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.
“The world breaks every one and afterward many
are strong at the broken places. But those that will
not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very
gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none
of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there
will be no special hurry.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
“If we cannot end now our differences,
at least we can help make the world safe
for diversity … our most basic common
link is that we all inhabit this small planet.
We all breathe the same air. We all cherish
our children’s future. And we are all mortal.
– John F. Kennedy, June 1963,
American University Commencement Address
13 poets have birthdays this week.
1871 – Ralph Hodgson born in County Durham in northeastern England; English poet, journalist, and editor. He co-founded a small press At the Sign of the Flying Fame in 1912, but suspended publication during WWI when he and one of his partners joined the British armed forces. The press resumed publishing after the war until 1923. In the 1930s, he taught English at Tohoku University in Japan, where he was one of a group of English language writers who translated much of Japan’s classical poetry. He left Japan in 1938, visited friends in England, then settled in Minerva, Ohio, where he died at age 91 in 1962. Hodgson spoke out against the fur trade, cruelty to animals, and man’s destruction of the natural world. His poetry collections include The Last Blackbird and Other Lines and Sonnets to Our Surnames.
The Gypsy Girl
by Ralph Hodgson
“Come, try your skill, kind gentlemen,
A penny for three tries!”
Some threw and lost, some threw and won
A ten-a-penny prize.
She was a tawny gypsy girl,
A girl of twenty years,
I liked her for the lumps of gold
That jingled from her ears;
I liked the flaring yellow scarf
Bound loose about her throat,
I liked her showy purple gown
And flashy velvet coat.
A man came up, too loose of tongue,
And said no good to her;
She did not blush as Saxons do,
Or turn upon the cur;
She fawned and whined, “Sweet gentleman,
A penny for three tries!”
— But oh, the den of wild things in
The darkness of her eyes!
“The Gypsy Girl” from Poems … Ralph Hodgson, originally published in 1923 by the Macmillan Company
1952 – Naomi Shihab Nye born in St. Louis, Missouri, to a Palestinian father and an American mother; poet, songwriter, children’s author, novelist, and editor. In 1966, when she was 14, her family moved to the West Bank because her paternal grandmother was sick. In 1967, just before the Six-Day War broke out, they returned to the U.S., settling in San Antonio, Texas. She earned a BA in English and world religions from Trinity University in 1974. Nye teaches creative writing at Texas State University, and also runs writing workshops for children and teens. Nye was honored for her body of work with the 2013 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature, and in 2019, the Poetry Foundation chose her as the Young People’s Poet Laureate for the 2019-2021 term. In addition to editing anthologies of verse by contemporary poets, she has published over two dozen collections of her own poetry. Her debut young adult novel Habibi was named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, and honored with a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, given for children’s books which advance peace and social equality.
Making a Fist
by Naomi Shihab Nye
We forget that we are all dead men conversing with dead men.
— Jorge Luis Borges
For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life sliding out of me,
a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.
I was seven, I lay in the car
watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass.
My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.
‘How do you know if you are going to die?’
I begged my mother.
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence she answered,
‘When you can no longer make a fist.’
Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.
“Making a Fist” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems, © 1994 by Naomi Shihab Nye – The Eighth Mountain Press
1896 – Dorothy Aldis born in Chicago, American children’s author and poet. She wrote columns for the Sunday Tribune, and wrote poetry and fiction for children. In all, Aldis published 29 books, including a biography Beatrix Potter titled Nothing is Impossible. She died at age 70 in 1966.
The Dragon Fly
by Dorothy Aldis
A dragon fly upon my knee
Is sitting looking up at me.
He has a scarlet tail and six
Little legs like jointed sticks.
With two of them he rubs his head.
His eyes are brown, his mouth is red,
His wings are colored like the rain:
He lifts them, and flies off again.
“The Dragon Fly” from All Together: A Child’s Treasury of Verse, © 1952 by Dorothy Aldis – Putnam Publishing
1925 – John Barrington Wain born, English novelist, poet, literary critic, and editor, who also wrote non-fiction books about Shakespeare and his plays. He edited Everyman’s Book of English Verse, and several other anthologies of poetry and short fiction. He died at age 69 in 1994.
Apology for Understatement
by John Barrington Wain
Forgive me that I pitch your praise too low.
Such reticence my reverence demands,
For silence falls with laying on of hands.
Forgive me that my words come thin and slow.
This could not be a time for eloquence,
For silence falls with healing of the sense.
We only utter what we lightly know.
And it is rather that my love knows me.
It is that your perfection set me free.
Verse is dressed up that has nowhere to go,
You took away my glibness with my fear.
Forgive me that I stand in silence here.
It is not words could pay you what I owe.
“Apology for Understatement” from Poems 1949-79, © 1980 by John Barrington Wain – MacMillan
1852 – Lady Augusta Gregory born in Ireland’s County Galway, Anglo-Irish playwright, poet, folklorist, and translator, a leader of the Irish Literary Revival, and co-founder and co-director of Dublin’s Abbey Theatre. She died from breast cancer at age 80 in 1932.
The Foretelling Of Cathbad the Druid At Deirdre’s Birth
English version by Lady Augusta Gregory
Let Deirdre be her name: harm will come through her. She will be fair,
comely, bright-haired: heroes will fight for her, and kings go seeking
O Deirdre, on whose account many shall weep, on whose account many
women shall be envious, there will be trouble on Ulster for your sake,
O fair daughter of Fedlimid.
Many will be jealous of your face, O flame of beauty; for your sake
heroes shall go to exile. For your sake deeds of anger shall be done
in Emain; there is harm in your face, for it will bring banishment
and death on the sons of kings.
In your fate, O beautiful child, are wounds and ill-doings and shedding
of blood. You will have a little grave apart to yourself; you will
be a tale of wonder for ever, Deirdre.
“The Foretelling Of Cathbad the Druid At Deirdre’s Birth” from The Kiltartan Poetry Book by Lady Augusta Gregory – G. Putnam’s Son 1919 edition
1959 – Ben Okri born, Nigerian poet, novelist, and essayist; one of the foremost post-colonial African authors; poetry editor for West Africa magazine; author of the prose-poetry hybrids Tales of Freedom and A Time for New Dreams, as well as the poetry collection An African Elegy, and the novel The Famished Road, which won the 1991 Book Prize for Fiction.
An African Elegy
by Ben Okri
We are the miracles that God made
To taste the bitter fruit of Time.
We are precious.
And one day our suffering
Will turn into the wonders of the earth.
There are things that burn me now
Which turn golden when I am happy.
Do you see the mystery of our pain?
That we bear poverty
And are able to sing and dream sweet things
And that we never curse the air when it is warm
Or the fruit when it tastes so good
Or the lights that bounce gently on the waters?
We bless things even in our pain.
We bless them in silence.
That is why our music is so sweet.
It makes the air remember.
There are secret miracles at work
That only Time will bring forth.
I too have heard the dead singing.
And they tell me that
This life is good
They tell me to live it gently
With fire, and always with hope.
There is wonder here
And there is surprise
In everything the unseen moves.
The ocean is full of songs.
The sky is not an enemy.
Destiny is our friend.
“An African Elegy” from An African Elegy, © 1992 by Ben Okri, Jonathan Cape LTD
1585 – Gerbrand Adrienszoon Bredero born in Amsterdam; Dutch Golden Age poet and playwright; he wrote seven plays, but only Spaanschen Branbander (Spanish Brandander), first performed in 1617, has been translated into English. He was writing sonnets around the same time as William Shakespeare, but Bredero died suddenly at age 33, after he seemed to have recovered from pneumonia contracted after falling through ice.
The Eleventh Sonnet to Beauty
by Gerbrand Adrienszoon Bredero
O ripe bosom white that steadily before mine eyes
So dearly drifts, like the clear reflection
At the source of the Rhine of the purest snow —
Ah but your shimmering, o weak eyes doth impair!
With chaste milk appear there laden
Two silver covers round, on top of both a ruby,
Which like small apples with cherries crowned,
Whose red ripeness an unsettling pleasure bears.
Ah, who would know it, what heavenly suckling
Shall there lay, who with the golden tinkle
Of his Mother’s true jewels, delicately shall play,
And sit upon her lap, suppress his babytalk,
Then enough be said, apple’s most beautiful adornment
Is the most lovely child of all the many parts of the world!
– translator not credited
1952 – Charles P. Ries born in Wisconsin; American poet, short story writer, essayist, and Senior Director of Principle Gifts and Innovation at Marquette University. He is also a co-founder of The Commons, a student entrepreneurial skills accelerator based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His published works include The Fathers We Find: The Making of a Pleasant Humble Boy; I’d Rather Be Mexican; Odd; and Monje Malo Speaks English.
When Penis Walked the Earth
by Charles P. Ries
I never thought of it as evolving. At least not like this.
Never thought about when it first raised its proud little head.
But a 425-million year old fossil found in Herefordshire, England
changed all that. The oldest record of an animal that was unarguably
male made me stop and take stock. A tiny crustacean, only
two-tenths of an inch long – with an unmistakable penis.
They christened it Colymbosathon Ecplecticos which means
“swimmer with a large penis.”
Scientists say it had copulatory organs one-third the length of
its body. Wow. Makes a guy sit back and think about all the
evolutionary outcomes. The cars we’d drive or the clothes we’d
Monkeys became men.
Fish learned to fly.
Penises roamed prehistoric earth.
I guess some things never change.
“When Penis Walked the Earth” © 2003 by Charles P. Ries –published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 2, 2003
1820 – Jean Ingelow born in Lincolnshire, England; English poet, novelist, and children’s author who originally used the pseudonym Oris; noted for Mopsa the Fairy and Fated to be Free: A Novel. While a popular writer from the 1850s through the 1870s, by the 1880s, her work was being dismissed or belittled by critics, often because of her gender. Ingelow died at age 77 in 1885.
Above The Clouds
by Jean Ingelow
And can this be my own world?
‘Tis all gold and snow,
Save where scarlet waves are hurled
Down yon gulf below.
‘Tis thy world, ’tis my world,
City, mead, and shore,
For he that hath his own world
Hath many worlds more.
“Above the Clouds” from Poems by Jean Ingelow – George Routledge & Sons, 1912 edition
1789 – Charlotte Elliott born in Brighton, England; English poet, hymnist, and editor; best known for the hymns “Just As I Am” and “Thy Will Be Done.” As a young woman, she was known for humorous verse and a talent for portrait painting, but a severe illness had a sobering effect on her. When her father died in 1833, she took over from him as editor of the Christian Remembrancer Pocket Book (1834-1859). Her health waxed and waned and she often spent winters in milder climates. By her last years, she was seldom able to leave her home. She died at age 82 in 1871.
Let Me Be with Thee
by Charlotte Elliott
LET me be with Thee where Thou art,
My Saviour, my eternal Rest;
Then only will this longing heart
Be fully and for ever blest.
Let me be with Thee where Thou art;
Thy unveiled glory to behold;
Then only will this wayward heart
Cease to be treacherous, faithless, cold.
Let me be with Thee where Thou art,
Where spotless saints Thy Name adore;
Then only will this sinful heart
Be evil and defiled no more.
Let me be with Thee where Thou art,
Where none can die, whence none remove,
Then only will this cleansèd heart
Reflect the fulness of Thy love.
1893 – Wilfred Owen born in Shropshire, near the Welsh border; English poet and WWI soldier who was killed at age 25 in France, just one week before the Armistice. Only five of his poems were published before his death. The Poems of Wilfred Owen, edited by Siegfried Sassoon and Edith Sitwell, contained 23 poems, but Edmund Blunden edited an edition in 1931 with 19 more poems. In 1963, The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen, edited by C. Day Lewis, contained 80 poems.
Arms and the Boy
by Wilfred Owen
Let the boy try along this bayonet-blade
How cold steel is, and keen with hunger of blood;
Blue with all malice, like a madman’s flash;
And thinly drawn with famishing for flesh.
Lend him to stroke these blind, blunt bullet-leads,
Which long to nuzzle in the hearts of lads,
Or give him cartridges of fine zinc teeth
Sharp with the sharpness of grief and death.
For his teeth seem for laughing round an apple.
There lurk no claws behind his fingers supple;
And God will grow no talons at his heels,
Nor antlers through the thickness of his curls.
“Arms and the Boy” from The Poems of Wilfred Owen, W.W. Norton & Co. 1986 American edition
1932 – John Updike born in Reading, Pennsylvania; American novelist, short story writer, poet, and critic. Though best known for his Rabbit series of novels, he first began attracting critical attention as a regular contributor of poetry and short stories to The New Yorker. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 1982 for Rabbit is Rich and in 1991 for Rabbit at Rest. He also won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1964 for The Centaur. Updike published nine collections of poetry, including Telephone Poles; Tossing and Turning; and Endpoint and Other Poems. He died at age 76 in 2009.
by John Updike
How many rooms one occupies to lead
a life! — the child’s small cell, within earshot
of his parents’ smothered moans; the college room
assigned by number, a poster-clad outpost
of freedom; the married man’s bedchamber,
cramped scene of glad possession and sneaking sorrow;
the holiday rental, redolent of salt
and sun and other people’s cast-off days;
the capstone mansion with its curtained pomp;
the businessman’s hotel, a one-night stand
whose trim twin beds and TV sketch a dream
of habitation soon forgot; the chill
guest room; the pricey white hospital space,
where now the moaning has become one’s own.
“Chambered Nautilus” © 2003 by John Updike, published in Poetry magazine’s June 2004 edition
1938 – Michael S. Harper born in Brooklyn, New York; African-American poet and English professor who was Poet Laureate of Rhode Island (1988-1993). He said he learned phrasing from jazz musicians, who were often the subjects of his poems, including his book Dear John, Dear Coltrane, and Double Take: Jazz-Poetry Conversations, a recording of his poems with jazz music by Paul Austerlitz. Harper was honored with the 2008 Frost Medal Lifetime Achievement in Poetry and the 1990 Robert Hayden Poetry Award. He died at age 78 in 2016.
by Michael S. Harper
Those four black girls blown up
in that Alabama church
remind me of five hundred
middle passage blacks,
in a net, under water
in Charleston harbor
so redcoats wouldn’t find them.
Can’t find what you can’t see
“American History” from Songlines in Michaeltree: New and Collected Poems, © 2000 by Michael S. Harper – University of Illinois Press
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