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.
“Carpe diem! Rejoice while you are alive;
enjoy the day; live life to the fullest;
make the most of what you have.
It is later than you think.”
So many poets, so little time!
34 – Persius, born as Aulus Persius Flaccus, of Estruscan heritage; Roman poet and satirist; Lucius Annaeus Cornutus, the stoic philosopher, was his mentor, who published his work after his death in 62. Persius’ poetry later became popular in the Middle Ages
Prologue to Satires
‘I have not undergone any of the usual rituals of consecration. I only belong to the fraternity of bards, But, as we know, the prospect of cash makes all kinds of untalented people poetic.’
I never drenched my lips in cart-horse spring,
nor dreamed upon Parnassus’ two-pronged height
(I think) to explain my bursting on the scene
as poet. Pale Pirene and Helicone’s Maids
I leave to those whose portraits are entwined
with clinging ivy. I present my song,
a semi-clansman, at the bardic rites.
Who coached the parrot to pronounce “Bonjour!”
Who helped the magpie mimic human speech?
Teacher of art, giver of genius’ gift –
The belly, adept at bending nature’s laws.
If cash sends out a tempting ray of hope,
then raven poets and magpie poetesses
you’d swear were singing Pegasus’ nectar-flow.
– translation by Niall Rudd
1830 – Christina Rossetti born, English poet and author; noted for her poetry collection, Goblin Market and Other Poems, which was lauded by Gerald Manley Hopkins, Algernon Swinburne, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson; she spoke against slavery, the exploitation of underage girls in prostitution, and cruelty to animals; her poem,“In the Bleak Midwinter” was set to music as a Christmas carol by Gustav Holst.
In the bleak midwinter
by Christina Rossetti
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.
Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.
Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.
1886 – Joyce Kilmer born, American writer and poet, chiefly remembered for his poem “Trees,” and for being killed during the WWI Second Battle of the Marne in July, 1918, at the age of 31. He left his wife Aline Murray Kilmer, herself a poet, with four small children. She published her poetry and wrote children’s books to earn a living.
by Joyce Kilmer
From what old ballad, or from what rich frame
Did you descent to glorify the earth?
Was it from Chaucer’s singing book you came?
Or did Watteau’s small brushes give you birth?
Nothing so exquisite as that slight hand
Could Raphael or Leonardo trace.
Nor could the poets know in Fairyland
The changing wonder of your lyric face.
I would possess a host of lovely things,
But I am poor and such joys may not be.
So God who lifts the poor and humbles kings
Sent loveliness itself to dwell with me.
“Wealth” from Trees and Other Poems, by Joyce Kilmer – The Guttenberg Project – 2014
1892 – Sir Osbert Sitwell, 5th Baronet, born, English writer, critic and poet; English writer, poet, art critic, supporter of the arts, Liberal Party member, and campaigner for the preservation of Georgian buildings – he was successful in saving Sutton Scarsdale Hall, now owned by English Heritage. During WWI, he served in the trenches in France near the Belgium border, which is where he began writing poetry. He is less well-known than his older sister, the poet Edith Sitwell, but he published some travel journals, five novels, short stories, his autobiography Left Hand, Right Hand!, and two poetry collections: Argonaut and Juggernaut and At the House of Mrs Kinfoot.
by Sir Osbert Sitwell
The city’s heat is like a leaden pall—
Its lowered lamps glow in the midnight air
Like mammoth orange-moths that flit and flare
Through the dark tapestry of night. The tall
Black houses crush the creeping beggars down,
Who walk beneath and think of breezes cool,
Of silver bodies bathing in a pool;
Or trees that whisper in some far, small town
Whose quiet nursed them, when they thought that
Was merely metal, not a grave of mould
In which men bury all that’s fine and fair.
When they could chase the jewelled butterfly
Through the green bracken-scented lanes or sigh
For all the future held so rich and rare;
When, though they knew it not, their baby cries
Were lovely as the jewelled butterflies.
“Progress” from The Collected Satires and Poems of Osbert Sitwell – AMS Press, 1976 edition
1893 – Sylvia Townsend Warner born, English novelist and poet; noted for Summer Will Show, an early lesbian love story set in Paris during the 1848 revolution. During the Spanish Civil War, she volunteered for the British Red Cross in Barcelona. Her poetry collections include The Espalier, Time Importuned, Opus 7, and Collected Poems.
by Sylvia Townsend Warner
Why do I carry, she said,
This child that is no child of mine?
Through the heat of the day it did nothing but fidget and whine,
Now it snuffles under the dew and the cold star-shine,
And lies across my heart heavy as lead,
Heavy as the dead.
Why did I lift it, she said,
Out of its cradle in the wheel-tracks?
On the dusty road burdens have melted like wax,
Soldiers have thrown down their rifles, misers slipped their packs:
Yes, and the woman who left it there has sped
With a lighter tread.
Though I should save it, she said,
What have I saved for the world’s use?
If it grow to hero it will die or let loose
Death, or to hireling, nature already is too profuse
Of such, who hope and are disinherited,
Plough, and are not fed.
But since I’ve carried it, she said,
So far I might as well carry it still.
If we ever should come to kindness someone will
Pity me perhaps as the mother of a child so ill,
Grant me even to lie down on a bed;
Give me at least bread.
“Road 1940” from Selected Poems, by Sylvia Townsend Warner – Virago Press, 1990 reprint edition
1896 – Ira Gershwin born, American lyricist who collaborated mostly with his brother, George Gershwin, in creating some of the most memorable songs of the 20th century, many for Broadway and Hollywood
I Can’t Get Started With You
lyrics by Ira Gershwin
I’ve flown around the world in a plane
I’ve settled revolutions in Spain
The North Pole I have charted but can’t get started with you
Around a golf course I’m under par
And all the movies want me to star
I’ve got a house, a showplace, but I get no place with you
You’re so supreme, lyrics I write of you
Scheme just for a sight of you
Dream both day and night of you,
And what good does it do?
In nineteen twenty nine I sold short
In England I’m presented at court
But you’ve got me down-hearted ’cause I can’t get started with you
I do a hundred yards in ten flat
The Prince of Wales has copied my hat
With queens I’ve a la carted but can’t get started with you
The leading tailors follow my styles
And toothpaste ads all feature my smiles
The Astorbilts I visit, but say what is it with you?
When we first met, how you elated me.
Pet, you devastated me.
Yet, now you’ve deflated me- ‘Til you’re my Waterloo
I’ve sold my kisses at a bazaar
And after me they’ve named a cigar
But lately how I’ve smarted, ’cause I can’t get started with you
“I Can’t Get Started With You” music by Vernon Duke, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, introduced in 1936 in the film Ziegfeld Follies of 1936
1784 – Allan Cunningham born, Scottish poet, author, songwriter and parliamentary reporter in London (1810-1814)
by Allan Cunningham
A wet sheet and a flowing sea,
A wind that follows fast,
And fills the white and rustling sail,
And bends the gallant mast—
And bends the gallant mast, my boys,
While, like the eagle free,
Away the good ship flies, and leaves
Old England on the lee.
“O for a soft and gentle mind!”
I heard a fair one cry;
But give to me the snoring breeze
And white waves heaving high—
And white waves heaving high, my boys,
The good ship tight and free;
The world of waters is our home,
And merry men are we.
There’s tempest in yon hornèd moon,
And lightning in yon cloud;
And hark the music, mariners!
The wind is piping loud—
The wind is piping loud, my boys,
The lightning flashing free;
While the hollow oak our palace is,
Our heritage the sea.
1878 – Akiko Yosano born as Shō Hō, Japanese author, poet, pioneering feminist, and social reformer. Published in 1901, Midaregami (Tangled Hair), her first of several collections of tanka, a traditional Japanese poetry form, contained around 400 poems, the majority of them love poems. It was denounced by most literary critics as vulgar or obscene, but was widely read by free-thinkers, as it brought a passionate individualism to this traditional form, unlike any other work of the late Meiji period. The poems defied Japanese society’s expectation of women to always be gentle, modest and passive. In her poems, women are assertively sexual. These were the first tankas in which a poet had written specifically of women’s breasts, not vaguely as a symbol of child feeding and motherhood, but in terms of a woman’s sexual pleasure. In 1911, her poem “The Day the Mountains Move” announced that women are going to demand equality. She frequently wrote for the all-women literary magazine Seitō (Bluestocking.) Yosano disagreed with a prevailing opinion of Japanese feminists of the time that the government should provide financially for mothers, saying dependence on the state and dependence on men were really the same thing. Even though she gave birth to 13 children, 11 of whom survived to adulthood, she rejected motherhood as her main identity, saying that limiting a sense of self to a single aspect of one’s life, however important, entraps women in the old way of thinking. In a 1918 article, Yosano attacked “the ruling and military class which deliberately block the adoption of a truly moral system in an effort to protect the wealth and influence of their families…They hurry to invoke the power and precepts of the old totalitarian moral codes to direct the lives of Japanese citizens,” and called militarism a form of “barbarian thinking which is the responsibility of us women to eradicate from our midst.” In her later years, she was to support the military ambitions of her country, but most of these poems are regarded as lacking the brilliance and originality of her previous work
by Akiko Yosano
Tangled in a thousand strands.
Tangled my hair and
Tangled my tangled memories
Of our long nights of love making.
– translator not credited
“Black Hair” from Tangled Hair, by Akiko Yosano – Tuttle Publishing, 1989 edition
65 BC – Horace born as Quintus Horatius Flaccus, noted Roman lyric poet, also known for satiric hexameter verses and caustic iambic poems. He lived during Rome’s momentous change from a republic to an empire. Horace served as an officer in the republican army defeated at the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC. He was befriended by Maecenas, Octavian’s right-hand man in civil affairs, and became a spokesman for the new regime.
Bki: Xi Carpe Diem
Leuconoë, don’t ask, we never know, what fate the gods grant us,
whether your fate or mine, don’t waste your time on Babylonian,
futile, calculations. How much better to suffer what happens,
whether Jupiter gives us more winters or this is the last one,
one debilitating the Tyrrhenian Sea on opposing cliffs.
Be wise, and mix the wine, since time is short: limit that far-reaching hope.
The envious moment is flying now, now, while we’re speaking:
Seize the day, place in the hours that come as little faith as you can.
– translator not credited
1086 – Wang Anshi born, Chancellor (1070-1074 and 1075-1076) to Emperor Shenzong, of the Song dynasty; statesman, economist, reformer and poet. His economic reforms included increasing currency circulation, breaking up of private monopolies, and early forms of government regulation and social welfare. He also expanded the use of local militias by the military, expanded the civil service examination system, and tried to suppress nepotism in the government
by Wang Anshi
There are a few branches of plum in the corner,
and Ling Han leaves alone.
I know it is not snow,
because there is a secret fragrance.
– translator not credited
1832 – Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson born, Norwegian author, playwright and poet; 1903 Nobel Prize in Literature, primarily for his poetry; a staunch supporter of Alfred Dreyfus who wrote many articles proclaiming his belief in Dreyfus’ innocence. Bjørnson wrote the lyrics for the Norwegian National Anthem
In the Forest
by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson
List to the forest-voice murmuring low:
All that it saw when alone with its laughter,
All that it suffered in times that came after,
Mournful it tells, that the wind may know.
– translator not credited
1913 – Delmore Schwartz born, American poet and short story writer; youngest-ever recipient of the Bollingen Prize in 1959, for Summer Knowledge: New and Selected Poems.
by Delmore Schwartz
Old man in the crystal morning after snow,
Your throat swathed in a muffler, your bent
Figure building the snow man which is meant
For the grandchild’s target,
do you know
This fat cartoon, his eyes pocked in with coal
Nears you each time your breath smokes the air,
Lewdly grinning out of a private nightmare?
He is the white cold shadow of your soul.
You build his comic head, you place his comic hat;
Old age is not so serious, and I
By the window sad and watchful as a cat,
Build to this poem of old age and of snow,
And weep: you are my snow man and I know
I near you, you near him, all of us must die.
“Poem” from Last & Lost Poems: Delmore Schwartz, © 1989 by Kenneth Schwartz – New Directions Books
1961 – Conceição Lima born, a poet, broadcaster and producer for the BBC Portuguese Language Services, from the island São Tomé in São Tomé and Príncipe, just north of the equator off the western coast of Africa. She studied journalism in Portugal, then worked in radio, television and the press in São Tomé. In 1993, she founded and edited O País Hoje (The Country Today). Her first book of poetry, O Útero da Casa (The Uterus of the House) was published in 2004, followed by A Dolorosa Raiz do Micondó (The Dolorosa Root of Micondo) in 2006. She also holds degrees in Afro-Portuguese and Brazilian Studies from King’s College London.
by Conceição Lima
His eyes flicker like fireflies
in pursuit of customers.
Precarious plastic sacks
flutter from the string that is his hand,
Ponto Market is his patio.
At the end of the day, austere,
he returns the bag of coins to an adult
and becomes his age again.
– translated by David Shook
© 2021 by Conceição Lima
1608 – John Milton born, major English poet and philosopher; best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost. He also served as a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under its Council of State and later under Oliver Cromwell. By 1652, Milton had become completely blind, and had to dictate his writings to a series of copyists – one of them was the poet Andrew Marvell. Cromwell’s death in 1658 caused the English Republic to collapse into feuding military and political factions. Milton, however, stubbornly clung to the beliefs that had originally inspired him to write for the Commonwealth. In 1659, he published A Treatise of Civil Power, attacking the concept of a state-dominated church and denouncing corrupt practises in church governance. As the Republic disintegrated, Milton wrote several proposals to retain a non-monarchical government against the wishes of parliament, soldiers, and the people. He died in 1674.
Sonnet 19: When I consider how my light is spent
by John Milton
When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
1617 – Richard Lovelace born, English poet, cavalier, and soldier; best known for his poems “To Althea, from Prison,” and “To Lucasta, Going to the Wars.” He attended the Unioveristy of Oxford, and was granted a Master of Arts degree in 1635. In 1639 Lovelace joined the regiment of Lord Goring, serving first as a senior ensign and later as a captain in the Bishops’ Wars. On his return to his home in Kent in 1640, Lovelace lived as a country gentleman, serving as a justice of the peace, amid civil turmoil over religion and politics. In 1641, he presented a pro-Royalist petition to the House of Commons, and was imprisoned, but released on bail. During the political chaos of 1648 he was again imprisoned, this time for nearly a year. When he was released in April 1649, the king had been executed and Lovelace’s cause seemed lost. He died in 1657, three years before the restoration of the monarchy.
To Lucasta, Going to the Wars
by Richard Lovelace
Tell me not (Sweet) I am unkind,
That from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind
To war and arms I fly.
True, a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith embrace
A sword, a horse, a shield.
Yet this inconstancy is such
As you too shall adore;
I could not love thee (Dear) so much,
Lov’d I not Honour more.
1830 – Emily Dickinson born, American’s best-known woman poet and one of the nation’s greatest and most original authors, lived the life of a recluse in Amherst Massachusetts. She wrote nearly 1800 poems, ignoring the traditional poetic forms prevailing among most of the other poets of her day. The extent of her work wasn’t known until after her death, when her younger sister Lavinia discovered her cache of poems.
There’s a Certain Slant of Light (258)
by Emily Dickinson
There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –
Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where the Meanings, are –
None may teach it – Any –
‘Tis the seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –
When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –
“There’s a Certain Slant of Light” from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson – Pantianos Classics, 1924 edition
1925 – Carolyn Kizer born, American poet, essayist, and translator. In 1946, Kizer married Stimson Bullitt, the scion of a wealthy Seattle family, and had three children in quick succession. During this time, she nearly stopped writing poetry. They divorced in 1954. Kizer became the first editor of the journal Poetry Northwest (1959-1964). Her first poetry collection, The Ungrateful Garden, was published in 1961. Through the State Department, she got a job teaching in Pakistan (1964-1965), then was the first director of literary programs for the National Endowment for the Arts (1966-1970). She won three Pushcart Prizes, the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Yin, and in 1988 she won both the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize, and the Robert Frost Medal.
by Carolyn Kizer
For more than thirty years we hadn’t met.
I remembered the bright query of your face,
That single-minded look, intense and stern,
Yet most important – how could I forget? –
Was what your taught me inadvertently
(tutored by books and parents, even more
By my own awe at what was yet to learn):
The finest intellect can be a bore.
At this, perhaps our final interview,
Still luminous with your passion to instruct,
You speak to that recalcitrant pupil who
Inhaled the chalk-dust of your rhetoric.
I nod, I sip my wine, I praise your view,
Grateful, my dear, that I escaped from you.
“Reunion” from Cool, Calm, and Collected: Poems 1960-2000, © 2001 by Carolyn Kizer, Copper Canyon Press