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.
Joy is the simplest form of Gratitude
– Karl Barth, Swiss Theologian
If we but give it time, a work of art
‘can rap and knock and enter our souls’
and re-align us – all our molecules –
to make us whole again.
– P. K. Page
We have a such bountiful harvest of poets born this Thanksgiving week! I’m very thankful for them, and as always, for the most excellent company of all the MOTlies and our visitors. May your week also be full of things for which to be to truly grateful.
November 20, 1869 – Zinaida Gippius born, Russian poet, novelist, playwright, editor and religious thinker, a major figure in the Russian symbolism movement; when writing critical essays early in her career, she often used male pseudonyms. While she and her husband, author Dmitry Merezhkovsky, were critical of Tsarism after the 1905 Revolution, and spent a lot of time out of Russia for the next several years, they denounced the 1917 October Revolution as a cultural disaster, and emigrated to Poland, then France, and later Italy. Her poetry is considered her greatest contribution.
by Zinaida Gippius
To V. Zlobin
It’s awful not to live but only sleep…
To see all’s being ever multiplied,
To have in past so wildly many sins,
That it’s a shame to look up at the sky.
When can I pray for mercy for my sins?
I’m on the last of circles’ strong incline.
But most dread and shameful is the thing,
That no one loves now any one.
– translated by Yevgeny Bonver, November 2000
November 20, 1984 – David A. Romero born, American spoken word poet and activist against labor exploitation; his published poetry collections include Diamond Bars: The Street Version, Ellendale Night, and My Name is Romero.
November 21, 1844 – Ada Cambridge, English-born Australian poet, novelist, and memoirist; she also wrote under her initials A.C. and under her married name Ada Cross. In 1870, she married the Reverend George Frederick Cross and a few weeks later sailed for Australia. Her husband was assigned to several different parishes which she wrote about in her autobiographical Thirty Years in Australia. Cambridge wrote over 25 works of fiction, but many of them were serialized in Australian newspapers and never published in book form. Her poetry collections include Hymns on the Litany, Echoes, Unspoken Thoughts, and The Hand in the Dark. She died at age 81 in 1926.
by Ada Cambridge
See those resplendent creatures, as they glide
O’er scarlet carpet, between footmen tall,
From sumptuous carriage to effulgent hall-
A dazzling vision in their pomp and pride!
See that choice supper-needless-cast aside-
Though worth a thousand fortunes, counting all,
To them for whom no crumb of it will fall-
The starved and homeless in the street outside.
Some day the little great god will decree
That overmuch connotes the underbred,
That pampered body means an empty head,
And wealth displayed the last vulgarity.
When selfish greed becomes a social sin
The world’s regeneration may begin.
“Fashion” from The Hand in the Dark and Other Poems, by Ada Cambridge – Kessinger Publishing, 2004 edition
November 21, 1887 – Joseph Mary Plunkett born, Irish poet and 1916 Easter Rising leader. He contracted tuberculosis at a young age, and spent part of his youth in the Mediterranean and Algiers, where he studied the Arabic language and literature, but attended college in Ireland and at Stonyhurst College, a Catholic school in England, where he took part in the Officers’ Training Corps (similar to the ROTC in America). He joined the Gaelic League, and became friends with Thomas MacDonagh, another Irish political activist and poet, and they both joined the Irish Volunteers. In 1915, Plunkett joined the highly secret Irish Republican Brotherhood, and was sent to Germany to solicit aid and arms from the German government for the Rising. Plunkett was one of the original members of the IRB Military Committee that was responsible for planning the Easter Rising, and it was largely his plan that was followed. Shortly before the rising was to begin, he had an operation, and was still weak and bandaged when he took his place in the General Post Office, headquarters for the leaders of the rising. His aide de camp was Michael Collins. All but the Post Office’s granite façade was destroyed by fire. Following the surrender, Plunkett was court martialed, and sentenced to death. Seven hours before he faced the firing squad, he married his sweetheart, Grace Gifford. He was 28 years old when he was executed. Plunkett had named his sister Geraldine as literary executor of his will, and she published a volume of his poetry a month after his execution.
White Waves On the Water
by Joseph Mary Plunkett
White waves on the water,
Gold leaves on the tree,
As Mananán’s daughter
Arose from the sea.
The bud and the blossom,
The fruit of the foam
From Ocean’s dark bosom
Arose, from her home.
She came at your calling,
O winds of the world,
When the ripe fruit was falling
And the flowers unfurled.
She came at your crying
O creatures of earth,
And the sound of your sighing
Made music and mirth.
She came at your keening
O dreamers of doom,
And your sleep had new dreaming
And splendour and bloom.
Background: Mananán mac Lir (“son of the sea”) was a mythic warrior-king of the Otherworld, and one of the Tuatha Dé Danaan. His daughter Fionnuala and her three brothers were turned into swans for 900 years by Aoife, their jealous stepmother. But as swans, they could sing, and when Fionnuala communicated to her father what Aoife had done, he banished Aoife into the mist, and she was never seen again. Their father died long before the spell was broken, and his castle fell to ruin. The spell was broken when Christian church bells rang after the arrival of St. Patrick in Ireland.
“White Waves on the Water” from The Poems of Joseph Mary Plunkett – Loreto Publications, 2009 edition
November 21, 1952 – Debjani Chatterjee born, Indian-born British poet, author, and translator. She came to the UK in 1972 after earning a BA from the American University in Cairo. She completed her education at English universities, earning a Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Lancaster University in 1977. She later served as director of the Sheffield Racial Equality Council (1984-1994). In 2012, she was an Olympic Torchbearer from Sheffield to Rotherham. Her poetry collections include I Was that Woman, The Sun Rises in the North, Albino Gecko, Do You Hear the Storm Sing?, and Laughing with Angels.
A Winter’s Morning in Timarpur
by Debjani Chatterjee
The black and white cat snoozes in the play of light and shade
on the carport’s tin roof, under the crumbling mango tree;
tail twitching, it dreams of plump pigeon and tender blue tit.
The scent of a hilsa fish curry floats from the kitchen window;
infiltrates its dream and teases it awake till it yawns and blinks.
A family of sparrows hop in the pomegranate tree:
twittering delight at the young green of its leaves,
playing among the orange of its buds.
Frenzied bees weave among white lemon flowers
and crimson frangipani fragrance the air.
High on a branch of the drumstick tree a tailor-bird’s nest swings
in the November breeze, fresh with a hint of henna coolness.
The coral-stemmed white shefali flowers make alpona patterns
as they fall on the dew-damp grass.
The hibiscus still droops in prayer
to the early morning sun, its double petals
luscious red like much-kissed bridal lips.
A squirrel mother and child stir in their telephone-box nest
and milkmen balance heavy canisters on bicycle bars.
The roadside chaiwalla lights his charcoal fire biri
and the newsboy flings, with practised ease,
a rolled Hindustan Times to the third floor verandah.
Trucks and buses piled with raw produce and day labour
thunder imperially down the Grand Trunk Road
from the conquered pastures of Punjab and Haryana.
The black and white cat shadow boxes a Tiger Swallowtail
as a sleepy corner of Old Delhi wakes – and stretches.
alpona: a Bengali word for patterns drawn on the floor to welcome guests.
chaiwalla: someone who sells tea.
biri: a cheap Indian cigarette.
“A Winter’s Morning in Timarpur” from Namaskar: New and Selected Poems, © 2004 by Debyani Chatterjee – Redbeck Press
November 21, 1954 – Fiona Pitt-Kethley born, British poet, novelist, travel writer, anthology editor, and freelance journalist; known for Sky Ray Lolly, The Misfortunes of Nigel, and The Pan Principle.
Song of the Nymphomaniac
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley
From Baffin Bay down to Tasmania
I’ve preached and practised nymphomania,
Had gentlemen of all complexions,
All with varying erections:
Coalmen, miners, metallurgists,
Gurus, wizards, thaumaturgists,
Aerial artists, roustabouts,
Recidivists and down-and-outs,
Salesmen, agents, wheeler-dealers,
Dieticians, nurses, healers,
Surgeons, coroners and doctors,
Academics, profs and proctors,
Butchers, bakers, candle-makers,
Airmen, soldiers, poodlefakers,
Able seamen, captains, stokers,
Tax-inspectors, traders, brokers,
Preachers, canons, rural deans,
Bandy cowboys fed on beans,
Taxidermists and morticians.
I like them young, I like them old,
I like them hot, I like them cold.
Yet, I’m no tart, no easy lay –
My name is Death. We’ll meet one day.
“Song of the Nymphomaniac” from Selected Poems, © 2008 by Fiona Pitt-Kethley – Salt Publishing
November 22, 1819 – George Eliot born as Mary Anne Evans; English novelist, poet, journalist, and translator; a leading novelist of the Victorian era, best known for The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner, and Middlemarch. Because she was considered plain, and not likely to marry, her father sent her to a series of boarding schools from age five to age sixteen. She had little formal education after age sixteen, when her mother died, and she was called home to take over running the house. However, her father’s role as estate manager of the Arbury Hall Estate allowed her access to the estate’s extensive library, but also showed her the great contrast between the ease and comfort of the landowner’s life compared with the lives of the people who worked on the estate. In 1850, she moved to London, determined to become a writer, and became assistant editor (1851-1854) of the left-wing journal The Westminster Review. Though officially only an assistant, she did most of the actual work of producing the journal. Evans caused a scandal when she moved with critic George Henry Lewes, who was already married, and had three children. It was at this time that she began using the pen name George Eliot. Even when her private life became public, it did not affect the popularity of her novels. A friendship with Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s daughter, who was an admirer of her work, helped the couple become more accepted in polite society. Lewes died in 1878. Two years later, she married John Cross, who was 40 years her senior. She died at age 61 of kidney disease in December 1880.
Count That Day Lost
by George Eliot
If you sit down at set of sun
And count the acts that you have done,
And, counting, find
One self-denying deed, one word
That eased the heart of him who heard,
One glance most kind
That fell like sunshine where it went —
Then you may count that day well spent.
But if, through all the livelong day,
You’ve cheered no heart, by yea or nay —
If, through it all
You’ve nothing done that you can trace
That brought the sunshine to one face–
No act most small
That helped some soul and nothing cost —
Then count that day as worse than lost.
“Count That Day Lost” is in the public domain.
November 22, 1869 – Andre Gide born, French author, memoirist, translator, and poet; winner of the 1947 Nobel Prize in Literature. He produced his first book Les Nourritures terrestres and L’Immoraliste in 1891, published at his own expense. It proclaimed the need for individual liberation and self-fulfillment. He published Corydon in the 1920s, which was seen as a “gay manifesto.” Gide became very famous as a left-wing activist and he signed many petitions and was a popular speaker at anti-fascism meetings. He joined the communist party in 1932, but when he visited Russia on a trip sponsored by Nouvelle Revue Francaise, his criticism of the Soviet State led to accusations that he was betraying the communist cause.
by Andre Gide
Let me tell you of the pomegrante; of its juice,
mouse like the juice of green raspberries;
Its wax-like flower the color of fruit;
Its closely guarded treasure;
Its partitions in the hive;
Its abundance of flavor;
Its pentagonal architecture;
Its skin giving in;
Its grains bursting;
Grains of blood dripping into azure cups;
Drops of gold falling into plates of enameled bronze….
“Pomegrante” from The Fruits of the Earth, published by Andre Gide in 1897
November 22, 1953 – Marly Youmans born, American poet, novelist, and short story writer; She was born in South Carolina, and grew up in the southern U.S. Her novels include Catherwood, The Wolf Pit, and Maze of Blood. Among her poetry collections are The Throne of Psyche, The Foliate Head, and The Book of the Red King.
by Marly Youmans
Physicists go trailing after poets:
Dante saying distanced things may show it’s
Just one space they share in Paradiso;
How the strings of harpsichords could be so
Entangled with some hyacinths (a world
Away) that unexpected fragrance curled
Into George MacDonald’s sitting room
And tinged his Lilith’s page with its perfume…
Since thinnest places are a fragile screen,
Inspect the mounds where fairy folk were seen,
Mull the spirit kingdoms of the muses
And sluice of silver rain no bard refuses,
Weigh the way, the cost of sacrifice,
The radiance, the shores of Paradise.
“Otherworlds” appeared in the Amethyst Review, June 5, 2022 edition
November 23, 1906 – Elisabet “Betti” Alver born, notable Estonian poet; member of the Arbujad (“Soothsayers”) an influential poet’s group; her poetry collections include, Tähetund (“The Star Hour”) and Tolm ja tuli: luuletusi (“Dust and Fire: poems”)
The Star-Bright Hour
by Betti Alver
The wind won’t ask: to what did your life amount?
To yourself you’ll render your own account.
However long, however dark the night –
your forehead bears your name in plain sight.
Each leaf that sees the sunlight falls unknown
with all the rest. Yet each one falls alone.
No shining goal, no star to travel toward?
Go and see what is consuming’s reward.
Do you know how kindness grows, unseen and gentle?
Why cruel deeds are never accidental?
Why helmets rust unless they bloom and flower?
Why life can never repeat its star-bright hour?
Why tiny flames withstood the snowstorm’s test
And flickered on within the human breast?
Go ask your betters, do their bidding.
Go ask the dead. And then go ask the living.
But never ask yesterday
for those who happened to stray
across the sandy march into pitch-black night.
It’s all the same to them – was it spite
that made the boatman take his chance
without a light, or was it happenstance?
– translator not credited
“The Star-Bright Hour” from Tähetund, by Betti Alver – Esti Raamat Publishing, 1966 edition
November 23, 1916 – P.K. Page born, Canadian poet, author, scriptwriter, essayist, and painter; her poem “Planet Earth” was read in 2001 as part of the UN celebration of the International Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations. Page wrote screenplays for Canada’s National Film Board, and published ten volumes of poetry, eight books for children, a novel, short stories, a collection of her non-fiction writings, and a memoir. She died at age 93 in 2010.
This Heavy Craft
by P.K. Page
The wax has melted
but the dream of flight
I, Icarus, though grounded
in my flesh
have one bright section in me
where a bird
night after starry night
while I’m asleep
unfolds its phantom wings
“This Heavy Craft” from Kaleidoscope: Selected Poems, by P.K. Page – Porcupine’s Quill, 2010 edition
November 23, 1949 – Gayl Jones born, African-American author, poet, and playwright; her poetry collections include Song for Anniho, The Hermit-Woman, and Xarque and Other Poems.
by Gayl Jones
for B. H.
The blues calling my name.
She is singing a deep song.
She is singing a deep song.
I am human.
He calls me crazy.
He says, “You must be crazy.”
I say, “Yes, I’m crazy.”
He sits with his knees apart.
His fly is broken.
She is singing a deep song.
She is singing a deep song.
“Yes, I’m crazy.”
I care about you.
I care about you.
He lifts his eyebrows.
The blues is calling my name.
I tell him he’d be better
do something about his fly.
He says something softly.
He says something so softly
that I can’t even hear him.
He is a dark man.
Sometimes he is a good dark man.
Sometimes he is a bad dark man.
I love him……
“Deep Song” from Deep Song and Other Poems, © 2020 by Gayl Jones – independently published
November 23, 1965 – Jennifer Michael Hecht born, American historian, author, and poet; The End of the Soul: Scientific Modernity, Atheism, and Anthropology in France, 1876-1936
by Jennifer Michael Hecht
Even Eve, the only soul in all of time
to never have to wait for love,
must have leaned some sleepless nights
alone against the garden wall
and wailed, cold, stupefied, and wild
and wished to trade-in all of Eden
to have but been a child.
In fact, I gather that is why she leapt and fell from grace,
that she might have a story of herself to tell
in some other place.
“History” from The Next Ancient World, © 2001 by Jennifer Michael Hecht – Tupelo Press
November 24, 1891 – Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska born, prolific Polish lyric poet and dramatist, who published 12 volumes of poetry, and is considered one of the most innovative poets and playwrights of Poland’s interwar period. She spoke out in favor of birth control, and caused scandals when she used taboo themes like abortion, extramarital affairs, and incest in her plays. In 1937, she wrote Baba-dziwo (“Woman of Wonder”), an anti-Nazi play. She moved to the UK at the onset of WWII in 1939, and died at age 53 of bone cancer in 1945 in Manchester, England.
Dip Me in Him
by Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska
Dip me in him
like the rose in the vase
up to my eyes,
to my brow,
to the crown of my fair hair –
roll him through me,
like the kissing seas
of the Pacific.
Who cares if the night and the dawn perish,
the light of the moon and the sun –
only make him sink in me
like the music of a violin.
When it touches my heart
I will play the sweetest part –
– translated by Barbara Plebanek and Tony Howard
“Dip Me in Him” from Butterflies: Selected Poems by Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska – Wydawn Literackie, 2000 edition
November 24, 1952 – Parveen Shakir born, Urdu poet, teacher, and Pakistani civil servant; published six collections of poetry, often using the Urdu first-person, feminine pronoun in her verses which, though common in prose, was rarely used in poetry even by female poets, before her; recipient of Pakistan’s distinguished Pride of Performance award for outstanding contributions to literature in 1976; killed in a car accident in 1994.
It Has Been Written
by Parveen Shakir
“… then Zaid cursed Bakar, ‘Your mother
is more well known than your father!’ “
this curse is your fate too.
In a fathers’ world you too, one day,
must pay a heavy price
for being known by your mother,
though your eyes’ color, your brow’s expanse,
and all the curves your lips create
come from the man
who shared with me in your birth,
yet alone gives you significance
in the eyes of the law-givers.
But the tree that nurtured you three seasons
must claim one season as its own,
to comb the stars, turn thoughts into perfumes,
make poems leapfrog your ancestors’ walls
a season that Mira couldn’t send away,
nor could Sappho.
Now it must be this family’s fate
that you should frequently feel abashed
before your playmates, and that your father
must grin and bear it among his friends.
The name on the doorbell means nothing;
the world knows you by one name alone.
– translated by Naima Rashid
“It Has Been Written” from Defiance of the Rose, translation © 2019 by Naima Rashid – Oxford University Press
November 25, 1562 – Félix Lope de Vega born, prolific Spanish playwright, poet, and novelist; a key figure of the Spanish Golden Age of Baroque, his place in Spanish letters is second only to Miguel de Cervantes. He wrote about 3,000 sonnets, nine epic poems, and three novels. Some 500 plays are attributed to him, of which at least 80 are considered major works and still being produced worldwide.
by Lope de Vega
Poor bark of Life, upon the billows hoarse
Assailed by storms of envy and deceit,
Across what cruel seas in passage fleet
My pen and sword alone direct thy course!
My pen is dull; my sword of little force;
Thy side lies open to the wild waves’ beat
As out from Favor’s harbors we retreat,
Pursued by hopes deceived and vain remorse.
Let heaven by star to guide thee! here below
How vain the joys that foolish hearts desire!
Here friendship dies and enmity keeps true;
Here happy days have left thee long ago!
But seek not port, brave thou the tempest’s ire;
Until the end thy fated course pursue!
– translation by Roderick Gill, 1920
“O Navis” is in the public domain.
November 26, 1731 – William Cowper born, English poet and Anglican hymnist, noted for writing poems about “everyday life” and the English countryside. He is considered a forerunner of Romantic poetry. Cowper was bullied at school, but was an eager student of Latin and Homer. In 1763, while studying for the examination for a position as a Clerk of Journals in the House of Lords, he broke down, and suffered such severe depression he tried to commit suicide three times. He was institutionalized for insanity. When he recovered, Cowper found refuge with the family of a clergyman who was a fervent evangelical Christian. Through them, he met John Newton, who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace.” He and Newton became good friends, and Newton influenced Cowper to write a number of anti-slavery poems and to submit hymns for Olney Hymns, a hymnal Newton was compiling. Cowper continued to have bouts of depression until his death at age 68 in 1800.
Light Shining out of Darkness
by William Cowper
God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sov’reign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.
“Light Shining out of Darkness” is in the public domain.