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.
“Become such as you are,
having learned what that is.”
“The poet speaks to all men
of that other life of theirs that
they have smothered and forgotten.”
– Dame Edith Sitwell
Ten poets for this first week in September, voices from over 500 years BC
into the 21st century.
An Olympian Ode
Creatures for a day! What is a man?
What is he not? Men are the dreams of
a shadow. But when there comes to men
A gleam of splendour given of heaven,
Then rest on them a light of glory
And blessed are their days.
522 BC – Pindar born in Thebes; one of the greatest Ancient Greek lyric poets. He frequently wrote odes for victory celebrations, including the poem here, written for the victory of Heiron of Syracuse in a horse race during the Games of 475 BC.
by Nicanor Parra
Strolling many years ago
Down a street taken over by acacias in bloom
I found out from a friend who knows everything
That you had just gotten married.
I told him that I really
Had nothing to do with it.
I never loved you
— You know that better than I do —
Yet each time the acacias bloom
— Can you believe it? —
I get the very same feeling I had
When they hit me point-blank
With the heartbreaking news
That you had married someone else.
— translated by David Unger
”Acacias” from Poemas y Antipoemas — Ediciones Catedra, S.A., 1980 edition
1914 – Nicanor Parra born as Nicanor Segundo Parra Sandoval; Chilean poet, mathematician, and physicist. He studied physics at Brown University in the U.S. and cosmology at Oxford. Parra taught theoretical physics at the University of Chile (1952-1991) in Santiago. He styled himself as an “anti-poet” and often said at the end of public readings “I take back everything I’ve said.” Parra published Poemas y Antipoemas in 1954, which became one of the most influential Spanish-language poetry collections in the 20th century.
In Detroit, What Counts as Grace
by Christine Rhein
Trees growing from the roofs
of empty factories and houses,
birds nesting deep inside.
Children at their desks
without breakfast, busy adding
and subtracting, the lunch bell
not ringing until 12:45.
The teacher, mid-morning,
with snack mix from home,
pouring a little extra
into the shyest cupped hands.
The men who stand and fish,
casting lines into the river,
office towers soaring at their backs.
New farmers, in their agri-hoods,
watering and weeding, growing
peas, beans, Motor City Kale,
making Wild Detroit Honey.
The cooks who serve up
Coney Dogs, burritos,
shawarma—even at 3 a.m.—
singing out the orders.
And the woman at Cass and Forest
dancing by her boom box
every afternoon, her feet
sliding on the sidewalk,
trailing through the snow.
“In Detroit, What Counts as Grace” appeared in the December 2017 issue of Rattle, a quarterly poetry magazine, which is also has a daily blog online
Christine Rhein was born in Detroit, Michigan; American poet, writer, teacher, and speaker; a former mechanical engineer in the automotive industry. She is fluent in German. Her poems have appeared in the Michigan Quarterly Review, and The Southern Review. She was in her mid-30s when her first collection, Wild Flight, won the Walt McDonald First Book Prize in Poetry, and was published in 2009. Asked what she believed in, Rhein replied, “the pulse/ of algebra, all those x’s busy intersecting / all those y’s, points aligned” then added, “the tangle of science and poetry.”
Approaching The Veil, Scientifically
by Belinda Subraman
Eyes like stars sparkle and die
and cycle into new stars, new eyes.
The answer is outside our window.
for the beginning
and find there is no end.
Down to earth
there are frozen lines,
stalled cars in dirty snow,
sorrow over endings.
The real world is through the window,
Though a clear veil
keeps us distant,
the soul of what
we can never prove
keeps us close.
“Approaching The Veil, Scientifically” from Blue Rooms, Black Holes, White Lights, © 2009, 2016 by Belinda Subraman – Unlikely Books
1953 – Belinda Subraman was born in Wilkesboro, NC; American poet, writer, publisher, political activist, and registered nurse. She worked as a hospice nurse (2001-2007) in El Paso, Texas, which inspired her collection Blue Rooms, Black Holes, White Lights. While living in Germany in the 1980s, she started Gypsy Literary Magazine and the Sanctuary Tapes series of the writings and vocal performances of an international array of poets. She traveled extensively, and by marriage, became part of an East Indian family for 22 years. She was on the Texas Green Party State Executive Committee from 2001-2003 and served as the El Paso County Green Party Co-chair (2000-2004). Currently she is politically independent and only works with peace groups. Her solo poetry collections include Blue Rooms, Black Holes, White Lights and Left Hand Dharma. She also published The Innocents, in collaboration with Lyn Lifshin and David Transue.
Cold Blooded Creatures
by Elinor Wylie
Man, the egregious egoist,
(In mystery the twig is bent,)
Imagines, by some mental twist,
That he alone is sentient
Of the intolerable load
Which on all living creatures lies,
Nor stoops to pity in the toad
The speechless sorrow of its eyes.
He asks no questions of the snake,
Nor plumbs the phosphorescent gloom
Where lidless fishes, broad awake,
Swim staring at a night-mare doom.
“Cold Blooded Creatures” from Selected Works of Elinor Wylie – Kent State University Press, 2005 edition
1885 – Elinor Wylie born, American novelist and poet; her first poem to appear in print was “Velvet Shoes,” in Poetry magazine in 1920, followed in 1921 by publication of her collection Nets to Catch the Wind, and Black Armor in 1923, the same year her first novel, Jennifer Lorn, appeared. She was poetry editor of Vanity Fair magazine (1923-1925), and a contributing editor of The New Republic (1926-1928). Other works include the novel The Orphan Angel, and Angels and Earthly Creatures, a book of verse. She suffered from high blood pressure in adulthood, and severe migraines. She died of a stroke in 1928 at age 43.
Heart and Mind
by Edith Sitwell
SAID the Lion to the Lioness–‘When you are amber dust,–
No more a raging fire like the heat of the Sun
(No liking but all lust)–
Remember still the flowering of the amber blood and bone,
The rippling of bright muscles like a sea,
Remember the rose-prickles of bright paws
Though the fire of that sun the heart and the moon-cold bone are one.’
Said the Skeleton lying upon the sands of Time–
‘The great gold planet that is the mourning heat of the Sun
Is greater than all gold, more powerful
Than the tawny body of a Lion that fire consumes
Like all that grows or leaps…so is the heart
More powerful than all dust. Once I was Hercules
Or Samson, strong as the pillars of the seas:
But the flames of the heart consumed me, and the mind
Is but a foolish wind.’
Said the Sun to the Moon– ‘When you are but a lonely white crone,
And I, a dead King in my golden armour somewhere in a dark wood,
Remember only this of our hopeless love
That never till Time is done
Will the fire of the heart and the fire of the mind be one.’
“Heart and Mind” was published in the July 1944 issue of The Atlantic magazine
1887 – Dame Edith Sitwell was born into a wealthy, upper-crust family; English poet, critic and editor. She had health problems from an early age, and was put into an iron frame when diagnosed with a spinal deformity. Her parents, particularly her mother, a noted beauty of the day, seem to have abandoned her almost entirely. Her governess, Helen Rootham, introduced her to the magical worlds of art, music, and literature. She was an eccentric, often cruelly mocked for her tall thin appearance, a large and distinctive nose, and her outrageous, flamboyant style of dress. Sitwell experimented with language and form, and is best remembered for Façade, a series of her poems, some of which first appeared in the literary magazine Wheels, and then later became an “entertainment,” a recitation of the poems with an instrumental accompaniment composed by William Walton. Its first public performance was in 1923. She was a champion of Wilfred Owen, whose poetry she edited, and helped to publish after his death. In the 1950s, a long-standing affliction called Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the body’s ability to produce the protein that makes up connective tissue, led to her becoming wheelchair bound. In 1962, she published her final collection of poetry, The Outcasts, and gave her last poetry reading. She died of cerebral haemorrhage on December 9, 1964, at the age of 77.
My Dog May Be a Genius
by Jack Prelutsky
My dog may be a genius,
and in fact there’s little doubt.
He recognizes many words,
unless I spell them out.
If I so much as whisper “walk,”
he hurries off at once
to fetch his leash…it’s evident
my dog is not a dunce.
I can’t say “food” in front of him,
I spell f-o-o-d,
and he goes wild unless I spell
But recently this tactic
isn’t working out too well.
I think my d-o-g has learned
“My Dog May Be a Genius” from My Dog May Be a Genius, © 2008 by Jack Prelutsky – Greenwillow Books
1940 – Jack Prelutsky born, American poet and singer-songwriter, most often writing for children; he has published over 50 poetry collections; appointed as the first U.S. Children’s Laureate by the Poetry Foundation (2006-2008)
Are Your Eyes Listening?
by Sarah Stup
Are your eyes listening?
That’s what needs to happen to hear my writing voice. Because of autism, the thief of politeness and friendship, I have no sounding voice.
By typing words I can play with my life and stretch from my world to yours. I become a real person when my words try to reach out to you without my weird body scaring you away. Then I am alive.
With writing I reach out to try, and autism or hate or walls of doubt can’t hold me. I am pleased to be typing away — typing away loneliness, typing away silence, using paper to hug you and slap you and join you.
Click, click, clicking keys are my heartbeat. Listen with your eyes.
“Are Your Eyes Listening?” from Are Your Eyes Listening? © 2007 by Sarah Stup – SarahStup.com
1983 – Sarah Stup born, American author, poet and essayist, who writes about autism; she has limited motor skills and does not speak. She uses a variety of typing devices to converse and work. Stup has self-published her poetry collection Are Your Eyes Listening?, and two children’s books, Paul and His Beast, and Do-si-Do with Autism. “Writing is my way out of a lonely place where only God knows,” she says. “I feel alive to type. The lid opens and out comes pieces of Sarah, a girl with wings who soars above the place with no hope called autism. I am real when I write. Autism is my prison, but typing is the air of freedom and peace.”
by Louise Abeita Chewiwi
Beauty is seen
in the sunlight.
The trees, the birds.
Corn growing and people working
Or dancing for their harvest.
Beauty is heard
In the night.
Wind sighing, rain falling,
Or a singer chanting
Anything in earnest.
Beauty is in yourself.
Good deeds, happy thoughts
That repeat themselves
In your dreams.
“Beauty” from I am a Pueblo Indian Girl © 1939 by E-Yeh-Shure’ (aka Louise Abeita Chewiwi) – William Morrow & Company
1926 – Louise Abeita Chewiwi (E-Yeh-Shure’ – ‘Blue Corn’) born, Isleta Pueblo writer, poet and educator; her book of poems, I am a Pueblo Indian Girl, was published when she was 13 years old.
This Is Not a Small Voice
by Sonia Sanchez
This is not a small voice
you hear this is a large
voice coming out of these cities.
This is the voice of LaTanya.
Kadesha. Shaniqua. This
is the voice of Antoine.
Running over waters
navigating the hallways
of our schools spilling out
on the corners of our cities and
no epitaphs spill out of their river
This is not a small love
you hear this is a large
love, a passion for kissing learning
on its face.
This is a love that crowns the feet
that nourishes, conceives, feels the
mends the children,
folds them inside our history
toast more than the flesh
where they suck the bones of the
and spit out closed vowels.
This is a love colored with iron
This is a love initialed Black
This is not a small voice
“This Is Not a Small Voice” from Wounded in the House of a Friend, © 1995 by Sonia Sanchez – Beacon Press
1934 – Sonia Sanchez born as Wilsonia Driver in Alabama; influential African American poet, author, teacher, and activist, associated with the Black Arts movement. She was involved in the Civil Rights Movement, and briefly joined the Nation of Islam in the 1970s, but left because of their views on women’s rights. Sanchez was a pioneer in developing Black Studies courses, including a class in African American women’s literature. She has published over a dozen books of poetry, as well as short stories and children’s books. Her poetry collections include Homecoming; We a BaddDDD People; Shake Loose My Skin; and Does Your House Have Lions? Sanchez has been honored with the Robert Frost Medal and the Langston Hughes Poetry Award. She was the first Poet Laureate of the city of Philadelphia (2012-2014).