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.
“Poetry is like a bird, it ignores all frontiers.”
“The enchantments of the past must always
become the disenchantments of the future.
But memory, a preservative, may intervene …
Art, the embalmer of memory, is the only
human vocation in which the time regained
by memory can be permanently fixed.”
― Howard Moss, from
The Magic Lantern of Marcel Proust
13 poets with birthdays this week –
with themes from birth to death,
and everything in between
1573 – John Donne born, English poet and Church of England cleric, author in his younger days of erotic poetry, but later wrote the Holy Sonnets
by John Donne
I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then?
But sucked on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den?
’Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be.
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.
And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love, all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown,
Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one.
My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres,
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.
1788 – George Gordon Byron, Lord Byron, born; leading English Romantic poet
She Walks in Beauty
by Lord Byron
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
1887 –Helen Hoyt born, American poet and associate editor of Poetry magazine (1913-1936); edited several poetry anthologies, including The Second Book of Modern Verse
by Helen Hoyt
I have heard them in the night—
The cry of their fear,
Because there is no light,
Because they do not hear
Familiar sounds and feel the familiar arm?
And they awake alone.
Yet they have never known
Danger or harm.
What is their dread?—
This dark about their bed?
But they are so lately come
Out of the dark womb
Where they were safely kept.
That blackness was good;
And the silence of that solitude
Wherein they slept
Where did they find
Knowledge of death?
Caution of darkness and cold?
These—of the little, new breath—
Have they a prudence so old?
“The New Born” appeared in Poetry magazine’s August 1915 issue
1897 – Dilip Kumar Roy born, Bengali Indian musician, musicologist, civil servant, novelist, poet, playwright and essayist
His Flute of Delight
by Dilip Kumar Roy
Hark, hark to His Flute of delight!
On the bank of Life’s lone shadowy river
He plays to quell our Night!
Wreathed in sweet smiles, a vision of Gleam,
He is crowned with His aerial Love!
He dances, a beacon to derelict souls,
On earth star’s kinship to prove!
– “His Flute of Delight” translated into English by the Dilip Kumar Roy
1922 – Howard Moss born, American poet, dramatist, and critic; poetry editor of The New Yorker (1948-1987); his Selected Poems won the 1872 National Book Award for Poetry
The City Lion
by Howard Moss
This lion shapes all shadow on his paws.
Through streets and markets his alien repose
Stirs city parks; on the highway glare
His two eyes yellow as traffic lights
That will not stop or go, since all his weight
Is shiftless, hanging in the tepid air.
His sides wake up when all his center sleeps.
How graceful, watery, his depths and heights!
A circus in himself, he parts his hair
From ear to ear, and when he laughs, his roar
Breaks glass, blows fuses, and condemns the poor.
He leaps when he’s quiet; when he runs, he sleeps;
If you watch him closely he may disappear.
If you meet him, give him all our best regards,
Trick hats and valentines, handouts, cigars;
If he takes them, thank him, for you’ll get them back
Years later perhaps. When you least expect
His leap to be sleeping, his sleep to run,
He’ll turn on you lovingly, and do you in.
“The City Lion” appeared in Poetry magazine’s November 1948 issue
1930 – Derek Walcott born, Saint Lucia poet and playwright; 1992 Nobel Prize for Literature; Dream on Monkey Mountain
Love After Love
by Derek Walcott
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
“Love After Love” from Collected Poems, 1948-1984, © 1986 by Derek Walcott – Farrar, Straus & Giroux
1670 – William Congreve born in Yorkshire; he studied law but did not pursue the profession, and became a leading Restoration playwright instead. He also wrote novels, and poems, but is best known his plays, especially his comedies, including The Old Bachelor, The Double Dealer, Love for Love, and The Way of the World.
False though She Be
By William Congreve
False though she be to me and love,
I’ll ne’er pursue revenge;
For still the charmer I approve,
Though I deplore her change.
In hours of bliss we oft have met:
They could not always last;
And though the present I regret,
I’m grateful for the past.
1858 – Constance Naden born, English writer, poet and philosopher; she studied botany and French at Birmingham and Midland Institute (1879-1880), then studied physics, geology, chemistry, physiology, and zoology at Mason Science College (1881-1887), and edited the Mason college magazine. She became a member of the Birmingham Natural History Society. Noted as co-developer with Dr. Robert Lewins of Hylo-Idealism, a philosophy based on the principle that “Man is the maker of his own Cosmos, and all his perceptions – even those which seem to represent solid, extended and external objects – have a merely subjective existence, bounded by the limits moulded by the character and conditions of his sentient being.” Naden published her first volume of poetry, Songs and Sonnets of Springtime, in 1881. In 1885, she won the Paxton Prize for an essay on the geology of the district. In her second poetry collection, A Modern Apostle, the Elixir of Life, published in 1887, contains her best-known poems, the ‘Evolutional Erotics’ a humorous series based on Darwin’s theory of sexual selection. She won the 1887 Heslop gold medal for her essay Induction and Deduction. That same year, she was left a considerable fortune for the time in her grandmother’s will, and she began to travel with her friend and women’s rights campaigner Madeline Daniell. Returning to England in 1888, she bought a house and shared it with Daniell. She also raised funds to allow Indian women to study medicine, and became a member of the National Indian Association in Aid of Social Progress in India, which raised money for a scholarship fund for the education of Indian girls, especially to overcome the lack of female teachers for Hindu girls. She also did some public speaking in favor of women’s suffrage. She died in December 1889, of infection after surgery for ovarian cysts. The Constance Naden Medal was founded at Mason Science College (which merged into the University of Birmingham in 1900) in her honour
by Constance Naden
Beyond the realm of dull and slumberous Night
I long have wandered with unwearied feet;
The land where Poetry and Science meet
Streaks the far distance with a magic light:
Fair visions glide before my dazzled sight,
And shine, and change, and pass with motion fleet,
But never clear, and steadfast, and complete
In one transcendent brilliancy unite.
I know, the seeming discord is but mine;
The glory is too great for mortal eyes,
All powerless to discover the divine
And perfect harmony of earth and skies:
I know that each confused and tortuous line,
To fuller sight, in true perspective lies.
1759 – Robert “Rabbie” Burns born, the Bard of Scotland, poet and lyricist, whose birthday is celebrated throughout Scotland and by poetry lovers around the world with Burns Night suppers and recitations since 1802
(a’ = all / gowd = gold / birkie = foolish posturer / coof = silly or stupid person / gree = degree, station in life)
For a’ That and a’ That
by Robert Burns
Is there, for honest poverty,
That hings his head, an’ a’ that?
The coward slave, we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
Our toils obscure, an’ a’ that;
The rank is but the guinea’s stamp;
The man’s the gowd for a’ that,
What tho’ on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin-gray, an’ a’ that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine,
A man’s a man for a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
Their tinsel show an’ a’ that;
The honest man, tho’ e’er sae poor,
Is king o’ men for a’ that.
Ye see yon birkie, ca’d a lord
Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that;
Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a coof for a’ that:
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
His riband, star, an’ a’ that,
The man o’ independent mind,
He looks and laughs at a’ that.
A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an’ a’ that;
But an honest man’s aboon his might,
Guid faith he mauna fa’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
Their dignities, an’ a’ that,
The pith o’ sense, an’ pride o’ worth,
Are higher rank than a’ that.
Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a’ that,
That sense and worth, o’er a’ the earth,
May bear the gree, an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s coming yet, for a’ that,
That man to man, the warld o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that.
1885 – Hakushū Kitahara born as Kitahara Ryūkichi, Japanese tanka poet, regarded as of the most important poets in modern Japanese literature. He began publishing his poems in 1906 in Myōjō (Bright Star), the magazine of the Shinshisha (New Poetry Association), then formed his own literary group the Pan no kai (The Society of Pan), which expanded to also include painters, musicians and actors. He edited essays, 5 Pairs of Shoes, written by five different writers who all went on to become notable poets, in 1907. In 1909, he was a founder of the literary magazine, Subaru (The Pleiades), and published Jashumon (Heretics), his first collection of poetry, followed in 1912 by Omoide (Memories). He published several other poetry collections, and also lyrics for children’s songs, and translations of Mother Goose. In 1935, he founded Tama (Right), a tanka magazine, regarded as the spearhead of the Japanese symbolist movement. He almost lost his sight in 1937 from complications of diabetes, which worsened, and caused his death in 1942
by Hakushū Kitahara
We are well into spring
And I have thought of peonies
For several days now
How many years have passed
Since my eyesight failed?
1899 – May Miller born, African-American poet, playwright, and educator. She was the most widely published Black woman playwright associated with the Harlem Renaissance, and also published seven volumes of poetry. Miller died in February 1995 at age 96. Her poetry collections include Into the Clearing, Lyrics of Three Women, Dust of Uncertain Journey, and Halfway to the Sun.
Brief Negro Sermon
(On the sinking of a great ocean liner)
by May Miller
Thirty turbine boilers;
Thought the Lord couldn’t sink it.
It sunk like a lead bob.
My God, git over.
Babes and grown-ups,
Saints and hell-raisers
Common as fishes in deep dark water.
God knows His Business.
Stars blink they eyes;
Night drop its blanket
Over graves of God’s good picking.
Sweet Jesus, rest ‘em.
But if’n they bed in soil or sea weed,
His own raises up at the final trumpet
To smile in His smiling face.
“Brief Negro Sermon” appeared in Poetry magazine’s December 1948 issue
1960 – Nick Flynn born in a Boston suburb; American writer, playwright, and poet. His mother separated from his alcoholic father, who had ambitions to be a writer, when he was a baby. She discouraged her son from becoming a writer, so after graduating from high school Flynn became an electrician. In 1980, he was offered a scholarship to study English at University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he was in a workshop taught by Pulitzer Prize winning poet James Tate. But in 1982, Flynn’s mother committed suicide, and he dropped out of school, and began drinking. He worked at a homeless shelter in Boston, but did take some classes, eventually earning his undergraduate degree. He had an unexpected meeting with his father, when he showed up homeless at the shelter in 1987. Two years later, Flynn began therapy, got sober, and started going to poetry workshops. Flynn’s poems, essays, and nonfiction have been featured in The New Yorker, Paris Review, National Public Radio’s This American Life, and The New York Times Book Review. Since 2004, Flynn has been a Professor on the Creative Writing faculty at the University of Houston. Hi poetry collections include Blind Huber; The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands; and My Feelings.
Bag of Mice
by Nick Flynn
I dreamt your suicide note
was scrawled in pencil on a brown paperbag
& in the bag were six baby mice. The bag
opened into darkness,
from the top down. The mice,
huddled at the bottom, scurried the bag
across a shorn field. I stood over it
& as the burning reached each carbon letter
of what you’d written
your voice released into the night
like a song, & the mice
“Bag of Mice” from Some Ether: Poems, © 2000 by Nick Flynn – Graywolf Press
1832 – Lewis Carroll born as Charles Lutwidge Dodgson; English author, poet, and mathematician. He was a scholar and teacher at Christ Church, Oxford. He was also an avid puzzler, and created the word ladder puzzle. He became a deacon of the Church of England in 1861, but never was ordained as a priest. He is of course known for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Some of his best-known poems like Jabberwocky and The Walrus and the Carpenter originally appeared in Through the Looking-Glass and other stories, but his long poem, The Hunting of the Snark, was published on its own.
Brother and Sister
by Lewis Carroll
“Sister, sister, go to bed!
Go and rest your weary head.”
Thus the prudent brother said.
“Do you want a battered hide,
Or scratches to your face applied?”
Thus his sister calm replied.
“Sister, do not raise my wrath.
I’d make you into mutton broth
As easily as kill a moth”
The sister raised her beaming eye
And looked on him indignantly
And sternly answered, “Only try!”
Off to the cook he quickly ran.
“Dear Cook, please lend a frying-pan
To me as quickly as you can.”
And wherefore should I lend it you?”
“The reason, Cook, is plain to view.
I wish to make an Irish stew.”
“What meat is in that stew to go?”
“My sister’ll be the contents!”
“You’ll lend the pan to me, Cook?”
Moral: Never stew your sister.