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.
“I tell you this to break your heart,
by which I mean only that it break
open and never close again to the
rest of the world.”
– Mary Oliver
“Your world is as big as you make it.
I know, for I used to abide
In the narrowest nest in a corner,
My wings pressing close to my side.”
― Georgia Douglas Johnson
September is an extraordinary month for poetry – even as shadows draw around us, it is a time to store up all the light you can before the winter dark
The Heart of a Woman
by Georgia Douglas Johnson
The heart of a woman goes forth with the dawn,
As a lone bird, soft winging, so restlessly on,
Afar o’er life’s turrets and vales does it roam
In the wake of those echoes the heart calls home.
The heart of a woman falls back with the night,
And enters some alien cage in its plight,
And tries to forget it has dreamed of the stars
While it breaks, breaks, breaks on the sheltering bars.
“The Heart of a Woman” from The Heart of a Woman and Other Poems, © 1918 by Georgia Douglas Johnson – republished by Mint Editions, 2021 edition
September 10, 1880 – Georgia Douglas Johnson was born in Atlanta, Georgia, but lived most of her life in Washington D.C.; African-American poet and playwright. In spite of never living in New York, she became an important contributor to the Harlem Renaissance. She wrote over two dozen plays, and published five volumes of poetry: The Heart of a Woman, Bronze, An Autumn Love Cycle, Share My World, and The Ordeal.
All Greece hates
the still eyes in the white face,
the lustre as of olives
where she stands,
and the white hands.
All Greece reviles
the wan face when she smiles,
hating it deeper still
when it grows wan and white,
remembering past enchantments
and past ills.
Greece sees, unmoved,
God’s daughter, born of love,
the beauty of cool feet
and slenderest knees,
could love indeed the maid,
only if she were laid,
white ash amid funereal cypresses.
“Helen” from Collected Poems 1912-1944, © 1982 by the Estate of Hilda Dolittle – New Directions, Eighth Printing
September 10, 1886 – H.D. was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania as Hilda Dolittle. American poet and novelist, known for avant-garde poetry, literary editor of The Egoist journal during WWI, she frequently used Greek mythology and insights from psychoanalysis in her work. She was the only daughter among five sons in the family of a professor of astronomy and a Moravian mother with a passion for music. The family moved to Philadelphia when her father joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania in 1896. She met Ezra Pound when she was 15, and they became secretly engaged, but her father strongly disapproved of Pound, and their romance fizzled when he moved to Europe in 1908. By 1911, H.D. was touring Europe, and there she remained, in spite of her parents’ objections – though they did not cut off their financial support. She settled in London, and married writer Richard Aldington. Then she gave birth to a stillborn child, and Aldington went to war. He came home a traumatized and greatly changed man. The marriage foundered. H.D. met the wealthy English novelist Bryher (Annie Winifred Ellerman), who became the great love of her life. Though they both were involved in many affairs and even marriages, Bryher remained the most constant and steadying influence in H.D.’s life. H.D. lived her last years in Switzerland. She suffered a stroke in 1961, and died weeks later at age 74.
by Franz Werfel
I am not dead. Through slit and crack
The piercing ray only glanced me,
And in the glow of self-possession
I survive once more once again.
Through open shutters with waves surges
A blue that does not look blue to me.
Like a baby the air’s nursed itself
Full of the sun’s milk that melts down.
On the sea a steamer’s whistle
Blows like a rutting stag.
From mountains flashes a secret army’s
I am not dead. I’d like to shout loud
On this day of who gets mercy,
That today each of my sails fills
Themselves once more once again.
“Morning Hymn” from Poems, © 1945 by Franz Werfel and translator Edith Abercrombie Snow – Princeton University Press – reissued by Nabu Press in 2011
September 10, 1890 – Franz Werfel born in Prague, in what was then Bohemia; Czech-German Expressionist Jewish playwright, poet, and novelist. In 1933, Werfel was forced to leave the Prussian Academy of Arts in 1933. His books were burned by the Nazis. Werfel left Austria after the Anschluss in 1938 and went to France. After the German invasion, Werfel had flee again in 1940. He was inspired to write his best-known book, The Song of Bernadette, because he found solace in Lourdes, long a place of pilgrimage for Roman Catholics, while escaping from France. He crossed the Pyrenees on foot into Spain, then reached Portugal, and boarded a ship bound for New York. He settled in Los Angeles among other German and Austrian refugees, where he died of heart failure at age 54 in 1945.
by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
“Wild Geese” from Dream Work, © 1986 by Mary Oliver – Atlantic Monthly Press
September 10, 1935 – Mary Oliver was born in Maple Heights, Ohio; American poet and essayist; she won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for American Primitive, and the 1992 National Book Award for Poetry for New and Selected Poems. Her many books of poetry include: Twelve Moons, House of Light. Blue Pastures, Why I Wake Up Early, and Dog Songs. She was acknowledged by the New York Times as “one of the most beloved poets of her generation” and “far and away, this country’s best-selling poet.”
The Season Of Life
by Joanna Baillie
LONG gone, for ever gone! the joys of Spring;
And Summer’s brighter objects, riper cares;
Now Autumn’s lingering train are on the wing,
For me the yellow leaf all nature wears!
Yet Hope, benignant power! with cheering smile,
Still bids me tune the lyre, and wake the muse;
Illumes the wintry prospect for a while,
And dreams of springs, and summers past, renews.
“The Season of Life” is in the public domain.
September 11, 1762 – Joanna Baillie born, Scottish poet and dramatist known for Plays on the Passions (in three volumes) and Fugitive Verses. Baillie did not learn to read until age 10 when she was sent to boarding school, and the only theatrical presentation she saw as a child was a puppet show. When her father died in 1778, the family’s financial situation suffered. Her aunt, Anna Home Hunter, was a poet, held a salon in her home, and was a leading Bluestocking (an educated, intellectual woman, originally a member of the Blue Stockings Society from 1720-1800, and used to describe both women and men, but came to be used only for women, and often meant to be derogatory. ‘Bas bleu’ has the same meaning in French). Baillie was introduced by her aunt to Hunter’s circle of friends, including Fanny Burney, Elizabeth Carter, Elizabeth Montagu and Sir Walter Scott. Baillie studied playwrights and poets, then began writing her own while she ran her older brother’s household, until he married in 1791. She then lived with her mother and sister, often having to move, and exchanged letters with Walter Scott and others. She went through period of ill health in her 70s from which she recovered, then continued writing and corresponding until her death, at age 89, in 1851.
Lies About Love
by D.H. Lawrence
We are a liars, because
the truth of yesterday becomes a lie tomorrow,
whereas letters are fixed,
and we live by the letter of truth.
The love I feel for my friend, this year,
is different from the love I felt last year.
If it were not so, it would be a lie.
Yet we reiterate love! love! love!
as if it were a coin with a fixed value
instead of a flower that dies, and opens a different bud.
“Lies About Love” from The Complete Poems of D. H. Lawrence – Wordsworth Editions Ltd – 1994
September 11, 1885 – D.H. Lawrence born, English novelist, poet, playwright, and essayist; his novels were called pornographic by many readers of his day, but are now regarded as classics of English literature. His best known books are Sons and Lovers, Women in Love, and Lady Chatterley’s Lover. When he died in 1930 at age 44 from tuberculosis, he was still widely regarded as a pornographer, but novelist E.M. Forster wrote in an obituary notice that Lawrence was “the greatest imaginative novelist of our generation,” which began the reevaluation of his work. Literary critic F.R. Leavis also championed Lawrence’s artistic integrity and moral seriousness. The 1960 obscenity trial of Penguin Books for printing an unexpurgated edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover made headlines across the world. The Penguin second edition, published in 1961, contains a publisher’s dedication, which reads: “For having published this book, Penguin Books were prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act, 1959 at the Old Bailey in London from 20 October to 2 November 1960. This edition is therefore dedicated to the twelve jurors, three women and nine men, who returned a verdict of ‘Not Guilty’ and thus made D. H. Lawrence’s last novel available for the first time to the public in the United Kingdom.”
Cold Morning Sky
by Marya Zaturenska
Oh, morning fresh and clear as heavenly light,
Like warmth of love within the unwilling breast,
Sad to be so possessed,
Always the delicate shafts, piercing and bright,
Troubling my rest.
Neither tempestuous now, nor tormented
As when in fragrant, unforgotten air
Of the blood’s April, all the world was spent
In passionate discontent,
In rapture and despair.
But like rich gold beat thin into a thread,
Metallic-firm and shadow-fine as thought,
So this new Eros rests his shining head
Upon a book much prized and seldom read,
Glad to be captured, shielded and untaught.
Then, under morning, everlasting morning,
Clear as new joy, cool with expectant breath,
The mystery takes blood, the arriving sun gives warning;
The soul within its sheath
Explains, endures, interprets all the bliss,
Once new and unexplained;
The lucid flower is named, the numbered kiss,
The pulse-beat numbered and reduced to this
And nothing is profaned.
But airy-light, and fragile, bitter sweet,
A small bell rings, and all enchantment’s done
In smallest intervals of expanding dawn,
But quiet fills the eyes, lightens the feet,
Dissolves the wonder, all fulfilled, complete.
“Cold Morning Sky” from Cold Morning Sky, © 1938 by Marya Zaturenska –
Macmillan Company – new edition issued by Praeger in 1970
September 12, 1902 – Marya Zaturenska was born in Ukraine; American author and lyric poet who won the 1938 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her collection, Cold Morning Sky; she came to the U.S. with her family when she was 8 years old; as a teenager, she worked in a clothing factory during the day while attending high school classes at night, and won scholarships to attend college. She published eight volumes of poetry, edited six poetry anthologies, and published A History of American Poetry, 1900-1940.
The Giant Turtle Grants an Interview
by John Malcolm Brinnin
How old are you, Old Silence?
…..I tell time that it is.
And are you full of wonder?
What most do you long for?
…..No end to my retreat.
Have you affections, loves?
…..I savor what I eat.
Do shellbacks talk to shells?
…..Sea is a single word.
Have you some end in mind?
…..No end, and no reward.
Does enterprise command you?
…..I manage a good freight.
Has any counsel touched you?
…..Lie low. Keep quiet. Wait.
Your days – have they a pattern?
…..In the degree of night.
Has solitude a heart?
…..If a circle has a center.
Do creatures covet yours?
…..They knock, but seldom enter.
Have you not once perceived
…..The whole wide world is yours.
I have. Excuse me. I
…..Stay utterly indoors.
“The Giant Turtle Grants an Interview” from The Selected Poems of John Malcolm Brinnin, © 1963 by John Malcolm Brinnin – Atlantic Monthly Press
September 13, 1916 – John Malcolm Brinnin was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, but his family moved to Detroit, Michigan, when he was a child. He went to the University of Michigan on scholarships, supporting himself by working in a bookstore. After graduating in 1942, he went to Harvard for graduate work. While working as director (1949-1956) of the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association Poetry Center at the 92nd Street YMCA in New York, he was the first person to bring Dylan Thomas to the U.S. He wrote Dylan Thomas in America about the experience. In addition to scholarly works on T. S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, Truman Capote, and William Carlos Williams, Brinnin also published six volumes of poetry, and three books on travel. He gave lecture series at several universities, and was awarded the Gold Medal for Distinguished Service to Poetry from the Poetry Society of America in 1955. He died at age 81 in Key West, Florida, in 1998.
by Roald Dahl
The lion just adores to eat
A lot of red and tender meat
And if you ask the lion what
Is much the tenderest of the lot,
He will not say a roast of lamb
Or curried beef or devilled ham
Or crispy pork or corned beef hash
Or sausages or mutton mash.
Then could it be a big plump hen?
He answers no. What is it, then?
Oh, lion dear, could I not make
You happy with a lovely steak?
Could I entice you from your lair
With rabbit pie or roasted hare?
The lion smiled and shook his head
He came up very close and said,
“The meat I am about to chew
Is neither steak nor chops.
“The Lion” from Dirty Beasts, © 1983 by Roald Dahl – Puffin Books
September 13, 1916 – Roald Dahl was born in Cardiff, Wales, to Norwegian emigrant parents; British Novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter, children’s author, and poet, wholived most of his life in England. He is known for Tales of the Unexpected (both the anthology and the TV series), James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Roald Dahl died at age 74 of myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare blood cancer, in 1990. Children often leave toys or flowers on his grave in Great Missenden, in the Chiltern Hills of Buckinghamshire
by Lola Rodríguez de Tió
How joyful are the hours! like a flock
of doves that wanders across the skies
tearing apart the frail veil of dawn,
making brighter the iridescent light.
Thus they cross the bluish atmosphere,
in a raucous rumble yet peaceful flight,
bringing an illusion, a new yearning,
to my happy muse in-love.
I feel them pass by, by good fortune,
like extremely pure moonbeams
that sweetly bathe my fantasies;
and my last hour I only wish
that it comes very late to my home,
where love has a fervent altar.
– translator not credited
“Las Horas” from Claros y Nieblas: Poesias, Lola Rodríguez de Tió – 1885 Spanish-language edition, facsimile reprint by Kessinger Publishing in 2010 (I couldn’t find any English-language versions in print)
September 14, 1843 – Lola Rodríguez de Tió born in San Germán, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rican poet, abolitionist, and women’s rights activist. After her marriage in 1863 to Bonocio Tió Segarra, she became a writer and book importer, and published her first book of poetry, Mis Cantos (My Songs). She and her husband were banished twice for their political activities and writings advocating Puerto Rican independence from Spain. They lived in Venezuela and New York before settling in Cuba. In 1901, she was a co-founder and member of the Cuban Academy of Arts and Letters, and also served as an inspector of schools. Their home was a gathering place for Cuban intellectuals and politicians, and Puerto Rican exiles. She died in Havana at the age of 81, leaving a legacy of books and patriotic poetry, including new revolutionary lyrics for the song “La Boriqueña.” In 2014, she was one of 12 Puerto Rican women honored with plaques in La Plaza en Honor a la Mujer Puertorriqueña (Plaza in Honor of Puerto Rican Women) in San Juan.
by Hamlin Garland
At last there came
The sudden fall of frost, when Time
Dreaming through russet September days
Suddenly awoke, and lifting his head, strode
Swiftly forward—made one vast desolating sweep
Of his scythe, then, rapt with the glory
That burned under his feet, fell dreaming again.
And the clouds soared and the crickets sang
In the brief heat of noon; the corn,
So green, grew sere and dry—
And in the mist the ploughman’s team
Moved silently, as if in dream—
And it was Indian summer on the plain.
“Indian Summer” from Prairie Songs, © 1893 by Hamlin Garland –
republished in 2016 by Wentworth Press
September 14, 1860 – Hamlin Garland was born in West Salem, Wisconsin; prolific American novelist, short story writer, and essayist. He also wrote poetry, and campaigned for the economic ideas of Henry George: that individuals should own the value they produce, but land and natural resources should belong collectively to all members of society. He is best-known for his realistic fictional accounts of the lives of hard-working Midwestern farmers, even though he lived most of his adult life in Boston, Chicago, and Hollywood. He won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Biography for A Daughter of the Middle Border, the sequel to his autobiography, A Son of the Middle Border. He died at age 79, at his home in Hollywood, in 1940.
The Harlem Dancer
by Claude McKay
Applauding youths laughed with young prostitutes
And watched her perfect, half-clothed body sway;
Her voice was like the sound of blended flutes
Blown by black players upon a picnic day.
She sang and danced on gracefully and calm,
The light gauze hanging loose about her form;
To me she seemed a proudly-swaying palm
Grown lovelier for passing through a storm.
Upon her swarthy neck black shiny curls
Luxuriant fell; and tossing coins in praise,
The wine-flushed, bold-eyed boys, and even the girls,
Devoured her shape with eager, passionate gaze;
But looking at her falsely-smiling face,
I knew her self was not in that strange place.
“The Harlem Dancer” appeared in The Book of American Negro Poetry, edited by James Weldon Johnson in 1922 – Harcourt, Brace and Company (reissued in 1982 by
Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
September 15, 1889 – Claude McKay born in Jamaica as Festus Claudius McKay; Jamaican-American poet, author, essayist, and social activist; prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance. McKay is best known for his novel, Home to Harlem, which won the 1928 Harmon Gold Award for Literature. He came to the U.S. in 1914 to go to college. He wrote one of his best-known poems, “If We Must Die,” in 1919, in response to the wave of white-on-black race riots and lynchings after WWI. He published four collections of poetry, five novels, a novella, short stories, and two autobiographical books, A Long Way from Home and My Green Hills of Jamaica. He died of heart failure at age 57 in 1948.