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.
“To translate a poem from thinking
into English takes all night.”
― Grace Paley
“We are in the hands of men
whose power and wealth have
separated them from the reality of
daily life and from the imagination.
We are right to be afraid.”
― Grace Paley
1810 – Alfred de Musset born in Paris, French poet, playwright, and novelist; his first poetry collection, Contes d’Espagne et d’Italie ( Contes of Spain and Italy), was published in 1829, before he was 20 years old. His second collection, La Nuit Vénitienne (The Venetian Night), was not well received, but A quoi rêvent les jeunes filles (With What the Girls Dream) was more successful. He had a brief but intense affair with author George Sand, during which they went to Venice, but he became ill, broke off the relationship, and returned to Paris. He continued to write poetry, and also wrote a number of plays, including Lorenzaccio and Les Caprices de Marianne (The Moods of Marianne). He published two novels, Confession d’un enfant du siècle (Confessions of a Child of the Century) and Histoire d’un merle blanc (published in English as The White Blackbird). De Musset’s health continued to decline, and he suffered from depression. His popularity waned, and when he died at age 46 in 1857, few attended his funeral.
I love the first shiver of winter
by Alfred de Musset
I love the first shiver of winter! That day
When the stubble resists the hunter’s foot,
When magpies settle on fields fragrant with hay,
And deep in the old chateau, the hearth is lit.
That’s the city time. I remember last year,
I came back and saw the good Louvre and its dome,
Paris and its smoke—that whole realm so dear.
(I can still hear the postilions shouting, “We’re home!”)
I loved the gray weather, the strollers, the Seine
Under a thousand lanterns, sovereign!
I’d see winter, and you, my love, you!
Madame, I’d steep my soul in your glances,
But did I even realize the chances
That soon your heart would change for me too?
– translated by Zack Rogow
1922 – Grace Paley born, American author, poet, pacifist, and anti-war activist. During the Vietnam War, she joined the War Resisters League, and in 1968, signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War. In 1969, Paley accompanied a peace mission to Hanoi to negotiate the release of prisoners of war. She was a delegate to the 1974 World Peace Conference in Moscow and, in 1978, was arrested as one of “The White House Eleven” for unfurling an anti-nuclear banner (that read “No Nuclear Weapons—No Nuclear Power—USA and USSR”) on the White House lawn. In the 1990s, Paley campaigned for human rights and against U.S. military intervention in Central America. Noted for her short story collections: The Little Disturbances of Man and Enormous Changes at the Last Minute.
by Grace Paley
This is about the women of that country
Sometimes they spoke in slogans
We patch the roads as we patch our sweetheart’s trousers
The heart will stop but not the transport
We have ensured production even near bomb craters
Children let your voices sing higher than the explosions
of the bombs
We have important tasks to teach the children
that the people are the collective masters
to bear hardship
to instill love in the family
to guide the good health of the children (they must
wear clothing according to climate)
Once men beat their wives
now they may not
Once a poor family sold its daughter to a rich old man
now the young may love one another
Once we planted our rice any old way
now we plant the young shoots in straight rows
so the imperialist pilot can see how steady our
In the evening we walked along the shores of the Lake
of the Restored Sword
I said is it true? we are sisters?
They said Yes, we are of one family
“That Country” from Begin Again: The Collected Poems of Grace Paley, © 1999 by Grace Paley – Farrar, Straus & Giroux
1931 – Jerome Rothenberg born in New York City to Polish-Jewish immigrants; American poet, translator, and anthologist. His poetry collections include Triptych: Poland/1931; A Poem of Miracles; and Selected Poems 1970-1986.
The First Station: Auschwitz-Berkenau
by Jerome Rothenberg
now the serpent:
I will bring back
crazy & mad
will meet them
deep in the valley
& be subdued
separated in life
shoes stowed away
how naked they come
angry & trembling
you have destroyed
their faces remembered
small in your eyes,
shut down, soiled
see a light
take shape in the pit,
torn in pieces
a terror, a god,
go down deeper
“The First Station” from “14 Stations” in Gematria Complete, © 2009 by Jerome Rothenberg– Marick Press
1980 – Adi Keissar born of Yemeni heritage, Israeli poet and founder of the cultural group Ars Poetica, which stages monthly poetry events. She has published three collections of poetry in Hebrew – titles in English: Black on Black; Loud Music; and Chronicles. Keissar is also the editor of two Ars Poetica anthologies.
by Adi Keissar
If a foreigner comes here
And asks me where the sea is
I’ll point east
If he asks what’s up
I’ll say China
My shoe size is
And my height
One meter and sixty nine liters
Israel is the capital
And its official language
The hairs on my head
The exact same color of those
On my late grandma’s head
The trees are budding
And in the sky
Float men with guns
It’s a world of chaos
And that’s the way it’s going to be in poems, too.
– translation © 2019, by Debbie Eylon
1873 – Lola Ridge born in Ireland as Rose Emily Ridge, anarchist poet, editor, and feminist. Her poems were published in several magazines, and in five books of poetry. When she was a toddler, her mother emigrated with her to New Zealand. Ridge was briefly married in 1895, but moved to Australia, and studied painting at the Sydney Art School. She emigrated to the U.S. in 1907, and settled in San Francisco, where she began using the name Lola, and gave her age as ten years younger. In 1908, The Overland Monthly was the first American magazine to publish one of her poems. She moved to New York, where she worked in a factory, and became involved in working class politics and protests. She also worked for Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger. In 1918, her long poem, The Ghetto, was published in The New Republic, and then in her first book, The Ghetto and Other Poems, which was a critical success, leading to work for her as an editor on avant-garde magazines. Her other poetry collections include Red Flag; Firehead; and Dance of Fire. She won the Shelley Memorial Award twice, in 1934 and 1935. In 1941, she died at age 67 of pulmonary tuberculosis.
by Lola Ridge
Wind, just arisen
(Off what cool matters of marsh-moss
In tented boughs leaf-drawn before the stars
Or niche of cliff under the eagles?)
You of living things,
So gay and tender and full of play,
Why do you blow on my thoughts – like cut flowers
Gathered and laid to dry on this paper, rolled out of dead wood?
I see you
Shaking that flower at me with soft invitation
And frisking away,
Deliciously rumpling the grass . . .
So you fluttered the curtains about my cradle,
Prattling of fields
Before I had had my milk.
Did I stir on my pillow, making to follow you, Fleet One –
I, swaddled, unwinged, like a bird in the egg?
My dreams that crackle under your breath . . .
You have the dust of the world to blow on.
Do not tag me and dance away, looking back . . .
I am too old to play with you,
“Dawn-Wind” from Mosaic of Fire: The Work of Lola Ridge, Evelyn Scott, Charlotte Wilder and Kay Boyle, by Caroline Maun, © 2012 University of South Carolina Press
1797 – Henrich Heine born in Dusseldorf; German poet, writer, and literary critic; best known outside Germany for his early lyric poetry, which was set to music in the form of Lieder by composers such as Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert. He became part of the Young Germany movement, so his later poetry and prose was full of satirical wit and irony, often aimed at the cruelty and greed of the ruling class. His political views led to many of his works being banned by the German authorities. Heine left Germany in 1831, and spent the rest of his life in Paris. In the 1840s, he was often unwell, and he was paralyzed and partially blind by 1848. Confined to bed, which Heine described as his “mattress-death,” he died in 1856 at age 58.
Leaning Against the Mast
by Henrich Heine
Leaning against the mast, on the upper deck,
I stood, and heard the song of the bird.
Like dark-green horses with silver manes
Leapt up the white-curled waves;
Like skeins of swans navigated past
With shimmering sails, the Heligolanders,
The daring nomads of the North Sea.
Above me, in the eternal blue,
Hovered white cloud
And blazed the eternal sun,
The rose of heaven, the fiery blossomer,
That joyfully mirrored itself in the sea;
And sky and sea and my own heart
Reverberated in echo:
“She loves him! She loves him!”
– from The North Sea, translated by Vernon Watkins
“Leaning Against the Mast” appeared in Poetry magazine’s August 1949 issue
1911 – Kenneth Patchen born in Niles, Ohio; American poet and novelist. His poetry collections include Before the Brave; The Teeth of the Lion, Cloth of the Tempest; Poems of Humor and Protest; When We Were Here Together and Awash with Roses. He was honored in 1954 with the Shelley Memorial Award for lifelong contributions to American letters. He was confined to his bed after a disastrous surgery in 1949 which damaged his spine, and died at age 60 in 1972.
Let Us Have Madness
by Kenneth Patchen
Let us have madness openly.
O men Of my generation.
Let us follow
The footsteps of this slaughtered age:
See it trail across Time’s dim land
Into the closed house of eternity
With the noise that dying has,
With the face that dead things wear –
nor ever say
We wanted more; we looked to find
An open door, an utter deed of love,
Transforming day’s evil darkness;
but We found extended hell and fog
Upon the earth, and within the head
A rotting bog of lean huge graves.
“Let Us Have Madness” from Before the Brave, © 1936, 1971 by Kenneth Patchen – Random House
1927 – James Wright born in Ohio; American poet and translator. Nether of his parents had more than an 8th grade education, so his father worked in a factory and his mother in a laundry. Wright suffered a nervous breakdown at age 16 in 1943, and graduated from high school a year late. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1946, and was sent to Japan. Following his discharge, he attended Kenyon College on the GI Bill, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1952, then spent a year in Vienna on a Fulbright Fellowship. After his return, Wright earned a master’s and a Ph.D. at the University of Washington. His first collection, The Green Wall, won the Yale Younger Poets Prize in 1956. He collaborated with Robert Bly on the translation of world poets in the influential magazine The Fifties (later The Sixties). His 1972 Collected Poems won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Wright, a lifelong smoker, was diagnosed in 1979 with cancer of the tongue, and he died in 1980 at age 52. His poetry collections include The Branch Will Not Break, Two Citizens, and To a Blossoming Pear Tree.
by James Wright
Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
“A Blessing” from Above the River: The Complete Poems and Selected Prose, © 1990 by James Wright – Wesleyan University Press
1640 – Aphra Behn born, English Restoration playwright, author and poet, one of the first women to earn her living as a writer, becoming a literary role model for future generations of women authors; she sometimes used the pen name Astrea, especially for her early work. She had been recruited as an ‘intelligence gatherer’ for King Charles II, and the Crown paid for her passage to Antwerp, but when the time came for her return to England, there’s no response to pleas for payment of her fare, so in December 1666 she reluctantly borrowed money to pay her own way. Back in England, the King continues to turn a deaf ear to all her requests for payment. By 1668, she had been thrown into debtor’s prison. Most 17th century women left destitute and imprisoned would probably resorted to bartering their bodies for food (debtors in prison were responsible for providing life’s necessities for themselves). But Aphra been launched her writing career from prison, and was able to get out within two years. She became one of the most influential Restoration era playwrights, as well as a famous (and sometimes infamous) poet and novelist.
In her poetry, Behn boldly tackled the sexual “double standard” and same-sex love. She often wrote poems in the voice of a character — in this poem, that of a cynical seducer of women:
by Aphra Behn
A thousand martyrs I have made,
All sacrificed to my desire;
A thousand beauties have betrayed,
That languish in resistless fire.
The untamed heart to hand I brought,
And fixed the wild and wandering thought.
I never vowed nor sighed in vain
But both, though false, were well received.
The fair are pleased to give us pain,
And what they wish is soon believed.
And though I talked of wounds and smart,
Love’s pleasures only touched my heart.
Alone the glory and the spoil
I always laughing bore away;
The triumphs, without pain or toil,
without the hell, the heav’n of joy.
And while I thus at random rove
Despise the fools that whine for love.
“The Libertine” (aka “A Thousand Martyrs Have I Made”) from Poems upon Several Occasions: with A Voyage to the Island of Love – R. Tonson & J. Tonson, 1684
1940 – Carolyn M. Rodgers born and grew up on Chicago’s South Side; American poet, teacher, publisher, and critic. She attended Roosevelt University and the University of Chicago, where she got her MA in English. Early in her career she was associated with the Black Arts Movement, attending writing workshops led by Gwendolyn Brooks and through the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC). Rodger co-founded Third World Press in 1967, dedicated to publishing African American works. Her collections of poetry include Paper Soul (1968); Songs of a Blackbird (1969), which won the Poet Laureate Award of the Society of Midland Authors; how I got ovah: New and Selected Poems (1975); The Heart as Ever Green: Poems (1978); and Morning Glory: Poems (1989). She died of cancer at the age of 69 in 2010.
Food for Thought
by Carolyn M. Rodgers
you understand how
who creates the traps you fall into
the thing that destroys a person/a people
is not the knowing
but the knowing and not
how we women
when a man
leaves us –
when you need
it is not ugly to dream in life
but it is ugly to make life a dream
i wonder if
the sunrays are like the fingertips of
“Food for Thought” from how i got ovah © 1976 by Carolyn M. Rodgers – Anchor Books/Doubleday
1913 – Muriel Rukeyser born, American poet, playwright, writer, social justice and feminist activist; known for her poems with feminist, social justice and Judaic themes. In 1968, she signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War. She died at age 66, in February, 1980, from a stroke. Her poetry collections include: Theory of Flight; The Book of the Dead; The Speed of Darkness; and Breaking Open.
Surely it is time for the true grace of women
Emerging, in their lives’ colors, from the rooms, from the harvests,
From the delicate prisons, to speak their promises.
The spirit’s dreaming delight and the fluid senses’
Involvement in the world. Surely the day’s beginning
In midnight, in time of war, flickers upon the wind.
O on the wasted midnight of our pain
Remember the wasted ones, lost as surely as soldiers
Surrendered to the barbarians, gone down under centuries
Of the starved spirit, in desperate mortal midnight
With the pure throats and cries of blessing, the clearest
Fountains of mercy and continual love.
These years know the separation. O the future shining
In far countries or suddenly at home in a look, in a season,
In music freeing a new myth among the male
Steep landscapes, the familiar cliffs, trees, towers
That stand and assert the earth, saying: “Come here, come to me.
Here are your children.” Not as traditional man
But love’s great insight—“your children and your song.”
Coming close to the source of belief, these have created
Resistance, the flowering fire of memory,
Given the bread and the dance and the breathing midnight.
Nothing has been begun. No peace, no word of marvelous
Possible hillsides, the warm lips of the living
Who fought for the spirit’s grace among despair,
Beginning with signs of belief, offered in time of war
As I now send you, for a beginning, praise.
“10.” from The Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser, © 1978 by Muriel Rukeyser – McGraw-Hill
1717 – Elizabeth Carter born, English poet, classicist, linguist and translator; a member of the Bluestocking Circle; she published her early work under the pen name ‘Eliza.’ She was the first to translate into English the extant works of Epictetus, the Greek stoic philosopher. Carter was also known as a philanthropist who visited the poor, and contributed to the establishment and maintenance of several charities
Written Extempore in the Sea Shore.
by Elizabeth Carter
THOU restless fluctuating deep,
Expressive of the human mind,
In thy for ever varying form
My own inconstant self I find.
How soft now flow thy peaceful waves,
In just gradations to the shore:
While on thy brow unclouded shines
The regent of the midnight hour.
Blest emblem of that equal state,
Which I this moment feel within:
Where thought to thought succeeding rolls,
And all is placid and serene.
As o’er thy smoothly flowing tide.
Their light the trembling moon-beams dart,
My lov’d Eudocia’s image smiles,
And gaily brightens all my heart.
But ah! this flattering scene of peace
By neither can be long possest,
When Eurus breaks thy transient calm,
And rising sorrows shake my breast.
Obscur’d thy Cynthia’s silver ray
When clouds opposing intervene:
And every joy that Friendship gives
Shall fade beneath the gloom of Spleen.
1787 – Mary Russell Mitford born, prolific English author, poet, and dramatist; best remembered for her five-volume Our Village, a collection of short stories and sketches. Her plays Julian and Foscari were produced at theatres in London’s Covent Garden district, with two of the day’s leading actors, William Macready and Charles Kemble playing the starring roles, while her best-known play, Rienzi, was first performed at Drury Lane. Her poetry collections include Christina, the Maid of the South Seas; Narrative Poems on the Female Character; and Sonnets and other Poems.
Grasshopper and Cricket
by Mary Russell Mitford
How oft, amid the heaped and bedded hay,
Under the oak’s broad shadow deep and strong,
Have we sat listening to the noon-day song
(If song it were), monotonously gay,
Which crept along the field, the summer lay
Of the grasshopper. Summer is come in pride
Of fruit and flower, garlanded as a bride,
And crowned with corn, and graced with length of day:
But cold is come with her.
We sit not now
Listening that merry music of the earth,
Like Arid beneath the blossomed bough;
But all for chillness round the social hearth
We cluster.—Hark! a sound of kindred mirth
Echoes! O wintry cricket, welcome thou!
1863 – George Santayana born as Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás in Madrid, Spain; philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist. A lifelong Spanish citizen, Santayana was raised and educated in the United States. He wrote in English and is generally considered an American man of letters. In 1912, at the age of forty-eight, Santayana left his position at Harvard University and returned to Europe permanently, never to return to the United States. During his 40 years in Europe, he wrote 19 books, including The Sense of Beauty, Reason in Religion, and Interpretations of Poetry and Religion.
The Poet’s Testament
by George Santayana
I give back to the earth what the earth gave,
All to the furrow, none to the grave,
The candle’s out, the spirit’s vigil spent;
Sight may not follow where the vision went.
I leave you but the sound of many a word
In mocking echoes haply overheard,
I sang to heaven. My exile made me free,
from world to world, from all worlds carried me.
Spared by the furies, for the Fates were kind,
I paced the pillared cloisters of the mind;
All times my present, everywhere my place,
Nor fear, nor hope, nor envy saw my face.
Blow what winds would, the ancient truth was mine,
And friendship mellowed in the flush of wine,
And heavenly laughter, shaking from its wings
Atoms of light and tears for mortal things.
To trembling harmonies of field and cloud,
Of flesh and spirit was my worship vowed.
Let form, let music, let all quickening air
Fulfill in beauty my imperfect prayer.
“The Poet’s Testament” from Poems of George Santayana – Dover Publications, 1970 reprint
1807 – John Greenleaf Whittier born in Haverhill, Massachusetts; American Quaker poet, writer, and abolitionist; remembered now for his anti-slavery writings, his long narrative poem Snow-Bound, and his poems “Barbara Frietchie” and “The Barefoot Boy.” Many of his poems became the lyrics for hymns, including “O Brother Man,” “All as God Wills” and “Children of God.” He was very supportive of women writers, particularly the novelist Sarah Orne Jewitt, who dedicated one of her books to him. The cities of Whittier, California, and Whittier, Alaska, were named for him.
by John Greenleaf Whittier
My heart was heavy, for its trust had been
Abused, its kindness answered with foul wrong;
So, turning gloomily from my fellow-men,
One summer Sabbath day I strolled among
The green mounds of the village burial-place;
Where, pondering how all human love and hate
Find one sad level; and how, soon or late,
Wronged and wrongdoer, each with meekened face,
And cold hands folded over a still heart,
Pass the green threshold of our common grave,
Whither all footsteps tend, whence none depart,
Awed for myself, and pitying my race,
Our common sorrow, like a mighty wave,
Swept all my pride away, and trembling I forgave!