Poetry Outtakes

We all have lines of poetry buried in our heads. Who hasn't intoned "Nevermore" in a sepulchrous voice when circumstances called for it? Who hasn't had "miles to go before I sleep?" Those outtakes are so ubiquitous they can be heard from lips that know nothing of the lost Lenore or snowy woods.

I have this relationship with poems I have read, poems which I cannot claim to have ever fully understood, but bits and pieces of which surface now and then in the most prosaic of circumstances. Read more about Poetry Outtakes


Chief Joe's Cafe

Chief Joe's Cafe is a book of poems all too likely found in all too few places besides my bookshelf. The poet, Joe Mundy, is an old friend of my daughter Caroline. They met in Middle College High School, a very special place once available for those kids who chafed too persistently at the strictures of a curriculum which, although no doubt excellent for some, fell somewhat short for others.

I hope Joe is still writing. Here's one of my favorites:

Java Avenue Read more about Chief Joe's Cafe



Reading Robert Frost this month, I come across New Hampshire.

I met a poet from another state,
A zealot full of fluid inspiration,
Who in the name of fluid inspiration,
But in the best style of bad salesmanship,
Angrily tried to make me write a protest
(In verse I think) against the Volstead Act.
He didn't even offer me a drink
Until I asked for one to steady him.
This is called having an idea to sell.

It never could have happened in New Hampshire. Read more about Primarily



I do a bit of yoga every morning, if only to convince myself that the rust, although never sleeping, has not yet won. And when I am tempted to let the rust win, I tell myself that if I do a little yoga, I can read a little poem. Like this one, from Mary Oliver's . Which, as she makes clear, isn't about the bird.

Mary Oliver

just now
moved through my heart
like the thinnest of blades
as that red-tail pumped
once with its great wings
and flew above the gray, cracked
rock wall.
It wasn't Read more about Knife



It's been a week of loss and memory of loss. Senator Scott White and Kasandra Murray-Cornett are two of those who have meant much to my life in recent years. Read more about Loss



Six years ago I drove over the Black Mountains in the Brecon Beacons into Hay on Wye, the little Welsh town of bookstores. I stopped for lunch and a book.


In a shop called The Kestrel, I found a slim volume of Dylan Thomas. Now there is much of Thomas which is completely opaque to me. But this one paints a picture I can see clearly. Read it out loud:

It was my thirtieth year to heaven Read more about POEM IN OCTOBER


Still dark


when I got up this morning with these lines from Robert Louis Stevenson's running through my head:

In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.

I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people’s feet Read more about Still dark


Longfellow? Really?

Does anyone read Henry David Longfellow anymore? Why would they?

"By the shore of Gitchee Gumee, by the shining big sea water, stood the wigwam of Nokomis, daughter of the moon, Nokomis..." I don't think anyone's forced to memorize those lines anymore. Not only does it border on poesy, it's probably not all that PC either. Nevertheless ... Read more about Longfellow? Really?



In the spirit of [amazon 0865475911 inline] and my upcoming flight to the Midwest for a high school reunion and relative binge, this week's poetry selection is one of my own. As you can see, I've always had this thing about crows.


The wind came out and blew her down the road
Her coat skirts wrapped around her knees.
She moved alone between the cold fields of corn stubble and
Black choppy seas of fall-plowed land.
The houses were set back from the road.
They were too far for comfort.
And none of them were hers.

Storm crows settled between the black furrows, Read more about Migration