Tag Archives: National Poetry Month

Peninsular Poetry: “Against Gregariousness”

This is an occasion feature on Peninsular Thinking during April, which is National Poetry Month. I’ve been posting snippets and links to the complete text of poems that randomly strike my fancy, drawing mostly on the Poetry Foundation’s website. I realized today that we are rapidly running out of NPM (where did April go?), so I’d better get busy.

Here’s a poem by Clive James (1939 – ), an Australian writer, who “Like most writers who work hard at putting sentences together in proper paragraphs, I hate seeing bits and pieces being torn loose …” So, sorry about taking a snippet from your wonderfully descriptive poem about ocean life (and all it represents in our psyches), Mr. James, but I don’t want to violate any copyrights. I encourage readers to click on the link to read the whole poem … especially the end, which I totally relate to on many days, feeling rather lobsterish.

Against Gregariousness – By Clive James

The krill, as singletons almost not there
But en masse like a cloud of diamond dust
Against the sunlit flood of their ballroom ceiling,
Are scooped up by the basking shark’s dragline
Or sucked in through the whale’s drapes of baleen—
A galaxy absorbed into a boudoir …

Make your bones in a shark family if you can.
If not, be tricky to locate for sheer
Translucence, a slick blip that will become—
Beyond the daisycutter beaks and jaws—
A lobster fortified with jutting eaves
Of glazed tile, like the castle at Nagoya
Hoisted around by jacks and cranes, an awkward
Mouthful like a crushed car. That being done,
Crawl backwards down a hole and don’t come out.

From the March 2011 edition of Poetry Magazine

Peninsular Poetry: Poems for Easter

This is an occasional feature for National Poetry month, with snippets of poems I’ve picked at random, and links to the full text at the Poetry Foundation, poetryfoundation.org. Chris Henry, reporter

Easter Wings, by Welsh poet George Herbert (1593-1633), is an example of a “shape poem.” Herbert often wrote about religion and the ongoing struggle between faith and doubt. This poem, if you read to the conclusion, ends on an optimistic note.

Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
Most poore:
With thee
O let me rise
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me. …

This poem, Easter (@2011) by Jill Alexander Essbaum, talks bout the disconnect the poet feels between the promise of Easter and the tangible reality of death. She misses her late loved ones and friends.

is my season
of defeat.

Though all
is green

and death
is done,

I feel alone.
As if the stone

rolled off
from the head

of the tomb
is lodged

in the doorframe
of my room …”

And here’s one that’s only sideways related to Easter, by contemporary poet Trish Dugger, who compares hearts to fragile Easter eggs.

Spare Parts

We barge out of the womb
with two of them: eyes, ears,

arms, hands, legs, feet.
Only one heart. Not a good

plan. God should know we
need at least a dozen,

a baker’s dozen of hearts.
They break like Easter eggs …

Here’s one more by D. Nurkse, whose parents escaped Nazi Europe during World War II. It’s about some women who have to work on Easter, at least part of the day.

Excelsior Fashion Products, Easter

… each sips
a private pint, all sitting
in the narrow room with our backs
to the center, each facing
his work—router, stain tray,
buffing wheel, drill press—
and with that sweet taste echoing
in our bones, we watch our hands
make what they always made
—rosewood handles—but now
we smile in delighted surprise …

I and a handful of my colleagues will be working on Easter, without our private pints alas.

Peninsular Poetry: “April is the cruelest month …”

April is National Poetry Month and has been since 1996. It is also National Financial Literacy Month, National Grilled Cheese month and probably a whole bunch of other national-this-or-that months.

I’m all for financial literacy and grilled cheese, but I’m going to focus on the celebration of poetry.

I’d forgotten how much I like poetry ’til I started poking around for this and upcoming posts that you’ll see every now and then throughout April. Even if I don’t entirely understand the meaning or intent — as with T.S. Eliot‘s The Waste Land, whence the “cruelest month” phrase emanates — I like to see words pushed outside their comfort zones or used just for the pure fun of they way they sound. And I like that poems can say something different to different people and still be valid all around.

Carl Sandburg (1878-1976) defines poetry as, “a pack-sack of invisible keepsakes. Poetry is a sky dark with a wild-duck migration. Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during a moment.”

Over the next month, I hope to share with you a random sampling of poems (well-known and obscure, old, really old and contemporary). I invite commentary, and if you’re a poet yourself, feel free to post your work in the comment section. If it doesn’t fit there, e-mail it to me and I’ll consider it for inclusion in a blog post.

One note: Because this blog is a part of the Kitsap Sun, we probably ought to agree to keep it all PG13, which is why a poem like James Dickey’s Cherry Log Road (one of my all time favorites, I must confess) might fly, while a poem on the order of “a 340 dollar horse and a hundred dollar whore” by Charles Bukowski may be considered outside the pale of good taste. I’ll refrain from linking to it, but I did get a kick out of reading it. Likewise Bukowski’s “I wanted to overthrow the government, but all I brought down was somebody’s wife.”

So, about The Wasteland, it probably rates right up there with Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” as one of the most studied and yet stubbornly obscure poems an undergrad literature major, as I was, is bound to encounter. I studied Eliot in more than one class, and I still don’t know what the heck either poem means. But they speak to me somehow.

The Wasteland begins:
“April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.”

Well, I’m down with that. Spring is not my favorite time of year. It’s such a big tease.

The poem doesn’t get any cheerier.

“Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.”

There are parts that are sad, yet humorous, and oh so human. Like a discussion in a pub on which Eliot seems to eavesdrop:

“When Lil’s husband got demobbed, I said—
I didn’t mince my words, I said to her myself,
Now Albert’s coming back, make yourself a bit smart.
He’ll want to know what you done with that money he gave you
To get yourself some teeth. He did, I was there.”

And then, I’m a sucker for vivid description, like:

“The river’s tent is broken: the last fingers of leaf
Clutch and sink into the wet bank.”


“A rat crept softly through the vegetation
Dragging its slimy belly on the bank …”

The Wasteland is a fairly lengthy poem. If you want a shorter example of T.S. Eliot, try “Aunt Helen.” It’s much shorter, but also takes a wry view of death.