten Island, New York. She was an American poet, novelist, screenwriter, satirist, and feminist. The New York Tribune published a series of her wonderful satirical poems lambasting the objections to women voting, which were then published in 1915 as a book called Are Women People? Her title became a catchphrase of the woman suffrage movement.
My Erotic Double
by John Ashbery
He says he doesn’t feel like working today.
It’s just as well. Here in the shade
Behind the house, protected from street noises,
One can go over all kinds of old feeling,
Throw some away, keep others.
Between us gets very intense when there are
Fewer feelings around to confuse things.
Another go-round? No, but the last things
You always find to say are charming, and rescue me
Before the night does. We are afloat
On our dreams as on a barge made of ice,
Shot through with questions and fissures of starlight
That keep us awake, thinking about the dreams
As they are happening. Some occurrence. You said it.
I said it but I can hide it. But I choose not to.
Thank you. You are a very pleasant person.
Thank you. You are too.
“My Erotic Double” from As We Know, © 1979 by John Ashbery – Viking Press
John Ashbery (1927-2017) American poet, art critic, 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. He also won 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.”
A Woman is Laughing
by Fahmida Riaz
Under the singing watch
of a rocky mountain
a woman is laughing.
No fame, no money
but bold with the guts
of a free body:
a woman laughing.
In all the world’s temples,
you will not hear the lush tremor
of a woman laughing.
In the market of all treasures,
you will not find the baby balm
of a woman laughing.
This rare narcotic she bears
so freely cannot be captive, sold.
Come then, become breeze.
In the wild valley, lapping
her face with kisses –
hair flying long and loose,
wind’s daughter is singing
alongside the wind:
a woman is laughing.
– translated by Ankita Saxena
“A Woman is Laughing” appeared in the Autumn 2020 issue of Modern Poetry in Translation
Fahmida Riaz (1946-2018) Pakistani poet, author, translator, activist, and feminist, who wrote in Urdu. She was born in Meerut in British India. After graduating from college, she worked as a newscaster for Radio Pakistan, but entered into an arranged marriage, and went with her husband to the UK, where she worked with BBC Radio’s Urdu service. When she and her husband divorced, she returned to Pakistan. She married a second time, to Zafar Ali Ujan, a leftist polticial worker. Her second book of verse, Badan Dareeda (A Body Torn), was controversial: women’s sexuality, pregnancy, and menstruation were taboo subjects. Several critics labeled the book pornographic. The magazine Awaz, which she and her husband had founded, was shut down during Pakistani General Zia-ul Haq’s takeover of the government in 1978, and both she and her husband was arrested. But an admirer of her work bailed her out, and she fled to India, where she had relatives, with her sister and two children, living there for seven years. After Zia-ul-Haq’s death in 1988, she returned to Pakistan.
by Eunice Tietjens
There is a beauty in aridity
More primal than the beauty of the lush.
A thought too easy is fertility;
Too soft the valleys, like a maiden’s blush.
Give me the rock-bound desert—scrub and sage
Tawny and bleak and wildly beautiful,
Sharp hills pared to the granite bone by age,
And blue cloud-shadows drifting slow and cool.
For this way surely looked the ancient earth,
Lashed by such storms and bitten by such winds,
Before life clambered upward birth by birth
To breathe the thin crisp air this upland finds.
And something rises in me, old and free;
To meet the freedom of this dusty sea.
“Desert” appeared in the October 1932 issue of Poetry magazine.
Eunice Tietjens (1884-1944) American poet, novelist, journalist, children’s author, editor, and lecturer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, but was educated in Europe, and was a frequent traveler. During WWI, Tietjens was a correspondent in France (1917-1918) for the Chicago Daily News, and later worked as an editor at Poetry magazine. She was also a contributing editor for Compton’s Encyclopedia.
by Stanley Kunitz
Miss Murphy in first grade
wrote its name in chalk
across the board and told us
it was roaring down the stormtracks
of the Milky Way at frightful speed
and if it wandered off its course
and smashed into the earth
there’d be no school tomorrow.
A red-bearded preacher from the hills
with a wild look in his eyes
stood in the public square
at the playground’s edge
proclaiming he was sent by God
to save every one of us,
even the little children.
“Repent, ye sinners!” he shouted,
waving his hand-lettered sign.
At supper I felt sad to think
that it was probably
the last meal I’d share
with my mother and my sisters;
but I felt excited too
and scarcely touched my plate.
So mother scolded me
and sent me early to my room.
The whole family’s asleep
except for me. They never heard me steal
into the stairwell hall and climb
the ladder to the fresh night air.
Look for me, Father, on the roof
of the red brick building
at the foot of Green Street —
that’s where we live, you know, on the top floor.
I’m the boy in the white flannel gown
sprawled on this coarse gravel bed
searching the starry sky,
waiting for the world to end.
“Halley’s Comet” from The Collected Poems: Stanley Kunitz, © 2000 by Stanley Kunitz – W.W. Norton & Company
Stanley Kunitz (1905-2006) Jewish American poet, editor, and translator, was born in Worcester Massachusetts. His father died when he was a baby, and he was raised by his mother. At fifteen, Kunitz became a butcher’s assistant, and later got a job as a cub reporter for The Wooster Telegram & Gazette, where he continued to work in the summer during the years he went to college. He graduated summa cum laude in 1926 from Harvard with an English major and a philosophy minor, then earned a master’s degree in English from Harvard in 1927. He to earn doctorate degree, but was told that “Anglo-Saxon” students would not like to be taught by a Jew, so he returned to working as a reporter full-time for The Worcester Telegram, then went to work for the H. W. Wilson Publishing Company in New York. His poems began to appear in magazines. He was drafted into the Army in 1943 as a conscientious objector, and served as a noncombatant in the Air Transport Command. He refused a commission and was discharged with the rank of staff sergeant. He then began teaching at several different American universities. Kunitz was appointed as the 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.
She Dried Her Tears
by Emily Brontë
She dried her tears, and they did smile
To see her cheeks’ returning glow;
Nor did discern how all the while
That full heart throbbed to overflow.
With that sweet look and lively tone,
And bright eye shining all the day,
They could not guess, at midnight lone
How she would weep the time away.
“She Dried Her Tears” is in the public domain
Emily Brontë (1818-1848) English poet and novelist, best known for her only novel, Wuthering Heights. Her father was a poorly-paid curate, and there were six children born before their mother died of cancer when Emily was three years old. When she was six years old, two of her older sisters died of illnesses contracted at the boarding school (fictionalized by Charlotte Brontë as Lowood School in Jane Eyre), where they had suffered abuse and privation. The three remaining sisters and their brother Branwell were educated at home by their father and their aunt Elizabeth Branwell. Wuthering Heights was published in 1847 under the pen name “Ellis Bell.” It was first published under the author’s real name in 1850, two years after Emily Brontë had died of tuberculosis at age 30.