Category Poetry

On Losing Stuff. And Loss. And Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art.”

How much time might you have spent in the past, oh, month, looking for items you misplaced?

The keys, the glasses, the purse, the shirt, the notes, the credit card you removed from the wallet to make a purchase, online or in the store, suddenly gone. (Lucky for you if the checker or bagger chased you out to the parking lot, smiling, bless their heart, your card held aloft in their hands in the kindest possible reproach.)

With your misplacements at home, you begin flipping over the dish towels, the junk mail, the pillows and post-its and papers and gadgets.

Minutes of wandering and purse-lipped memory-searching pass, and you begin muttering, the plaintive question emerging almost involuntarily, rhetorically, in increasing desperation, “Where could it be? Where the hell could it be?”

You resolve to stay calm.

***

Studies of such matters (who resolves to study such matters anyway? bless them, too!) re...

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Is the Center No Longer Holding?

We seem to be living in riven times. (Though one could ask with substantial justification: When hasn’t humanity lived in riven times?)

Schisms abound, and they appear to be more rancorous and sharp than at any time in recent memory. The European Union is fragmenting; the French may well follow the lead of their counterparts across the channel by doing a “Frexit,” with the added dimension of electing an overt racist to lead them.

Much of the world stays mired in intractable poverty under the autocracies and kleptocracies that serve as both its cause and effect.

And in the United States, we endure, in a kind of downcast awe, the awfulness that is Donald Trump.

So is the vaunted center, that core of shared values and aspirations and steady-minded tending of continued progress in the human project, whatever the differences in means and tactics to achieve it, slipping away from us?

Is the center no longer...

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Contemplating the Season With Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Spring”

I’d been browsing earlier in the week for poems about spring, with the intention of sharing one or two on this blog’s or my personal Facebook page. Find a lovely photo of a flower or mustard field to accompany it, rejoice in all the rebirthing metaphors and imagery, have a feel-good post in time for the feel-good day of Easter Sunday, when the very heavens (or at least all our cultural icons) seem to sing in lush harmonies about the joys of the season.

And so here popped “Spring” by Edna St. Vincent Millay onto my computer screen—and there went the easy breezy mood of spring along with it.

Darn these dead-serious poets and their recalibrations of all we cling to as balm for our aching souls!

***

“Spring” appeared in the volume “Second April” in 1921, when Millay was 29 years old and accomplished enough that a mere two years later she would become the third woman ever to win the Pulitzer P...

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Religious Huckster Take-Down: Carl Sandburg’s “To a Contemporary Bunkshooter”

There will always be Billy Sundays among us. Smooth, snake-tongued preachers talking up either the gospel of prosperity that creates prosperity mostly for themselves, or else painting pictures of heavenly hereafters with which their impoverished followers will be rewarded—provided they dig deep for what is in their meagerly endowed pockets to sustain the preacher’s enterprise.

The historical Billy Sunday was the latter, a ragingly successful turn-of-the-20th century evangelist who wowed crowds with theatrical religious oratory that he embellished with long slides across or dives off the stage, stunts that called upon his former career as a major league baseball player with a penchant for stealing bases.

Sunday soothed his listeners and their hollowed out lives with promises of heavenly days everlasting even as he himself became wealthy...

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“Sonnets from the Portuguese:” Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Valentine to the World

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Sonnets from the Portuguese” has nothing to do with Portuguese or translations therefrom, and everything to do with Browning’s attempt, on behalf of ardent lovers the world over, to put into words what they often experience as the overwhelming, uniquely frustrating desire to bottle the wind, capture a star, cavort with the moon, and fully articulate the welter of emotions coursing through them at the sound, sight, touch and smell of their beloveds.

“There are no words…” lovers often say (if they are lucky), trailing off as they rock and roll, like an ocean liner atop roiling seas, with the emotion that both demands and makes impossible their word-bound expression...

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