MOT: Over Weariness and Doubt … the Soul Flung Out … Rising

    G’Morning!

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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.

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And now we welcome the new year.
Full of things that have never been.
– Rainer Maria Rilke

There’s a place where this poem dwells—
it is here, it is now, in the yellow song of dawn’s bell
where we write an American lyric
we are just beginning to tell.
– Amanda Gorman,
“In This Place (An American Lyric)”

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Welcome to 2023 –
Twelve poets born this week
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January 1

1906Benedict Wallet Vilakazi born, South African Zulu poet, novelist, and linguist; the first Black South African to receive a doctorate in literature. Known for his ground-breaking poetry collection Amal’ezulu (Zulu Horizons), originally published in 1945, which combined the Zulu izibongo poetic form with Western poetic forms. He also collaborated on the first Zulu-English dictionary

from KwaDedangendlale

 by Benedict Vilakazi

Ngikhumbule kud’ ekhaya
Laph’ ilanga liphumela
Phezu kwezintab’ ezinde
Lishone libomv’ enzansi
Kuze kusondel’ ukuhlwa
Nokuthul’ okucwebile,
Laph’ uphuma phandl’ unuke,
Uhogele ngamakhala,
Uzigqum’ umzimba wonke
Ngomoya wolwandl’ omanzi.


from The Valley of a Thousand Hills

 by Benedict Vilakazi

 I remember far away at home
There where the sun comes up
Above the tall hills
And goes down shining red below
Until dusk comes
With its pure silence
There where you go outside and breathe in,
Breathe in deeply with full nostrils
And feel your whole body affected by
The moist air of the sea.

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1911Audrey Wurdemann born in Seattle, American poet; at age 24, she became the youngest winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1935, for her collection, Bright Ambush. She was the great-granddaughter of Percy Bysshe Shelly and published five books of poems, her first, The House of Silk when she was only 16. Her husband, Joseph Auslander, was named as the first Consultant in Poetry (1937-1941 – title change to Poet Laureate in 1986)) to the Library of Congress.

Persephone

by Audrey Wurdemann

When she first came there, Pluto wept,
Streaking cinders down his face,
While she competently slept
In her alloted place.
She catalogued the little hells,
Cupboarded the fires,
And placed in tabulated wells
Old lost desires.
She made His Lordship stoop to gather
Ashes from the floor;
She regulated stormy weather,
And polished Hades’ door.
The Devil was unhappy in
Such cleanliness and space.
She said it was a mortal sin,
The way he’d kept the place!
Now, after several million years,
(For time can reconcile),
He tip-toes with quite human fears
About their domicile.


“Persephone” from Bright Ambush, © 1934 by Audrey Wurdemann – Reynal and Hitchcock

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January 2

1752 Philip Morin Freneau born, American poet, satirist, essayist, sea captain, and newspaper editor. He attended Princeton University, where James Madison was his roommate, and planned to become a minister, but became engaged in political debates with fellow students and pursued his interest in writing.

The Wild Honey Suckle

by Philip Freneau

Fair flower, that dost so comely grow,
Hid in this silent, dull retreat,
Untouched thy honied blossoms blow,
Unseen thy little branches greet:
No roving foot shall crush thee here,
No busy hand provoke a tear.

By Nature’s self in white arrayed,
She bade thee shun the vulgar eye,
And planted here the guardian shade,
And sent soft waters murmuring by;
Thus quietly thy summer goes,
Thy days declining to repose.

Smit with those charms, that must decay,
I grieve to see your future doom;
They died—nor were those flowers more gay,
The flowers that did in Eden bloom;
Unpitying frosts, and Autumn’s power
Shall leave no vestige of this flower.

From morning suns and evening dews
At first thy little being came:
If nothing once, you nothing lose,
For when you die you are the same;
The space between, is but an hour,
The frail duration of a flower.

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1894Robert Nathan born in New York City; American novelist, poet, playwright, screenwriter, and children’s author; known for the novels The Bishop’s Wife (which was was made into the film that was nominated in 1948 for a Best Picture Oscar) and Portrait of Jennie. His poetry collections include A Winter Tide, The Green Leaf, and Evening Song: Selected Poems.  He was a screenwriter for MGM in the 1940s, and also wrote for radio and television. Nathan was a cousin of poet Emma Lazarus and jurist Benjamin Cardozo.

At the Symphony

by Robert Nathan

The ‘cellos, setting forth apart,
Grumbled and sang, and so the day
From the low beaches of my heart,
Turned in tranquility away.

And over weariness and doubt
Rose up the horns like bellied sails,
Like canvas of the soul flung out
To rising and orchestral gales;

Passed on and left irresolute
The ebony, the silver throat . . .
Low over clarinet and flute
Hung heaven upon a single note.


“At the Symphony” from The Green Leaf: Collected Poems of Robert Nathan, © 1950 by Robert Nathan – Knopf

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January 3

1698Pietro Metastasio born as Pietro Domenico Trapassi in Rome; Italian poet, songwriter, and opera librettist

Without and Within

by Pietro Metastasio

If every man’s internal care
Were written on his brow,
How many would our pity share
Who raise our envy now?
The fatal secret, when revealed,
Of every aching breast,
Would prove that only while concealed
Their lot appeared the best.


– translator not credited

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1933 – Anne Stevenson born in England to American parents, American-English poet and author of studies of Sylvia Plath and Elizabeth Bishop; Stevenson played cello and piano, destined to be a professional musician. But while studying music and languages at the University of Michigan, at the age of 19 she began to lose her hearing, so she shifted to writing instead. Since 1962, she has lived and worked almost entirely in the U.K., including Cambridge, Scotland, Oxford, and, most recently, North Wales and Durham. While she considers herself an American, she says, “I belong to an America which no longer really exists.” Stevenson was the inaugural winner in 2002 of the Northern Rock Foundation’s Writer’s Award, and the 2007 Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award, awards that are among the richest literary prizes in the world

 Constable Clouds and a Kestrel’s Feather

by Anne Stevenson

England still moulds them as Constable saw them.
We see them through his eyes –
loaves fresh kneaded for the oven,
veils of gauze,
flat-bottomed continents, creamy islands
floating on glass. As a child
did you never play the cloud-zoo game
in summer days like these?
Lie prone on grass,
Stalk in your mouth, face to the sun,
to let imagination run wild
in a sky full of camels and whales
where the air show today
features fish evolving into crocodiles
disintegrating slowly
into little puffs of sheep grazing on air.
Now a tyrannosaur, chasing a bear…
or is it a white bull? Europa on his back,
panicking to disappear.

Here’s a cloud that Constable never knew.
Two chalk-white furrows are being ploughed
straight as rails across the high blue
hinterland of my childhood zoo –
a plane from somewhere, going somewhere,
leaving its spoor of vapour on the air.
As the trailing furrows widen,
waves form a lingering wake from a prow
in perfect rhythm, like a feather’s pattern.

And still you keep your head down,
eyes vacuuming the turf,
nose to the ground,
intent on ants and other centaurs
in their dragon world, their home
here thatched with a found
feather – evidence of hunger’s habits
in this summer field.
A kestrel’s, female you guess,
stroking the patterned vanes
locked to the shaft:
13 square bars, dark on the outer side;
13 wavy lines, woven on the inner side,
a russet, bow-shaped, undesigned design
perfectly aligned – not by craft,
but by a mathematics of its own –
proof that, undeterred by our millennium,
nature’s nature is to work in form.


“Constable Clouds and a Kestrel’s Feather” from Astonishment © 2013 by Anne Stevenson – Bloodaxe Books

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January 4

1931 – Nora Iuga born, Romanian poet, writer, novelist, journalist, and editor; she was censored between 1971 and 1978 by the communist government in Romania after the publication of her second collection of poems, Captivitatea cercului (Trapped in a Circle).  Her books were also withdrawn from public libraries and bookstores. However, since then she has published 13 poetry collections. The first English translation of her work, a collection of poems called The Hunchbacks’ Bus, was published in 2016.

Ce N-aş Da Să Semăn

– Nora Iuga

cu acest mic poem
care mai ştie să danseze
albă iese luna
din kitschul ei etern
oare la ce dietă îţi supui gândurile
ce exerciţii de gimnastică
le pui să facă
greoaie şi grasă m-ascund
după această carte
dar vai nu mă acoperă


I’d give anything to be like

by Nora Iuga

this little poem
that still knows how to dance
the white moon leaves behind
its eternal kitsch
I wonder what diet
you feed your thoughts on
what physical exercises
you make them do
clumsy and fat I hide
behind this book
but alas it doesn’t cover me


– translation by Diana Manole, Adam Sorkin, and Nora Iuga

“I’d give anything to be like that” from The Hunchback’s Bus, © 2016 – Bitter Oleander Press

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January 5

1926 W.D. Snodgrass born as William De Witt Snodgrass in Pennsylvania; American poet, critic, educator, and translator; he served as a typist in the U.S. Navy during WWII, then earned his degrees at the University of Iowa, where he studied with Robert Lowell. Snodgrass won the 1960 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Heart’s Needle. He published over 30 books. His 1977 collection The Fuehrer Bunker, imagined dramatic monologues of the people who shared Hitler’s bunker in the last days, was controversial.

Lasting

by W.D. Snodgrass

“Fish oils,” my doctor snorted, “and oily fish
are actually good for you. What’s actually wrong
for anyone your age are all those dishes
with thick sauce that we all pined for so long
as we were young and poor. Now we can afford
to order such things, just not to digest them;
we find what bills we’ve run up in the stored
plaque and fat cells of our next stress test.”

My own last test scored in the top 10 percent
of males in my age bracket. Which defies
all consequences or justice—I’ve spent
years shackled to my desk, saved from all exercise.
My dentist, next: “Your teeth seem quite good
for someone your age, better than we’d expect
with so few checkups or cleanings. Teeth should
repay you with more grief for such neglect”—

echoing how my mother always nagged,
“Brush a full 100 strokes,” and would jam
cod liver oil down our throats till we’d go gagging
off to flu-filled classrooms, crammed
with vegetables and vitamins. By now,
I’ve outlasted both parents whose plain food
and firm ordinance must have endowed
this heart’s tough muscle—weak still in gratitude.


“Lasting” from Not for Specialists: New and Selected Poems, © by W. D. Snodgrass –  BOA Editions

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January 6

1848Hristo Botev born as Hristo Botyov Petkov (O.S. 12-25-1847), Bulgarian poet, journalist, revolutionary and national hero; while working as a teacher, he made a public speech during the celebration of Saints Cyril and Methodius against the Ottoman authorities, and was forced to go into exile in Romania, where he became editor of the revolutionary exiles’ newspaper, Duma na bulgarskite emigrant (Word of the Bulgarian Emigrants), and he published his poems. In 1876, convinced that an armed uprising was imminent in Bulgaria against the Ottoman occupation, he began organizing a guerrilla company of exiles to cross the Danube and join the insurgents. When news came that the uprising had already started, the ill-equipped and mostly untrained company, led by Botev, who had no combat experience, boarded a steamship in small groups at different ports disguised as gardeners, re-assembled, and took out their hidden weapons to take over the ship. Botov’s impassioned speech to the ship’s captain won his support (the captain even refused later to cooperate with Ottoman authorities who wanted to use his ship to pursue the rebel company.) But once they arrived in Bulgaria’s Vratsa province, they quickly realized that rumors of a rising there were greatly exaggerated, and the uprising in other parts of the country were being put down brutally. Botov’s company joined up with the local revolutionaries, who tried to rouse the people, but with the overwhelming Ottoman military presence, they found little support. On June 2, 1876, Botev was shot and killed by a sniper, and most of his company was killed, or captured and executed

A Patriot

by Hristo Botev

A patriot be – for knowledge, freedom,
The soul’s too small a price to pay!
Mind you, not his soul, my brothers,
The nation’s soul he’ll give away!
And he’s kind to everybody,
But you see – for any pelf,
It’s only human, he can’t help it,
He will sell his soul and self.

Besides he is a pious Christian
Ever at each mass parading,
Just because for him the church is
Nothing but a place for trading!
And he’s kind to everybody,
But you see – for any pelf,
It’s only human, he can’t help it,
He will pawn his life itself.

And he’s nice and sympathizing,
Not forgetting his poor neighbour;
But it isn’t he who feeds you,
It’s you feed him with your labour,
And he’s kind to everybody,
But you see – for any pelf,
It’s only human, he can’t help it,
He’ll eat up… his very self.


– translator not credited

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1949 Caroline “C. D.” Wright born, American poet, editor of Lost Roads Publishers, which specialized in publishing new poets and translations; 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, for her book One With Others. She died at age 67 of thrombosis.

 Approximately Forever

by C. D. Wright

She was changing on the inside
it was true what had been written

The new syntax of love
both sucked and burned

The secret clung around them
She took in the smell

Walking down a road to nowhere
every sound was relevant

The sun fell behind them now
he seemed strangely moved

She would take her clothes off
for the camera

she said in plain english
but she wasn’t holding that snake


“Approximately Forever” from Steal Away: New and Selected Poems, © 2002 by C.D. Wright – Copper Canyon Press

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January 8

1037Su Tung Po or Dongpo born, Chinese writer, poet, essayist, painter, calligrapher, travel chronicler, and statesman of the Song dynasty, an important figure in the dynasty’s politics, and a highly accomplished author in classical Chinese literature

Remembrance

by Su Tung Po

To what can our life on earth be likened?
To a flock of geese,
alighting on the snow.
Sometimes leaving a trace of their passage.


–  translator not credited

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About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for over 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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