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.
Nothing is more responsible for the
good old days than a bad memory.
– Franklin Pierce Adams,
A man’s real possession is his memory.
In nothing else is he rich, in nothing
else is he poor.
– Alexander Smith,
A poetry bonanza –
Sixteen poets with birthdays
1803 – Marjorie Fleming born, Scottish poet and author; noted for her journal, a child’s eye view of life in 19th century Scotland; Fleming died of meningitis in 1911, a month prior to her 9th birthday.
A Sonnet on a Monkey
by Marjorie Fleming
O lovely O most charming pug
Thy graceful air and heavenly mug
The beauties of his mind do shine
And every bit is shaped so fine
Your very tail is most divine
Your teeth is whiter than the snow
You are a great buck and a bow
Your eyes are of so fine a shape
More like a christian’s than an ape
His cheeks is like the rose’s blume
Your hair is like the raven’s plume
His nose’s cast is of the roman
He is a very pretty woman
I could not get a rhyme for roman
And was obliged to call him woman.
1850 – Mihai Eminescu born in Moldava; Romanian poet of the Romantic school regarded as the most well-known and influential poet of his country. He was also a novelist, and a journalist. Eminescu was an active member of the Junimea literary society and worked as an editor for the newspaper Timpul, the official newspaper of the Conservative Party. His poetry collections include Luceafărul (The Vesper) and Poesii. He died at age 39 of cardio-respiratory arrest, possibly caused by mercury poisoning, in June 1889.
by Mihai Eminescu
All those sleepy birds
Now tired from flight
Hide among the leaves
Only the spring whispers
When the wood sleeps silently;
Even flowers in the gardens
Swans glide to their nest
Sheltering among the reeds
May angels guard your rest,
Above a night of sorcery
Comes the moon’s graceful light,
All is peace and harmony
– translator not credited
1913 – Miriam Hyde born, Australian composer, pianist, poet, and music teacher; composer of over 150 works for piano, including Sonata in G minor for piano, and Valley of Rocks. Hyde also wrote 50 songs, several other instrumental works, and several books of poetry, including The Bliss of Solitude, A Few Poems, and Dawn to Dusk. She died at age 91 in 2005.
by Miriam Hyde
What sounds shall we hear together, my dearest one,
When the shadows have fallen far, and the day is done?
The bright friendly crackle of logs sinking low in the grate,
The cry of birds in swift flight, as they wing their way late
To their nests on the crag o’er the ocean’s billowing foam;
The soft steady patter of rain on the roof of our home;
The wind at the window; the breaking of boughs in the storm;
Yet peace will be with us; the fireside will keep us warm,
And then when the stars shine again, and the evening is mild,
We shall hear the soft sigh from the cot of a slumbering child.
– Kirribilli [NSW Australia], 1938
1923 – Ivor Cutler born, Scottish songwriter, musician, poet, author, artist, and humorist. He made concert tours, produced records, and his performances were regularly presented on BBC Radio. Cutler appeared in the Beatle’s 1967 Magical Mystery Tour film. He also wrote 13 books of poetry, most of them for children, as well as many children’s storybooks. Cutler was also a member of the Noise Abatement Society of the UK. He died at age 83 in 2006.
I Ate a Lady’s Bun
by Ivor Cutler
I got taken to gaol.
I ate a lady’s bun.
On her head.
She got a fright.
It was a surprise.
Do not worry I said.
I am eating your bun.
I am hungry for a bun.
Police she cried a good
neighbour heard her
and phoned the
You must not eat a lady’s bun even
if you are hungry.
And I am in jail.
“I Ate a Lady’s Bun” from A Flat Man, © 1977 by Ivor Cutler – Trigram Press
1874 – Robert W. Service born in England, English-Canadian poet, often called “the Bard of the Yukon.” Though technically a bank clerk, he spent much of his life travelling in the U.S. and Canada. His bank sent him to the Yukon, where he wrote some of his best-known poems, including “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” and “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” Although he had no experience of the gold rush or mining, his poems had a remarkable authenticity. When he published Songs of a Sourdough in 1907, it was hugely successful, as was his 1909 follow-up, Ballads of a Cheechako. A fast writer, he produced a large body of work, which enabled him move to the south of France, and to to travel widely. During WWII, he lived in California, and when he and his wife returned to their home in France, they found it destroyed, and had to rebuild. He died at age 84 in Lancieux, Brittany in 1958.
by Robert W. Service
There once was a Square, such a square little Square,
And he loved a trim Triangle;
But she was a flirt and around her skirt
Vainly she made him dangle.
Oh he wanted to wed and he had no dread
Of domestic woes and wrangles;
For he thought that his fate was to procreate
Cute little Squares and Triangles.
Now it happened one day on that geometric way
There swaggered a big bold Cube,
With a haughty stare and he made that Square
Have the air of a perfect boob;
To his solid spell the Triangle fell,
And she thrilled with love’s sweet sickness,
For she took delight in his breadth and height—
But how she adored his thickness!
So that poor little Square just died of despair,
For his love he could not strangle;
While the bold Cube led to the bridal bed
That cute and acute Triangle.
The Square’s sad lot she has long forgot,
And his passionate pretensions …
For she dotes on her kids—Oh such cute Pyramids
In a world of three dimensions.
“Maternity” from Collected Poems of Robert Service, © 1954 by Robert Service – Dodd Mead
1901 – Laura Riding born as Laura Reichenthal, American poet, critic, novelist, essayist, and short story writer. Her first poems were published in The Fugitive magazine (1922-1925). She published her first collection of poetry, The Close Chaplet, in 1926. Riding died at age 90 in 1991.
Yes And No
by Laura Riding
Across a continent imaginary
Because it cannot be discovered now
Upon this fully apprehended planet—
No more applicants considered,
Ran an animal unzoological,
Without a fate, without a fact,
Its private history intact
Against the travesty
Of an anatomy.
Not visible not invisible,
Removed by dayless night,
Did it ever fly its ground
Out of fancy into light,
Into space to replace
Its unwritable decease?
Ah, the minutes twinkle in and out
And in and out come and go
One by one, none by none,
What we know, what we don’t know.
“Yes and No” from The Poems of Laura Riding: A Newly Revised Edition – Persea Books, 2001 edition
1923 – Anthony Hecht born, American poet, critic, and professor of poetry at the University of Rochester (1967-1985); winner of the Bollingen Prize, the 1967 Pulitzer Prize for The Hard Hours; the 1988 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Wallace Stevens Award, and the Frost Medal. His poetry collections include Millions of Strange Shadows; The Venetian Vespers; The Transparent Man; and Flight Among the Tombs. His experiences in the U.S. army in Germany and Czechoslovakia during WWII, and the Holocaust were frequent themes in his work. He died at age 81 in 2004.
Naming the Animals
by Anthony Hecht
Having commanded Adam to bestow
Names upon all the creatures, God withdrew
To empyrean palaces of blue
That warm and windless morning long ago,
And seemed to take no notice of the vexed
Look on the young man’s face as he took thought
Of all the miracles the Lord had wrought,
Now to be labelled, dubbed, yclept, indexed.
Before an addled mind and puddled brow,
The feathered nation and the finny prey
Passed by; there went biped and quadruped.
Adam looked forth with bottomless dismay
Into the tragic eyes of his first cow,
And shyly ventured, “Thou shalt be called ‘Fred.’ ”
“Naming the Animals” from Collected Later Poems, © 2003 by Anthony Hecht – Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House
1600 – Pedro Calderón de la Barca born, Spanish Baroque playwright and poet; he is best known for his plays, especially La vida es sueño (Life is a Dream). He died at age 81 in 1681.
The Dream Called Life
by Pedro Calderón de la Barca
A dream it was in which I found myself.
And you that hail me now, then hailed me king,
In a brave palace that was all my own,
Within, and all without it, mine; until,
Drunk with excess of majesty and pride,
Methought I towered so big and swelled so wide
That of myself I burst the glittering bubble
Which my ambition had about me blown
And all again was darkness. Such a dream
As this, in which I may be walking now,
Dispensing solemn justice to you shadows,
Who make believe to listen; but anon
Kings, princes, captains, warriors, plume and steel,
Ay, even with all your airy theatre,
May flit into the air you seem to rend
With acclamations, leaving me to wake
In the dark tower; or dreaming that I wake
From this that waking is; or this and that,
Both waking and both dreaming; such a doubt
Confounds and clouds our mortal life about.
But whether wake or dreaming, this I know
How dreamwise human glories come and go;
Whose momentary tenure not to break,
Walking as one who knows he soon may wake,
So fairly carry the full cup, so well
Disordered insolence and passion quell,
That there be nothing after to upbraid
Dreamer or doer in the part he played;
Whether tomorrow’s dawn shall break the spell,
Or the last trumpet of the Eternal Day,
When dreaming, with the night, shall pass away.
– translated by Edward Fitzgerald, from Hispanic Anthology: Poems Translated from the Spanish by English and North American Poets, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1920 edition
1820 – Anne Brontë born, English novelist and poet, the youngest of the Brontë sisters; author of Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. She was educated at home, mostly by her sisters, until she was 15, when she came to Roe Head, the school where Charlotte was teaching. After two years of formal education, she was in a religious crisis, became ill, and went home. At 19, she went to work as a governess, but her employers blamed the continued bad behavior of their spoiled children on her, and she was dismissed in December 1839 after only seven months. She later used the traumatic experience in her novel Agnes Grey. A legacy of £350 left to each of the Brontë sisters by their aunt Elizabeth Branwell gave them a small amount of independence, the sisters pooled their poems, and self-published them under the pen name ‘Acton Bell’ but the book didn’t even return the cost of publication. The Brontë sisters then turned to novel writing with far more success, although initially all were published under pen names as the Bell “brothers” – Acton, Currer, and Ellis. In 1846, Charlotte’s Jane Eyre was the first of their novels to be accepted, and was a great success. Emily’s Wuthering Heights and Anne’s Agnes Grey were both published in December 1847. Agnes Grey initially sold more copies. Anne’s second book, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, came out in June 1848, stirring controversy and speculation on the identity and gender of the author, because it’s about a woman who leaves her abusive husband, goes into hiding with their son, and earns a living as a painter under an assumed name. It highlighted the unfairness and brutal consequences of the British social and legal system of the time. In 1849, Anne died of tuberculosis at age 29.
Lines composed in a Wood on a Windy Day
by Anne Brontë
My soul is awakened, my spirit is soaring
And carried aloft on the wings of the breeze;
For above and around me the wild wind is roaring,
Arousing to rapture the earth and the seas.
The long withered grass in the sunshine is glancing,
The bare trees are tossing their branches on high;
The dead leaves, beneath them, are merrily dancing,
The white clouds are scudding across the blue sky.
I wish I could see how the ocean is lashing
The foam of its billows to whirlwinds of spray;
I wish I could see how its proud waves are dashing,
And hear the wild roar of their thunder today!
1914 – William Stafford born, American poet and pacifist; the 20th Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (1970-1971). His many poetry collections include Traveling Through the Dark, which won the 1963 National Book Award [the title poem is one of my all-time favorites]; Another World Instead; Ask Me; Down in My Heart; The Darkness Around Us is Deep; and Stories That Could Be True. Stafford died at age 79 in 1993.
You Reading This, Be Ready
by William Stafford
Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life –
What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?
“You Reading This, Be Ready” from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems, © 1998 by William Stafford – Graywolf Press
1840 – Austin Dobson born as Henry Austin Dobson; English poet, biographer, and essayist; he was educated in France before becoming a civil servant at the British Board of Trade from 1856 until his retirement in 1901. His poems began appearing in magazines in 1864, and his work played a part in the revival of intricate medieval French verse forms (the triolet, the rondeau, the ballade, and the villanelle) that became known as the English Parnassian movement. His poetry collections include Vignettes in Rhyme, Proverbs in Porcelain, and At the Sign of the Lyre. He died at age 81 in 1921.
On the Hurry of This Time
by Austin Dobson
With slower pen men used to write,
Of old, when “letters” were “polite”;
In Anna’s, or in George’s days,
They could afford to turn a phrase,
Or trim a straggling theme aright.
They knew not steam; electric light
Not yet had dazed their calmer sight; —
They meted out both blame and praise
With slower pen.
Too swiftly now the hours take flight!
What’s read at morn is dead at night;
Scant space have we for Art’s delays,
Whose breathless thought so briefly stays,
We may not work – ah! would we might! –
With slower pen.
1867 – Rubén Darío born, Nicaraguan poet, writer, newspaper correspondent, and diplomat; pioneer of the Spanish-American modernismo literary movement; noted for Prosas profanas y otros poemas (Prose Profane and Other Poems). He served as resident minister in Madrid for the Nicaraguan government (1907-1909), but his compensation was not enough to cover the delegation’s expenses, and he covered the difference out of his income from his newspaper work. Darío was forced to resign after the Nicaraguan government was overthrown – the U.S. government and the United Fruit Company were both accused of being involved. He died at age 49 in 1916.
por Rubén Darío
Gaita galaica, que sabes cantar
lo que profundo y dulce nos es.
Dices de amor, y dices después
de un amargor como el de la mar.
Canta. Es el tiempo. Haremos danzar
al fino verso de rítmicos pies.
Ya nos lo dijo el Eclesiastes:
tiempo hay de todo; hay tiempo para amar;
tiempo de ganar, tiempo de perder,
tiempo de plantar, tiempo de coger,
tiempo de llorar, tiempo de reír,
tiempo de rasgar, tiempo de coser,
tiempo de esparcir y de recoger,
tiempo de nacer, tiempo de morir….
Bagpipes of Spain
by Rubén Darío
Bagpipes of Spain, ye that can sing
That which is sweetest to us in the Spring!
You first sing of gladness and then sing of pain
As deep and as bitter as the billowed main.
Sing. ‘Tis the season! As glad as the rain
My verses shall trip ye a jig or a fling.
Ecclesiastes said it again and again,
All things have their season, O bagpipes of Spain!-
A season to plant, a season to reap:
A season to sew, a season to tear;
A season to laugh, a season to weep;
Seasons for to hope and for to despair;
A season to love, a season to mate;
A season of birth, a season of Fate….
– translator not credited
1809 – Edgar Allan Poe born, major American author, poet, short story writer, and master of the macabre. He was one of the first Americans to live by writing alone, but he was hampered by the lack of an international copyright law. American publishers often refused to pay their writers or paid them much later than they promised, and Poe repeatedly resorted to humiliating pleas for money and other assistance. On October 3, 1849, Poe was found semiconscious in Baltimore, “in great distress, and… in need of immediate assistance”, according to Joseph W. Walker, who found him. He was taken to the Washington Medical College, where he died on Sunday, October 7, 1849, at 5:00 in the morning. Poe was not coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in his dire condition or why he was wearing clothes that were not his own.
Epigram for Wall Street
by Edgar Allan Poe
I’ll tell you a plan for gaining wealth,
Better than banking, trade or leases —
Take a bank note and fold it up,
And then you will find your money in creases!
This wonderful plan, without danger or loss,
Keeps your cash in your hands, where nothing can trouble it;
And every time that you fold it across,
‘Tis as plain as the light of the day that you double it!
1944 – Pat Parker born as Patricia Cooks, African American lesbian feminist poet and activist. She wrote poetry about her tough childhood, sexual assault, her older sister’s murder, and an abusive relationship which ended with her being pushed down a flight of stairs, causing her to miscarry. She later came out as a lesbian, and became a political activist with the Black Panther Party, Black Woman’s Revolutionary Council, and was a founder of the Women’s Press Collective. Noted for her powerful poem Womanslaughter, about the murder of her sister Shirley, shot and killed by her husband. He was convicted of manslaughter, but only served a one-year sentence in a work-release program. Her poetry collections include Jonestown and other madness; Movement in Black; and Woman Slaughter. Pat Parker died of breast cancer in 1989 at age 45.
For the white person who wants to know how to be my friend
by Pat Parker
The first thing you do is to forget that i’m Black.
Second, you must never forget that i’m Black.
You should be able to dig Aretha,
but don’t play her every time i come over.
And if you decide to play Beethoven – don’t tell me
his life story. They made us take music appreciation too.
Eat soul food if you like it,
but don’t expect me to locate your restaurants
or cook it for you.
And if some Black person insults you,
mugs you, rapes your sister, rapes you,
rips your house, or is just being an ass –
please, do not apologize to me
for wanting to do them bodily harm.
It makes me wonder if you’re foolish.
And even if you really believe Blacks are better lovers than
whites – don’t tell me. I start thinking of charging stud fees.
In other words – if you really want to be my friend – don’t
make a labor of it. I’m lazy. Remember.
“For the white person who wants to know how to be my friend” from The Complete Works of Pat Parker, © 2016 by Anastasia Dunham-Parker-Brady, edited by Julie R. Enszer – A Midsummer’s Night Press
1904 – R. P. Blackmur born as Richard Palmer Blackmur; American literary critic, poet, and playwright; he taught creative writing and English literature at Princeton University (1940-1965). His poetry collections include From Jordan’s Delight, The Second World, and The Good European. He died at age 61 in 1965.
by R. P. Blackmur
Sunday the sea made morning worship, sang
Venite, Kyrie, and a long Amen,
over a flowing cassock did put on
glittering blindness, surplice of the sun.
Towards high noon her eldest, high-run tide
rebelled at formal song and in the Sanctus
made heavy heavy mockery of God,
and I, almost before one knew it, saw
the altar ledges of the Lord awash.
These are the obsequies I think on most.
“Half-Tide Ledge” from Poems of R. P. Blackmur, © 1977 by Princeton University Press
1946 – Gretel Ehrlich born, American poet, essayist, and travel writer; noted for works on nature, including Islands, The Universe, Home; The Solace of Open Spaces; and This Cold Heaven. In 1991, she was struck by lighting and incapacitated for some time, but wrote about the experience in A Match to the Heart (1994).
At Ishinomaki Where Matsuo Basho Once Wrote a Poem
by Gretel Ehrlich
Finally the twisted roadbed drains
and the daily floodtides at
Ishinomaki dry out.
The sky unmists itself and
loss upon loss begins to
feel like company.
Nothing touches. Nights are brittle and soft,
ink scraped smooth.
To the south Fukushima Daiichi blazes. Flames
we can’t see. Sixty-six years ago
two other seacoast towns vanished.
I stick my forearm out
in moonlight. Looking seaward
my skin burns.
“At Ishinomaki Where Matsuo Basho Once Wrote a Poem” from Facing the Wave: A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami, © 2013 by Gretel Ehrlich – Vintage Books 2014 edition