Category Poetry

The Ship That Never Comes In: Philip Larkin’s “Next, Please”

A friend was telling me recently that she had hosted a childhood friend for a weekend visit, and in the runup to it she had greatly looked forward to the time they were to spend together. As it turned out, she beamed, it was wonderful and all she had hoped for. Which, she noted, was a great relief, because “It doesn’t always turn out that way.”

Inded it doesn’t.

In his much-anthologized poem, “Next, Please,” English poet Philip Larkin, a brooding sort as perhaps a majority of poets this side of Mary Oliver are, suggested that it almost never does, and that this human penchant for almost giddy anticipation and “expectancy” is doomed to suffer when it collides with reality.

It’s as if our imaginations sabotage us, outpacing our ability to create or at least appreciate the emotional experiences we had been so eagerly anticipating.

Or, as Paul McCartney’s mama told him in three short wo...

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The Maelstrom of War: Louis Simpson’s “Carentan O Carentan”

In June, 1944, Carentan was a French town of some 4,000 people that tourist guides might have described as “bucolic” just a few years earlier. But following within days of the Allied Forces’ invasion of Normandy on June 6, it became the scene of a pitched, frantic battle between German and American troops that took place from June 10-15. The prize was access to high ground and ultimate control of two beaches—codenamed “Omaha” and “Utah”—that flanked Carentan and would prove pivotal to the invasion’s success and the final vanquishing of the German military machine less than a year later.

Among those American troops was Louis Simpson, a 21-year-old immigrant from Jamaica. Simpson had been studying poetry and literature at Columbia University but left to join the war effort.

Born to an upper crust attorney father of Scotch descent and a Russian mother, Simpson endured the sudden, unexplai...

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Bringing Joy to “The Snow Man” by Wallace Stevens

THE SNOWMAN

One must have a mind of winter 
To regard the frost and the boughs 
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time 
To behold the junipers shagged with ice, 
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think 
Of any misery in the sound of the wind, 
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land 
Full of the same wind 
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow, 
And, nothing himself, beholds 
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

***

The snowman in this well-known Wallace Stevens poem from 1921 presents as a rather bleak figure. As we read in the 15 meticulously crafted lines above, he’s been “cold a long time,” immobile and inert, devoid of any thought linking the winter landscape in front of him to feelings of “misery,” barrenness and other ...

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After Watching the Final Segment of PBS’s Vietnam War Documentary

***
the Fog
the Pain
the Loss
the Grief
the Waste
the Carnage
the Courage
the Sadness
the Madness
the Heartache
the Brokenness

the Remembering
the Forgetting
the Suffering
the Forgiving
the Renewing
the Honoring
the Healing
the Hoping

the Redeeming

the Madness
the Madness

the Echos

the Madness
the Madness

***

***

See 1-minute snippets of wisdom and other musings from the world’s great thinkers and artists, accompanied by lovely photography at Traversing’s 1-minute Facebook mini-blog: http://www.facebook.com/TraversingBlog

Twitter: @AndrewHidas

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewhidas/

Deep appreciation to the photographers!

Elizabeth Haslam, whose photos (except for the books) grace the rotating banner at the top of this page. Some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lizhaslam/

Library books photo by Larry Rose, all rights ...

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A Rita Dove Poem About Adam and Eve, Consciousness and Desire

Poems can be read a thousand ways. We bring what we know, what we have read and heard, what we have experienced, to each of them in their turn, you responding to certain images and lines that inflame your memory or imagination beyond all explanation, me responding to others. Both of us adding all of it up for ourselves into a prevailing gestalt, an often inchoate feeling of, “Something about this moves me.”

Or not.

Often, as it does in former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove’s “I Have Been a Stranger in a Strange Land,” a poem takes its time, unpeeling itself onion-like with a series of evocative scenes and images that don’t coalesce until one hears a figurative “Bam!” that then takes one back to all that precedes the “Bam!” moment.

And then one exclaims, “Oh, so this has been a poem about Adam and Eve!”

More about Eve, actually, but then the very story of Adam and Eve in the Bible is...

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